Joe Namath sits on the sidelines during the Jets vs...

Joe Namath sits on the sidelines during the Jets vs Dolphins game at Shea Stadium on November 7, 1976. Credit: Newsday/Mitch Turner

The Giants and Jets both lost their first four games of the season, but at least there was no booing, because they did not play in front of their fans.

And thankfully there were other things going on in the world to distract the populace.

In New York sports, the Yankees were on a roll, firmly in World Series contention. And in the real world, a closely contested presidential election was nearing its climax.

So it went in the late summer and early fall . . . of 1976.

That was the only previous time the Giants and Jets both began the season 0-4, and it was just as grim a time as now, part of a lost decade in New York football with echoes in the nine seasons since the Giants won Super Bowl XLVI.

As has been the case so far in 2020, the Giants were reasonably competitive early in 1976, while the Jets were not, losing by scores of 38-17, 46-3, 16-0 and 17-6 to the Browns, Broncos, Dolphins and 49ers.

Their quarterback was a man of some renown named Joe Namath, who started those first four games – all on the road, thanks to the Mets’ occupancy of Shea Stadium – in what turned out to be his final season as a Jet.

He started eight games and finished with four touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

In late September, Newsday quoted Namath as saying, "I’ve had people say to me it’s a shame, what’s happening, like they feel I could be doing a job somewhere else, a better job, which I feel, too. But I’m in a situation, and I’ll try to make it work."

Later, he added, "What we have here is not a good football team, but we’re trying."

Rookie Richard Todd started six games and contributed three touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Lou Holtz was in his first season as coach after leaving North Carolina State, and his transition to the pros went poorly. He resigned with one game remaining on the schedule to become Arkansas’ coach.

He left behind a cheesy, college-style fight song he wrote that "Monday Night Football" analyst Alex Karras sang on national television before a mid-October game at New England. Holtz also left behind a 3-10 record.

"God did not put Lou Holtz on this earth to coach in the pros," he said upon departing.

Interim coach Mike Holovak promptly lost to the Bengals in Week 14, 42-3.

Clark Gaines was the team’s leading rusher with 724 yards, and David Knight the leading receiver with 403. The latter was out of the league by 1978.

At least the Jets won in Week 5, beating the Bills, 17-14, en route to a 3-11 finish – the second of three years in a row they finished with that record.

The Giants started 0-9. After the second loss, coach Bill Arnsparger said he liked his team.

"There’ll be a lot of people that disagree with me, but I don’t really care," he was quoted as saying in Newsday. "I feel I know our team, and that’s all that matters."

Arnsparger was fired after seven games. John McVay replaced him, lost his first two games, then won three of his last five.

McVay’s grandson, Sean, now coach of the Rams, on Sunday beat the Giants to put a bow on New York football’s 0-8 combined start.

Like the Jets, the Giants played their first four games on the road before christening Giants Stadium on Oct. 10, 1976, with a 24-14 loss to the Cowboys.

The crusher was a 19-17 loss to Washington in the opener on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Billy Kilmer to Mike Thomas with 45 seconds left. After that came losses to the Eagles (20-7), Rams (24-10) and Cardinals (27-21).

Doug Kotar was the leading rusher with a career-high 731 yards, and newly added Larry Csonka had 569. Tight end Bob Tucker was the leading receiver with 498 yards.

Craig Morton started 12 games at quarterback and had nine touchdown passes and 20 interceptions. Norm Snead, then 37 and in his final NFL season, started twice and had no TDs and four interceptions.

So, to review: Not good. Not good at all.

But this weekend could bring a metropolitan-area first: Twin 0-5 starts. The Cardinals are favored to beat the Jets and the Cowboys to beat the Giants, both by more than a touchdown.

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