Time is now for Sanchez and the Jets
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – The thunderous bassline of Yo Gotti’s “Women Lie, Men Lie” reverberated inside the hangar of the Jets practice facility on Wednesday afternoon, as the team began its preparations for their Sunday rematch with the Indianapolis Colts for the AFC title.
The southern hip hop track provided a fitting soundtrack for a squad that has accomplished so much throughout the 2009 season, yet still finds themselves trying to prove their worth and gain national respect. The chorus of the song proclaiming, “Women lie, men lie. Numbers don’t.”
Some numbers that don’t lie are 153.7, the minuscule amount of passing yards per game allowed by the Jet defense during the regular season. Or 14, the amount of the points scored on Sunday by the Chargers, a team that had scored 20 points or more in every game this season.
Another number that certainly doesn’t lie is sixty. That’s how many minutes away the Jets are from their first trip to the Super Bowl since 1969. Four quarters away from a shot at vindicating 41 years of pain and suffering for a franchise, a fan base, and a city.
A chance to be a part of the solution was what appealed to linebacker Bart Scott when he was a free agent, mulling his future options following the 2008 season. Scott looked at New York as a challenge, and as a chance to be a part of history.
“I didn’t want to be a bend-don’t-break kind of guy,” said the veteran linebacker. “I wanted to go out and be a part of a successful unit that could maybe try and re-write history. Something that could bring a legacy and a tradition to New York, so that the team is known.”
“Like when you think of Pittsburgh, you think about Baltimore, you think about Tampa, you think defense. I wanted to see if I could be a part of that and keep the magic going.”
It’s only taken one year for the magic to get going in the Big Apple.
They’ve done it without their most dangerous offensive weapon, Leon Washington. Without big Kris Jenkins, the defense’s most important player that doesn’t have an island named after him.
They’ve gotten here with a rookie head coach, Rex Ryan, who was passed over for head coaching gigs three times before Mike Tannenbaum and Woody Johnson gave the former Ravens’ defensive coordinator a shot. A guy whose gregarious, boastful personality was maligned by many, who questioned whether he had the maturity or emotional wherewithal to be a successful head coach.
With a rookie quarterback, who was all of twelve years old the last time the Jets played for the AFC title in 1999. New York has weathered the turbulent storms of the neophytic Sanchez, whose erratic play in the regular season has not translated to January. The 23-year-old Sanchez has been stellar in the postseason, leading the Jets to a pair of road victories with intelligent, mistake-free football. He credits his teammates and coaching staff in helping him survive the tumultuous season.
“It’s been a wild ride,” says Sanchez. “What really got me through this was the guys on this team. Mike Tannenbaum coming to me after throwing five picks against Buffalo. He gave me a list of quarterbacks that have thrown five picks in their career. There’s some great ones on it, so it wasn’t the end of the world. Just little things like that. Guys like T-Rich and Thomas Jones talking to me through this entire process, letting me know how long this year is.”
“I think I’m lucky to have such great guys around me to help me through the times during the year, especially a rookie year. I think that’s where the turn came.”
While the future is certainly bright for the Jets, another shot at Super Bowl glory is not promised. Players can go careers without ever sniffing a chance to play for all the marbles. Just ask Jets fullback Tony Richardson.
“T-Rich hasn’t been here in forty years,” joked linebacker Bryan Thomas.
At the ripe age of 38, Richardson is the team’s oldest player, outlasting the tests of time one of the most brutal positions on the gridiron. In fifteen seasons in the league, Richardson has played for three different teams and has made four Pro Bowl appearences. But the Auburn product has only two career playoff wins, both coming this postseason.
“This is what you play the game for,” says Richardson. “To have an opportunity to make it to the postseason. Once you make it, you have a chance to win the games and keep going.”
The Jets elder statesman has been very vocal throughout this postseason, urging the younger players to take advantage of this opportunity while it’s in front of them.
“That’s really been the message to the young guys. These things don’t come around too often, especially with a good football team like we have. So obviously you just have to enjoy the moment and understand how special it is.”
Making a deep run into the postseason, takes more than talented players and great coaching. It also takes some good fortune. That means luck both on and off the field. Since Broadway Joe’s victory jog into the tunnel at the Orange Bowl, Gang Green has been anything but fortunate. The Jets have only appeared in two AFC Championship games, losing both times.
The Bill Parcells teams of the late nineties saw their window of opportunity close quickly. Following the 1998 run, quarterback Vinny Testaverde blew out his Achilles tendon in the 1999 season opener. Since then, the Jets have registered only four postseason wins in five appearences. Injuries, untimely penalties, and missed field goals have all played a role in the past decade of futility for the New York Jets.
Throughout this playoff run, the Jets have finally gotten those breaks that they never used to get. The missed field goals, the killer penalties have all gone in their favor this time. The kind of breaks that only championship teams get. The pieces have all fallen into place for this Jets team.
“We had a chance at the end of the season,” said Sanchez. “We’re taking full advantage of this now, we’re really rising to the occasion.”
Opportunity is knocking, rather violently. Mark Sanchez and the Jets need to kick in the door at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
They may not get another chance.
Braylon to receive one-year tender
Multiple sources are reporting that Jets are planning to retain receiver Braylon Edwards next season, as a restricted free agent. The organization will place a one-year contract tender that require that the Jets receive first and third round picks from any team that plans to sign Edwards.
Edwards will receive five million in 2010, in an attempt to prove to the Jets front office that he is worth a long-term deal, following next season. The 6-foot-3 receiver will turn 27 on February 21.
In Sunday’s Divisional Round win in San Diego, the former Michigan Wolverine hauled in two balls for 41 yards.
DE Shaun Ellis, nursing the broken hand he suffered during the first quarter on Sunday, did not practice today, but will play against Indianapolis. Also held out of practice were RB Thomas Jones (coach’s decision) and Tony Richardson (ribs), both of whom will play Sunday.
Linebackers Bart Scott and David Harris were both limited with ankle injuries, but will play. QB Mark Sanchez (knee) and WR Danny Woodhead (knee) both participated in the full practice.
NYC to host Jets pep rally
The Big Apple plans to look more Granny Smith than Red Delicious on Thursday evening. With the Jets one win away from a trip to Super Bowl XLIV, the city has announced a pep rally for Gang Green in Times Square tomorrow night. The rally will take place on Broadway between 44th and 45th streets, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Special guests will include Mayor Mike Bloomberg and past Jet greats.