Two turning points in Jets draft history might have changed everything for a franchise that has been star-crossed since its shining moment in Super Bowl III. The first was the Jets' decision in 1983 to pass over quarterback Dan Marino to select unknown QB Ken O'Brien. The second was Peyton manning's decision in 1997 to return for his senior year at Tennessee at a time when Bill Parcells had just taken over the Jets and held the No. 1 overall pick.
 
Now that the Jets are facing Manning in Sunday's AFC title game in Indianapolis, many have studied that ancient history and concluded that Parcells blew it by not indicating to Manning that he was assured of going first in the draft. Manning offered a different version of his personal history today, but he didn't really answer all the questions surrounding his decision.
 
"Let me be clear," Manning said. "[The] question is a little bit misleading. The reason I decided to stay had nothing to do with who had the first pick. My reasons for staying were purely based on the fact that I wanted to be a senior in college.
 
"I kind of rushed through my first three years of college, taking maximum hours. I took 18 hours my junior fall and 22 in my junior spring. I'd been starting since I was a freshman, and I'd just been on the go and in a hurry my first three years. So, I wanted to have that one year to slow things down and enjoy the college experience. I really did that. I had a fun senior year. I think I became a better player in my senior year. I got a year stronger and a year more experienced."
 
Had he decided to forego his senior season, Manning said there's no telling how things might have turned out. But it was that uncertainty, the lack of clarity from Parcells and the Jets, that will raise eternal doubts among Jets fan about whether Manning would have stayed if he were guaranteed the top spot.
 
"Coach Parcells was there," Manning recalled. "He and I had visited a couple of times throughout the years. There was no guarantee that they would have drafted me. They could have taken somebody else; they could have made a trade; we'll never know. Obviously, the decision was a tough decision for me, but it was one I'm happy I made just because of the memories I created for myself as a senior in college."
 
Call it a bad memory in Jets history.