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They jetted back to earth
Joe Marshall
September 25, 1978
Off to their best start of the '70s and dreaming of a return to their glory days, the rebuilding New York Jets were rudely shot down by Seattle Quarterback Jim Zorn
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September 25, 1978

They Jetted Back To Earth

Off to their best start of the '70s and dreaming of a return to their glory days, the rebuilding New York Jets were rudely shot down by Seattle Quarterback Jim Zorn

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Zorn almost made the Cowboys in 1975, but he was released as the final cut just before the first game when Dallas acquired Running Back Preston Pearson from Pittsburgh on waivers. Zorn remained out of football that year, then signed with Seattle as a free agent. He became an instant star in Seattle's first game, a home exhibition against San Francisco. Zorn did not enter the game until the second half when the Seahawks were trailing 24-0, but he quickly produced 20 points. On the last play of the game a Zorn scramble was stopped two yards short of the goal line, and Seattle lost 27-20. Nevertheless, Zorn became the most popular pro athlete in Seattle, supplanting the SuperSonics' Slick Watts, and he has been the Seahawks' No. 1 quarterback ever since.

Todd's acceptance came much more slowly. The Jets needed a pro-style dropback passer to succeed Namath, and Todd didn't seem to be the right choice. His first year in New York was a waste as Holtz tinkered with the veer offense. Todd didn't really get his chance until 1977, when the Jets elevated Walt Michaels from defensive coordinator to head coach. Namath was given his release, and Michaels named Todd his starter.

Todd completed better than 50% of his passes last season and developed a passing acquaintance with Wide Receiver Wesley Walker. Now Todd-to-Walker may be the best deep-passing combo in the NFL. They teamed up for 47-yard and 43-yard touchdown bombs in the Jets' 33-20 opening-day upset of Miami three weeks ago. Todd threw for three touchdowns against the Dolphins and three more against Buffalo in the Jets' 21-20 victory.

Throughout his career Todd has had to suffer comparisons with Namath. While he adamantly insists he is no Broadway Joe, he is a lot closer to that mold than Zorn, who putters about Seattle in a yellow Volkswagen and devotes much of his free time to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Zorn is a former speed skater and amateur boxer, as well as an accomplished juggler who has appeared on children's television shows in Seattle, where he now lives full time.

Todd, though, deserts New York as soon as the season ends. He has just finished building a house on a bay of the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama, complete with a sauna, a whirlpool, a weight room and a 24-foot powerboat tied up at the dock in back. Oakland Raider Quarterback Kenny Stabler is building a house about a quarter of a mile away, and Todd says the area is called "the Red-neck Riviera."

Both Todd and Zorn are single, but Todd gratuitously adds, "Very single." He admits that he ballooned from 210 to 223 pounds in his rookie year because of repeated all-night forays around Manhattan. This season Michaels ordered Todd to give up his East Side bachelor pad and move in with teammates near the Jets' Long Island training complex.

Todd says of the comparison between himself and Namath, "I don't have his arm and he didn't have my legs." While Todd is more mobile than Namath, Zorn is a far superior runner. Seattle has designed specific plays to take advantage of Zorn's ability to scramble, including the fake field-goal run that helped beat the Jets. This year Zorn has tried to improve his passing percentage, a lowly 41.4 last season, by curtailing his running and staying in the pocket. And he is succeeding, as evidenced by his 19 completions in 26 attempts for 191 yards Sunday.

"I have more confidence in my offensive line now," Zorn says. "It used to be that before I looked at the defense, I looked at the offensive line to see if it was doing its job. I couldn't do what I was supposed to do because I was worrying about what my offensive line was doing."

Unfortunately for the Jets, Zorn did everything he was supposed to do on Sunday in Shea Stadium.

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