NEW YORK -- Joe Namath is enjoying the New York Jets' surprising start, but he's taking a wait-and-see approach before anointing them a legitimate playoff contender.
"It remains to be seen," the Hall of Fame quarterback told ESPN on Tuesday night at a benefit dinner in Manhattan. "Realistically, optimistically, it's going to be hard, it's going to be hard. This is a challenge this week and every week is going to be a major challenge. But, hey ..."
Namath quoted a line from "Illusions," a novel by Richard Bach: "Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they're yours."
In other words, Broadway Joe wasn't about to dismiss the Jets (3-2), who host the New England Patriots (3-2) on Sunday. The winner takes sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
"Let's see," he said. "This might turn out to be [Josh] McCown's best year ever and the guys, collectively, might start playing better and better each week. That's the goal -- improve every week."
Before the season, Namath frowned upon the perception his former team was tanking to get a high pick (and a quarterback) in next year's draft.
"A coach I know specifically said it's better to go 1-15 than 8-8," he said, declining to name the coach. "That is based purely on drafts and stuff. But the animal that lives the life doesn't feel that way. They wouldn't be there if they felt that way -- coaches or players. Losing stinks! Nothing feels good after you lose a game."
Namath went into the season hoping Christian Hackenberg would win the starting job, but he said coach Todd Bowles made the right choice by going with McCown. He said he "never saw (McCown) throw the ball better than he did last week in Cleveland."
Namath is like a lot of Jets fans: happy with the start, but proceeding cautiously.
"Winning breeds confidence, man, it breeds enthusiasm," he said. "It gives you an edge. They believe they can win now. They've done it three times in a row."
Namath was in town to host a dinner benefit for the Joe Namath Neurological Research Center at the Jupiter Medical Center in Jupiter, Florida, where they conduct hyperbaric oxygen therapy for people dealing with brain injuries. The late Frank Gifford, who died in 2015 at the age of 84, was honored posthumously at the dinner. Gifford suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), his family revealed after his death.
Former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, one of the former players in the concussion lawsuit against the NFL, lauded Namath for his efforts to help those with brain trauma.
"That's somebody stepping out not only for the game, but for society in general," Theismann said. "He continues to be my hero."