Calling the 2011 New York Jets' season a disappointment would be an understatement. After back-to-back AFC championship game appearances and keeping virtually all of their starters, they managed to go 8-8. Injuries, mistakes and drama filled the season.
Looking back with the 2012 season ready to get underway, five moments from last year's season stand out to me as the most painful to watch as a Jets fan.
After a 2-0 start, the New York Jets were a popular pick in the AFC and were considered by many to be one of the two or three best teams in the NFL. With center and offensive leader Nick Mangold out with a high ankle sprain, fans knew Week 3 would be tough against the Oakland Raiders.
Nevertheless, the Raiders were a weak team, and the Jets were strong favorites. This huge run by Darren McFadden was the first real sign that the Jets' seemingly invincible run defense would actually let the measly Raiders run all over them and steal a victory.
After a disappointing Week 3, the Week 4 matchup against the Ravens—head coach Rex Ryan's former team—was heavily hyped. With center Nick Mangold still injured, Jets fans knew to be worried about the Ravens defense.
However, no one knew just how bad it would be. Arguably the worst offensive performance in Jets history got off to a quick start when safety Ed Reed killed the Jets' first drive in two seconds flat.
Despite having to travel across the country on a shortened week, the Jets were favorites over the Denver Broncos. Nevertheless, the Broncos pulled out the win. Even after one of the worst quarterback performances of the year, Quarterback Tim Tebow somehow pulled a touchdown run out of thin air. With his only touchdown—and only productive drive of the game—he stole a last minute win away from the Jets in week 11.
After Week 14, the 8-5 Jets had reason to feel good about their chances. They had survived the hard part of their schedule and were in the driving seat for the wild card and the fifth seed in the AFC. After a loss to fall to 8-6, they were still in good position.
There was a precise moment—right when Victor Cruz crossed the 13-yard line—when Jets fans nationwide went from feeling great about their chances to feeling terrible. If this play had gone differently, the Jets might have finished 10-6 instead of 8-8. That is quite a difference in the NFL.
Going into Week 17, the Jets were still technically in the playoff race. It would turn out that their last game against the Miami Dolphins was irrelevant. However, at the time, they did not know that.
The Jets were favorites, playing a meaningful game against an already eliminated Dolphins team. A lot of bad results came from this game, including a great deal of the ensuing drama. Wide receiver and team captain Santonio Holmes played one of the worst games of his career and let down the team.
However, there was one moment on the field when fans realized their team might actually lose to the pitiful Dolphins. While nearly the entire game was a low point of the season, the play at the 92 second mark of this video was especially hard to watch. Quarterback Mark Sanchez threw one of his three interceptions in ugly fashion.
Ultimately, the loss was irrelevant to the results of the season, but at the time it was a stunning defeat. The manner of the defeat went on to fuel a lot of the media carnage in the following months.