New York Jets: Best player to wear No. 91 in team history

Oct 17, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Detailed view of a New York Jets helmet during the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 17, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Detailed view of a New York Jets helmet during the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Who was the best player in New York Jets history to wear No. 91?

There are a lot of things that come to mind when thinking about the New York Jets. Futility is one word that jumps out. Lost seasons is another thought that comes up. Other terms include missed opportunities, bad draft picks, and bad luck. There has been some success, from way back to Joe Namath to as recent as Mark Sanchez and Ryan Fitzpatrick. But a lot of the Jets history has been colored by various failures.

It also, however, has been laden with talented football players. Right from the beginning, players like Don Maynard wore the uniform, before it was even a Jets uniform. Even if the team hasn’t necessarily been winning, you can follow the lineage of talent from Joe Namath, through the Sack Exchange, right down to the defensive line which was known as the “Sons of Anarchy”.

But who are the best to ever wear the uniform? Last summer, I started a countdown, looking at the best players to ever wear a Jets jersey. Specifically, counting back from 99, naming one player as the best to wear each number.

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The most recent installments were Nos. 94, 93, and 92. Today, we continue the countdown with No. 91.

If he were to remain in New York, Sheldon Richardson has the talent to eventually earn this distinction. But, due to the fact that he hasn’t been in the league very long, and hasn’t managed to stay out of trouble, he does not qualify at this point.

That distinction goes to Sione Po’uha. Po’uha was selected in the third round of the 2005 draft with the 88th overall pick. He didn’t make an impact right away, and when he did, it wasn’t always seen on the stats sheet. It often isn’t when looking at nose tackles. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t make an impact.

Po’uha was primarily a backup in the early part of his career, starting only one game over the first three seasons he was around. But, coinciding with Rex Ryan’s arrival in 2009, Po’uha became the starting nose tackle, and didn’t relinquish the position until he left following the 2012 season.

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His numbers may not have been very showy, but that’s not the whole story when talking about a nose tackle. In 2009, Po’uha started 14 games, and posted 43 combined tackles, 32 solo. But remember, he was also a cog in the defense that was first in the league overall and eighth in the league against the run. That doesn’t happen without a good nose tackle occupying multiple opponents in the middle, freeing up the guys on the outside. Po’uha caused opponents a lot of problems.

He helped with the pass rush as well. Calvin Pace doesn’t put up eight sacks and Shaun Ellis doesn’t put up 6.5 without help from Po’uha in the middle. A tough defense always owes a lot to a tough defensive tackle, and in the case of the 3-4, a tough nose tackle.

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In 2010, he posted his best year as a pro with 59 total tackles, two sacks, three pass defenses and three fumble recoveries. Rex Ryan’s best win total with the Jets coincided with Po’uha’s ascension as a player.

When the playoffs came around, Po’uha was always ready. In the 2009 Divisional Round Game against the Chargers, he notched five solo tackles. The following January against the rival Patriots, Po’uha recorded one sack, three solo tackles and four total tackles.

He had one more big year in 2011 when he posted 57 combined tackles and a safety. The next year, however, it all came apart, when a back injury sidelined Po’uha. With a bad back, it makes it difficult to get leverage on opponents, rendering him ineffective and his career ended following the 2012 season.

Next: Not drafting a quarterback was the right move for the Jets

It may have ended prematurely, but he was the best to wear the number for the green and white. No. 91, Sione Po’uha!