Jets fans hope 2004 will be the year they can raise the Lombardi like Pats fans did this year. (AP)
I watched the Super Bowl last Sunday night with mixed emotions. I was excited for the big event, distressed that the Jets don’t look like they could be there any time soon, anxious to see how the Patriots O-line would handle Julius Peppers & company, angry when I looked at the former HC of the NYJ leading his team to the big game twice in three years and finally disgusted at the lack of taste Janet Jackson and MTV showed during halftime (but that’s a whole other story…)
First off let me say that I was really impressed with the game. It was probably the most enjoyable Super Bowl that I have ever watched. It had everything. Great defense in the first half, great offense in the second half, a little bit of tussling and trash talking, heroic performances (Brady, Delhomme & once again Vinatieri), goats (NE secondary for allowing so many big plays & John Casey for kicking the ball out of bounds), questionable coaching moves (John Fox going for 2 when his team didn’t really need it), and an exciting conclusion. Both of those teams deserve a lot of credit for their guts, passion and desire. They gave America a great show.
Well onto how this all affects the New York Jets. I am speculating now, but you have to think that the Jets get fired up when they see a division rival, especially one with as much bad blood as the Pats, win the Big one. This should make the Jets hungrier for next season but the Pats will be tough to beat again. They have something like 7 picks in the first 2 rounds, Tom Brady is only 26, the coaching staff looks like it will stay intact, Roosevelt Colvin will be back and their style of play allows them to win with new faces. Next year will definitely be an uphill battle.
This is what I am hoping the NY Jets took out of Sunday’s Super Bowl:
A great offensive line means everything. The Pats allowed exactly ZERO sacks in the 2003 playoffs. That is staggering. I mean they went up against Jevon Kearse, Kevin Carter, Dwight Freeney and then maybe the best D-line in the NFL last Sunday and Tom Brady NEVER touched the ground. Unbelievable. The Jets need to realize that this is how you win games. They need to get Chad Pennington some more time and give him the comfort level that Brady receives in the NE pocket. The Jets need to find an answer to Dave Szott (if indeed he is going to retire) as soon as they can. I think the Jets line is pretty good but they seemed to tamper off at the end of last season. They need to be better than ever if the Jets are going to contend next year.
A defensive line means a lot too. The Panthers D-line is unbelievable. I know they had no sacks in the Super Bowl but they opened big holes for their linebackers, allowing them to take down runners in the backfield. They also pressured Tom Brady into some bad throw and pretty much caused him to throw that interception in the endzone. I found it fascinating how much better a teams’ secondary looks when the pocket is closing in on the QB. The Jets have tried to get better on the defensive line by drafting Abraham, Ellis, Thomas and Roberstson. They looked good at the beginning of this season but once Abraham went down so did their sack total. The players and the coaching staff really need to commit to improving this facet of the defense. They need Josh Evans back to inspire this group, they need Shaun Ellis to play at the same level he played for the first eight games of 2003, and they need Dwayne Robertson and Bryan Thomas to justify their high draft picks. Football is won in the trenches and the Jets need to realize this.
Game time adjustments by the coaching staff are critical. The first 28 minutes of the Super Bowl were all about defense and grinding out yards. The next 32 were about offense and big plays. I think that both coaching staffs saw weaknesses in each other and exploited them. Jake Delhomme started looking downfield more and threw 2 long TDs. Tom Brady recognized more blitzes and took advantage. The Jets coaching staff seems to have their Sunday afternoon game plan and sticks to it no matter what. The reason the Jets look better in the first half than in the second is because opposing coaches make halftime adjustments. They sniff out our screens better, stuff our runs better and take away Santana more because they recognize packages, plays, formations, etc. Herm and the staff need to start hiring guys that think on the fly and can make game plans up in situations they call for.
It is important to have ‘change of pace’ type running backs. The Panthers have speed and fitness in Stephen Davis and power and explosiveness in DeShaun Foster. The Pats have a bruising back that grinds out yards in Antowain Smith and a small and speedy back in Kevin Faulk. The Jets have two types of runners and I thought the coaching staff would switch things up a bit last season. They seemed to only use LaMont Jordan in third-and-short or goal line situations. I hope Paul Hackett and crew watched the playoffs and saw what an advantage a team has when they can throw two types of running backs at teams.
Teams, not players, win Super Bowls. I eluded to this fact in a previous article about the Pats some weeks back. The Panthers are the same type of team. The key to winning in the NFL relates back to something Coach Norman Dale said in the movie Hoosiers “All players function as one single unit; no one more important than the other”. I think that Herm Edwards tries to instill this sense of teamwork into his players. I know people make fun of his barbecues, his light practices and his Mondays off after a win dictum but I think he does all that to bring them closer together. I think it has worked to some degree but obviously not last season. He is on the right track on the emotional part of the equation; he just needs the players to get it on the physical and mental level (a very tough task).
I don’t profess myself as being a football genius and I am sure that most other people who frequent this website recognize the importance of these five points. Hopefully Herman Edwards and his staff do too.