Sunday, December 21, 2008
Same Old Jets.
Same old Jets.
Three words I've heard since I was younger by older Jets fans any time the Jets lose a game late in the season. Whether it's blowing a halftime lead in the 1998 AFC championship, missing two field goals in the final two minutes in the 2004 AFC divisional playoffs, or losing late season games to various inferior opponents over the years, that mantra has been repeated and passed on for generations since the team's Super Bowl win 40 years ago.
2008 was supposed to be different. Brett Favre was the quarterback. The coach had been dubbed the "ManGenius" in his first year and was endorsed by the likes of Tony Soprano.
The season began unfolding magically. Their greatest nemesis, Tom Brady, had befallen a season-ending injury. The door was open, and the Jets jumped at the chance after a slow start, beating the Patriots and Titans in their own buildngs, in what appeared to be the two ultimate measuring stick games.
But S.O.J reared its ugly head that next week at home against Denver. At the time, it looked like a simple letdown and not a foreshadow of things to come. But then San Francisco removed the cushion the previous two road games had given them.
The 2008 Jets still had a chance to convince us all that this edition was different. However, now they needed to win the last three games. One loss, and the team would be another in a long line of disappointments.
Nevertheless, S.O.J. was here to stay. It was there for the Bills game, but Dick Jauron failed to take advantage of it, and the team was saved by a miracle strip-sack-touchdown by Abram Elam and Shaun Ellis.
That gave the Jets another chance. However, as so many previous editions of the team have done, they squandered that chance.
Didn't you know it was coming when you saw snow teeming from the skies in Seattle of all places?
Sunday's 13-3 loss to the Seahawks had all the elements of S.O.J. The strange weather conditions. The anonymous, ignominious opponent. The underthrown passes. The mental mistakes. The coaching blunders. The boring offense. The sloppy defense.
The centerpiece of this loss and of this season is Brett Favre. Eric Mangini can claim the core of the team is great, and he isn't wrong, but once Favre came in, he was the focus.
All season, excuses have been made for him, and many have been valid. All signs pointed to the team coming together to play better as the season went on. But the offense and defense looked worse than they did back in week one, which is astounding considering how well they played less than one month ago at Tennessee.
The numbers say it all in this game. 18-31, 187 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT. He is the coached down version of the quarterback he was in 2005 and 2006. Rather than risking errant interceptions like he did then, now he just checks the ball down, helping move the chains a little, but nullifying any chance of making the error.
This was the downside of getting Favre. If the Jets were getting the 2007 version, they would have clinched the AFC East by now. But they didn't. What were we to expect from a 39-year old who didn't decide to play football until late July, who had to learn a new playbook, and who had to adjust to new teammates, coaches, media, and home.
In this game his inaccuracy came to the forefront. The worst of it was an underthrown pass to David Clowney on a deep ball. After years of Chad Pennington's weak arm, Jets fans were excited for a quarterback they thought could finally throw the ball deep. Little did they know that by week 17, they would be wishing they had their former first rounder and that Pennington, not Favre, would be controlling his own destiny.
The sad part is that now the Jets actually have a rushing game. The last Jet team to make the playoffs, Mangini's first effort in 2006, and they had no rushing game. They were led by Kevan Barlow, Derrick Blaylock, and young rookie Leon Washington. Yet now the passing game has failed them.
Thomas Jones did not have his best game, managing 67 yards on 17 carries. Fullback Tony Richardson added 34 yards on five carries, his best rushing game this season. Leon Washington again had just three touches, but on a sloppy field, his cutting ability was severely hampered. Still, three touches is not enough.
For once, the defense wasn't to blame. While they certainly did not shut down the Seahawks, they held them to just 2-12 on third downs and allowed just 13 points. They made more than enough stops to give the offense a chance to win.
But that had as much to do with the elements as anything else. Tackling was poor, and Maurice Morris gained 116 yards on 29 carries. Seneca Wallace also was not sacked all game, though he was pressured a few times.
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer deserves much of the blame. While the Jets are usually successful on the first drive of games, after the scripted plays end, the offense usually sputters. The playcalling has been at best erratic, but the players' lack of execution certainly has not helped.
And yet again, Eric Mangini lays up and kicks a field goal on 4th and 1 close to the goal line, rather than go for a touchdown with his offense finally moving the ball like it was designed to.
That's S.O.J. for you. Playing not to lose. That's the irony of Herman Edwards's infamous "You play to win the game" tirade. He rarely coached according to his own edict, and that's plagued the "ManGenius" since his first season.
Isn't it just sick irony that Eric Mangini now can clinch a playoff berth for his nemesis Bill Bellichick and the Patriots with a win?
I've defended to the death that "Same Old Jets" is gone. But I now understand a lot of what older fans see when they watch the Jets play. The collapse this season is high in the pantheon in great Jet disappointments.
Oh wait. It's not over? Not on paper, but is there any way this Jets team can beat a motivated and well-coached Miami Dolphins squad? I never thought I would say that, but the Jets have shown few signs of life, and the entire team is in a state of disarray.
Plus, the New England Patriots need to lose with their season on the line in Buffalo. The Bills were able to ruin the Denver Broncos' hopes of clinching the AFC West this week, upsetting them 30-23 in Denver. The Bills played well against the Jets the week before, and they have talent.
But let's get serious. Bill Bellichick losing with the season on the line to a team he usually owns? I'll probably try to make a case for it by Thursday or Friday, but don't get your hopes up.
The Jets need to hope Dick Jauron can hand them a miracle again. And that the Jets can actually win a game. Because the team they've played like recently has been closer to the team that lost 12 games last year than the one that beat Tennessee just 28 days prior.
Blame Eric Mangini. Blame Brett Favre. The Jets are back and as disappointing as ever.