Before the Jets
O'Donnell was a 3rd round pick in the 1990 NFL Draft for the Pittsburgh Steelers. O'Donnell is best remembered for the two interceptions he threw to Dallas Cowboys cornerback Larry Brown to set up short touchdown drives in Super Bowl XXX. He also threw an interception on the game's final play. Many Steelers fans hold O'Donnell responsible for the loss.
As a Jet
Following the Super Bowl letdown, O'Donnell signed as a free agent with the Jets, with a $25 million, 5 year contract. "You have to say we had an exceptional offseason," head coach Rich Kotite said in response. "We identified the priorities and hit on all of them in a big way. I think that's very unusual. We got the commitment from Mr. Hess and shotgunned it." Uh-oh....
In Week 6, with the Jets already 0-5, against the Oakland Raiders, O'Donnell was blitzed by Albert Lewis, who separated the quarterback's throwing shoulder in the second quarter. It was his last game of the season. O'Donnell tried to return for Game 13 from a shoulder injury, but the quarterback pulled a calf muscle warming up and that was it. In his autobiography, Keyshawn Johnson accused O'Donnell of conspiring with Kotite and to fake a pre-game injury so that the 'coaches could keep their jobs.' O'Donnell replied 'You look at the title of the book, you look at the type of individual we're dealing with. This is a team game. I cannot throw the ball on my back. I need my blockers. He is just one receiver on the football team.' In 1997, with the arrival of Bill Parcells, an uneasy peace with Johnson broke out. However, O'Donnell and Parcells did not see eye to eye. Despite opening the season with a 41-3 win over Seattle, O'Donnell found himself being benched in favour of Glenn Foley and the writing was on the wall by the the final game of the season against Detroit. The Jets needed to win to make the playoffs. Parcells and O'Donnell had an argument on the sidelines, and when the Jets got a first down at the Lions' 9-yard line with three and a half minutes to play and the Lions leading, 13-10, Parcells called a halfback option, but Leon Johnson's pass was intercepted.1998, so Parcells considered other options.
"You have to consider performance and you have to consider economics," Parcells said. "You have to consider those things in making a decision and that's what we are doing." O'Donnell was waived and the Jets brought in Vinny Testaverde to back up Foley.
After the Jets
In 1998, O'Donnell signed with the Cincinnati Bengals. Though O'Donnell's 90.2 passer rating was 6th among regular starting quarterbacks, the poor defense would not allow the team much success. From 1999 onwards, O'Donnell was Steve McNair's backup in Tennessee. He performed well, even leading the team to a Week 17 47-36 victory in Pittsburgh. He would be frequently released and re-signed during this period, as the Titans tried to control their salary cap. O'Donnell was lured out of retirement in December 2003, when McNair and Billy Volek were injured. O'Donnell started the regular-season finale and was highly effective, completing 18-of-27 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Titans to a 33-13 victory over the Buccaneers. O'Donnell retired after the season, this time for good.
Stats as a Jet
After retiring, O'Donnell worked as a sports analyst, primarily covering the Tennessee Titans, at WTVF, Nashville's CBS affiliate, from 2005 - 2007. He is currently a sales rep for FieldTurf in Kentucky and Tennessee.