Forty Years Of Futility Comes To A Head
I'm going to open this piece by stating that for the past forty years I have been a New York Giants fan. That, however, does preclude me from also being an expert on the other team in town—the New York Jets.
Let me explain. Most New Yorkers do not have the NFL Ticket, so each weekend we are guaranteed to see at least two NFL teams' games - the Giants and the Jets.
If you are a Giants fans and are hanging out in the local bar or even at home, you usually get caught up in each game. It used to be where the fans of each team hated one another, but since the two clubs have no real connection, many fans have begun rooting for both teams.
Giant fans actually are doing this out of pity.
Most of my friends and cousins are Jet fans. My son, who seems to want to break my heart (and my balls) at every twist and turn, is a Jet fan. Football conversations cannot commence in my world without the lamentations of Jet fans. I'm sick of it.
One of my oldest buddies—a Jet season ticket holder since the ball was striped - claims that for every year he has been a Jet fan, God will deduct one year off his Purgatory stint after he dies.
Another cites Jet fans must prepare each season for the UPF (Ultimate Pain Factor). By this, he means the moment it appears that something good is going to happen, the UPF swoops in and destroys all hope.
After this season, a season in which the UPF rays may have shone their brightest, many of my Jet fan friends are on the ledge and ready to jump. Combine that with the PSL fiasco and I don't need to tell you that these guys have had it.
After sitting and watching the Jets the past few seasons and hearing out Jet fans like a parish priest hears confessions, let me sum up the situation for you Jet fans....
Woody Johnson may be a billionaire, but that's all he is. A younger Leon Hess. A rich guy with no idea about the game of football. He surely knows his business and how to bilk the fans. He knows how to spend money, too. But when it comes to personnel and what is best for the on-field product, he's lost.
That might also be said for GM Mike Tannenbaum. His forte is managing the salary cap. That alone should not have qualified him as the General Manager. They should have hired a football guy—a talent evaluator—to be the GM and retained Tannenbaum his assistant. Plus, since the salary cap has been increasing each season the need for such a talent in Caponomics—as they call it—is no longer necessary.
The head coach Tannenbaum hired was Eric Mangini, who was fired last week. Mangini was a Bill Bellichick progeny that never really gained the respect of his players or the fans. His clandestine practices and his tight-lipped treatment of the media didn't win him any medals, either.
Now Tannenbaum must hire a new coach. From all indications, he is seeking another first-timer. This is New York. This is not a training ground for virgin head coaches. He needs to bring in a name this time, but he seems destined to repeat his mistake.
Speaking of mistakes, the Jets made two mammoth blunders personnel-wise in 2008.
1. "Personnel? Only Idiots Work In Personnel!" (from the film The Enforcer)
After spending millions in free agency to sure up their offensive and defensive fronts, they were still left with Chad Pennington at quarterback. With the No. 6 choice in the upcoming draft, it looked as if they might select a QB with their first pick.
Instead, they were negotiating with the Oakland Raiders for the No. 4 overall pick so they could take Arkansas RB Darren McFadden. This mystified me. They needed a linebacker and a quarterback. That deal, thankfully fell through. They then concentrated on a linebacker. Being the Jets, of course they chose the wrong one.
Days before the draft, Phil Simms—after hearing that the Jets were considering Ohio State LB Vernon Gholston—gave an on-air buyer beware.
"Ive watched all of Ohio State's games this year" Simms told Bommer Esiason, "and I don't remember hearing his name being called that often." Esiason flinched.
Simms then said "If your going to draft a player that high, he has to be a playmaker, and from what I have seen, I don't think he is what everyone thinks he is."
That Saturday, the Patriots, who were scheduled to select seventh in the first round right after the Jets, traded picks with New Orleans. New England had LB at the top of their list, too but decided against trading up for Gholston. Instead, they traded down and got a better player. Once again, the Patriots ended up outmaneuvering the Jets.
The Jets ignored all warnings and selected Gholston anyway with the 6th pick. The Patriots took Tennessee's Jerod Mayo with the 10th pick. Result: The clueless Gholston could not crack the Jets starting lineup. Mayo went on to become the NFLs' Defensive Rookie of the Year.
After Lawrence Taylor worked with Gholston at a practice he told Mike Francesa, "He's got the body, but that's where it ends...."
On draft day, I told Jet fans the best player in the draft was Joe Flacco, a 6'6" QB from Delaware. I said that he would be perfect for the Jets. They all said I was nuts.
2. The Brett Favre Trade
In August, Woody Johnson realized that he had to sell seat licenses in the new stadium to make ends meet. With a team devoid of star power, and Brett Favre acting like a spoiled schoolboy in Green Bay, the Jets pulled the trigger on a deal that brought the legendary Favre to NY. That brought the Jets in from the back burner and made them relevant again. Sales of Favre jerseys went through the roof. Expectations did, too.
Favre, who was certain he'd end up in Tampa Bay, reluctantly agreed to the trade. To make room for him on the roster, fan favorite Pennington was released. Favre came to Jet camp way behind and failed to grasp the Jets' plays. He apparently had an awkward start in his relationship with Mangini, one that would not get much better as the season went on.
Mangini is not not known as a player's coach. He had little authority over Favre and watched wincingly as Favre pissed away the Jets' 8-3 start. Mangini took the fall, but it was clear that Favre's selfish, shoddy play late in the season cost the Jets a trip to the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Chad Pennington—who was adroitly picked up by Miami after being dropped by the Jets—had a career year. His savvy leadership and solid play earned him NFL Comeback Player of the Year in leading the Dolphins' to the AFC East title.
Ironically, the coup de gras on the Jets' 2008 crash was a loss at home to Pennington and the Dolphins. Favre was ultimately horrible in this game, which may end up being his last. The UPF had struck again.
In closing, as the Jets continue their search for a head coach from a list of unqualified candidates, and the front office combs the college ranks for the next draft day bust, the fans sit alongside their Giant brethren watching the playoffs and wondering what could have been.