By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
For the third installment in my, randomly ordered, All-Time Favorite Jets series, I am going to shift to the defensive side of the ball. In today’s up-tempo, wide-open game, in which the aerial assault is so heavily emphasized, the importance of a team’s defensive secondary is far more recognized than it was in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
The game was a lot more balanced with an abundantly greater priority placed on the run game back then. These were still the days of Barry Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Emmitt Smith and Thurman Thomas, when the running backs carried the load and determined the outcome of games, more often than not.
With the exception of names like Deion Sanders, Darrel Green and Rod Woodson, cornerbacks of that era did not garner the amount of credit that they earned covering superstars such as Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin, Cris Carter and Andre Reed. As a Jets fan during those years, I had the pleasure of watching James Hasty, who was as close to the definition of a shutdown corner as anyone to wear the green and white up until that time.
Selected in the 3rd round of the 1988 NFL Draft, the Washington State University product started out his career with the Jets by recording five interceptions and three fumble recoveries along with 58 tackles in his rookie season. In his second year with the team, Hasty added another five interceptions, two fumble recoveries and 63 tackles as well as a touchdown.
During his seven years with the Jets, Hasty totaled 24 INT’s, 18 FR’s and 491 tackles. They did not officially record passes defensed in his day, but if they did, the number would have been quite substantial.
After the 1994 season, he moved on to the Kansas City Chiefs, where he worked alongside Dale Carter, forming one of the deadliest cornerback duos in the league. In six years with the Chiefs, Hasty recorded another 21 INT’s, 6 FR’s and 355 tackles, including a career-high 7 INT’s with two touchdown returns in 1999.
He also added in ten quarterback sacks during his 13 seasons in the league. Over the course of his professional career, Hasty was selected to the Pro Bowl twice (1997 and 1999) and was named as an All-Pro in 1997.
Prior to the days of Aaron Glenn, and more recently Darrelle Revis, patrolling the perimeters of the field, James Hasty was the man with the plan, shutting down the opposing teams’ top receivers.
To accentuate his importance to the Jets at the time, he became the highest-salaried defensive back in the National Football League in 1993, when he signed a two-year contract worth close to $2 million a year. Miniscule by today’s lofty contract standards, that was more than Jets starting quarterback, Boomer Esiason, was making at the time and essentially equal to what Deion Sanders made in 1992.
While he may not be considered to be one of the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history, Hasty was certainly among the best of his era and easily one of the best DB’s to ever lace up the cleats for the New York Jets. When Hasty was manning the cornerback position for the Jets, quarterbacks usually preferred to attack the other side of the field, as throwing towards #40 often led to incompletions and turnovers.
I am not going to attempt to put James Hasty on the level of Revis, or even Aaron Glenn, but Hasty absolutely belongs in the conversation of the greatest Jets cornerbacks in the history of the franchise.