I remember it like it was yesterday, the site of seeing an entire season lost in a heartbeat.
The year was 1999, and the Jets falling short in the AFC championship game the year prior looked poised under Bill Parcells in his third season with "Gang Green" to take the team to the promised land of the Super Bowl with Vinny Testaverde leading the way.
Of course, it wasn't meant to be as Testaverde, during the season opener, went down untouched with a ruptured Achilles tendon that effectively ended his season, and by extension, the Jets year as well as Tom Tupa, Rick Mirer, and finally, Ray Lucas steered the team to a hard-fought, yet massively disappointing, 8-8 finish.
Within a matter of months, Parcells retired, which then led to Bill Belichick's one-day tenure as head coach in which he famously scrawled on a piece of paper "I resign as HC of the NYJ" during his introduction/resignation press conference, and the rest of course is history...
Perhaps, it seems a bit overblown to think things will implode in such fashion, but when you add Revis' injury to the Jets' laundry list of issues, it becomes harder to ignore the potential chance that the Jets could soon be on a similar crash course both in the long- and short-term.
Sadly, even before the season started, the signs pointing toward disaster kept coming up.
It started with the trade of Tim Tebow and its potential effect on Mark Sanchez, Mike Tannenbaum's attempts at trying to fix an aging and expensive roster, Santonio Holmes and his diva act, Wayne Hunter simply making the mistake of being himself, and finally, Rex Ryan trying to manage all of this, while keeping his own ego in check.
Through it all, the one comfort Jets fan had was knowing Revis was reaching the prime of his career and had showed up on time for camp.
Say what you want about Revis and his contract squabbles, but oddly enough, his mere presence on the field made the lack of preseason scoring, the locker-room in-fighting, the Tebow-Sanchez drama and Rex Ryan's antics seem like trivial sideshows. With a little bit of luck, the team could overcome these sideshows once the season started.
For one week, at least, the Jets made good on their potential as they rolled over the Buffalo Bills in the season opener, but then, the loss the following week in Pittsburgh where Revis sat out following the lingering effects of a concussion suffered in the opener, brought back all of the doubts.
Week 3 against the Dolphins in Miami, with Revis cleared to play, seemed like a good chance for the Jets to get back on course. Ultimately, the Jets won the battle on Sunday in spite of themselves in overtime, but arguably, lost the war with the most important player on the team going down with an ACL injury.
So what's next?
First and foremost, the short-term ramifications would indicate that Rex Ryan needs to step up as ESPN's Johnette Howard stated earlier this week.
"With Revis out, Ryan immediately becomes the most important piece of the Jets' defense. Whether Kyle Wilson, Revis' replacement, is ready for his closeup is just a subplot. The Jets' best hope of finding a true difference-maker that's already on the current roster is Ryan -- because, as a defensive coordinator, Ryan really is that good."
For the Jets to have a fighting chance, Ryan will be forced to do everything short of suiting up as Revis for his entire tenure in New York has served as the lynch-pin for his defense.
How much of a difference does Revis really make?
Like it or not, we're about to find out.
Yet, even if the defense does rally, does the offense have it in it to win enough games to make the postseason?
Even with Revis, this team only looked like it might just make the playoffs. Assuming that Revis, based on his play, contributed at least two wins per season, that could easily mean the difference between the Jets making playoffs with nine to 10 wins or sitting at home in January with nine to 10 losses.
Either way, we will have to wait and see how this plays out in the coming weeks, which actually leads to the next set of concerns and the potential long-term ramifications of Revis' injury.
Assuming Revis is 100 percent healthy in time to play next season, will he even return to the same team?
If things completely fall apart, what happens to Sanchez, Tebow, Tannenbaum, Ryan, etc?
Forgive me if this all seems a bit dramatic, but the odds of everyone in that equation being back next year seem awfully slim today; however, if things do work out, will that help Revis ink a long-term deal?
ESPN New York's Rich Cimini outlined his thoughts on this issue by asking the following,
"Can the Jets pay fair-market value for a player coming off major surgery? Will Revis and his hard-line agents accept anything less? They're not the type that will give injury discounts, and this is a player looking for north of $16 million per year, conservatively -- the number that was whispered last offseason, when Revis was mulling a holdout. Right now, he's averaging $11.5 million annually."
At some point, Revis will get paid, that's almost a certainty.
Whether he stays a Jet is another story. Revis isn't stupid, and he wants to win. I'd imagine he will do everything possible to recover and come back with a vengeance, especially when you factor pride and the potential for a major payday in the mix.
If the right opportunity presents itself and the Jets low-ball him, he would be foolish to not consider leaving if the team looks any worse than they do in their current state.
Which begs the question, "What should the Jets do?"
Will Darrelle Revis be...Darrelle "Revis Island" Revis?
As the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta wrote,
"The Jets would likely want physical evidence that Revis, who will be 28 before the start of next season, is back to his All-Pro self.
However, there are huge risks with that approach. If the Jets opt not to re-work Revis’ deal before next season, they may lose him in free agency after 2013. Per terms of his existing contract, Revis cannot be given the franchise tag if he doesn’t miss any mandatory team activities. He will be an unrestricted free agent after next season."
In other words, expect another showdown.
Sadly though, I see no winners here, as I'd imagine how the team performs from here on out and whether or not Revis recovers will dictate how both sides approach the question next season.
If either one fails to live up to expectations, I'd imagine Revis will follow the lead of another All-Pro cornerback who he grew up watching as a kid in Pittsburgh who also sustained a devastating ACL injury and eventually found himself at odds with his employer at the time.
After spending a decade in Pittsburgh with the Steelers, Rod Woodson found himself at a crossroads in 1997 and looked like he might be washed up at age 32 while starting over with a new team. Fast forward a dozen years to 2009, and suddenly, Rod Woodson is in Canton, Ohio, accepting his bust as a member of the NFL Hall of Fame with a Super Bowl ring on his finger.
For years, people have compared Darrelle Revis to Deion Sanders, but some day, one can only hope they will compare him to Rod Woodson as well. The only thing that would make that sweeter is if Revis can duplicate Woodson's success while remaining a Jet every step of the way, but right now, the odds sure seem slim.