The Jets’ season came to an end last night in Pittsburgh, one step short of a Super Bowl for the second consecutive season. What will haunt the players and coaches, undoubtedly, well into the offseason, was the team’s nearly inconceivable performance in the first half. New York’s defense, arriving into this penultimate contest off an outrageously successful outing against the Patriots, appeared lifeless, unable to either overpower the Steelers’ maligned offensive line, or finish tackles. The Steelers’ dominated time of possession, leaving the Jets in a desperate situation, from which they almost miraculously recovered.
Of course, these facts, and other details, have been discussed and dissected plenty, already. Painful swings of momentum will be considered constantly until training camp opens, and even after. What if the punt does get blocked? What if the Jets scored that touchdown, instead of settling for an eventual safety? What if? Whenever a tough football game is lost, that question becomes a cursed mantra.
These Jets were fascinating to follow in 2010. They created, and endured, multiple controversies. Their on-field performance radically shifted, almost on a constant basis. The style of play so carefully cultivated in 2009 was wiped away, replaced by a much more high-risk, entertaining approach.
And that’s been the thing, about these past two years. I received an incredible opportunity to cover a professional sports team. That would have been enough. But these Jets… they were a journalist’s dream, and, ironically enough, in this age of hyper image sensitivity, a public relations nightmare. [The Jets’ staff definitely had their hands full, bless ‘em]
See, people at this point might have forgotten, but last year was insane too, just for entirely different reasons. That team was declared dead countless times, though it did totally transform right before the playoffs began, finally reaching its ceiling when no one saw it coming.
Combing through my own archives last night, after this season came to a crashing end, a strange sense of perspective seeped into my thoughts. Sure, this loss will be remembered painfully, placed alongside other letdowns over the years. Think about it, though. The Jets were Conference Championship participants in ’09, but that was a fairy tale ride. This time around, expectations were sky high. They were however, a road team again. Their regular season had been disjointed at moments. They had not reached their apex until the Divisional Playoff, and, adhering to their rather inconsistent nature throughout 2010, the fall was swift, dramatic, and unexpected.
Even still… misplaced within the wailing, all the negativity about possibly not having such a shot again, keep in mind: the Green Bay Packers lost to the Cowboys three straight years in the playoffs before taking home the big prize in ’96-97. In basketball, the Chicago Bulls, at one point, could not get by the Detroit Pistons. The Kansas City Royals could never beat the Yankees, until they did, in 1980. Jets fans are going to be either drilling pessimism into themselves, or having the job done for them, over these next few weeks. They will be told repeatedly that these chances only come around but once every five or ten years. Say what? The Eagles lost THREE straight Conference Championship games, before making their Super Bowl appearance with Donovan McNabb. By the negative logic being applied to the Jets in some quarters, the Eagles’ window should have closed completely well before they made that Super Bowl. All the karmic stuff, the bad luck voodoo… its nonsense… If the Jets are one of the best teams in football next season, they will have a great shot to make the Super Bowl. Bottom line, end of story… Sports maintain an illusion of continuity. It’s not really there. Every day is different. Every year is different. These Jets now recede into the past. The new guys will be untethered to the past, capable of anything.
Now there were some interesting quotes spoken today. I’ll let the players take it away. One more thing before I go, and don’t forget it, ask those Eagles, or the early nineties Bills, or the baseball Royals, or hell, the Indianapolis Colts, who were supposed to NEVER get as good of a shot as they had in ’05: the better you are, the bigger that window is… open for a good long while, beckoning a fly through… The Jets will fly on. And if management makes the correct moves, their window for ultimate success will remain wide, for a long time.
This blog will now be occasionally active. It’s been a pleasure blogging regularly throughout the 09-10 seasons. Peace.
On his development: “The most important thing, personally, was trying to cut down on interceptions. I cut down on turnovers (and) ball security (issues). To improve like we did, to jump as many spots as we did in third-down conversions, on red zone efficiency, everything we improved in as an offense. That just comes with experience. I’m really proud of the coaches and the players for improving like we promised each other we would on this day last year.”
On Possible Changes: “I don’t know. I just feel like there are probably more than a handful of guys, at least 10, that won’t be playing (here) next year because of contracts deals or age. Guys have played a long time and they’ve had great careers. LT (LaDainian Tomlinson) and Jason Taylor, I mean those guys are great competitors. They are nearing the end of their career, (but) I hope we get them back, I hope they have one more year in them because they’ve helped me. The reality is this is a tough game and these guys have played a long time, so we’ll see what happens.”
On a Possible Emotional Letdown after beating the Patriots: “That has nothing to do with it. Whenever you have to play three games on the road, it’s tough-sledding. The hardest thing to do in this game is win on the road. Hopefully, that’s something we can look forward to. Maybe we can try and win the division, so we don’t have to go that route. That can also be a goal for how we can improve next year.”
On the first half: “I don’t know. We couldn’t get off the field on defense. We couldn’t stay on the field on offense. It’s as simple as that. Execution in that type of game has to be at a high level and we didn’t execute very well in the first half.”
On Holmes’ criticism of play-calling: “That’s not the way I like to operate, but it talks about the emotions that you’re feeling at the time. Just like when I was saying nobody has a right to write negative comments about us. That’s a ridiculous statement. It was just raw. That’s the emotion of it at the time. Those are things, obviously, you wish you had back.”
On the Labor Uncertainty: “I just hope it gets worked out at the end of the day. Obviously, I have a lot of faith that it will be. Man, it’s some scary times. As a coach, you want to know and you want to get your guys back as fast as you can. Let’s get on to the new season. It really is uncertain times. That’s why I went and reached out to our players about holding each other accountable, whether that’s working out or whether it’s thinking football.”