They stood there in their green and white jerseys—mouths agape. Did he just say that?
“I want to kiss you.” The slurred words were like nails on a chalkboard to Jets fan. Their idol. The legendary icon to a franchise with few legendary icons had just propositioned Suzy Kolber while being interviewed during a Jets-Patriots game in 2003.
Joe Namath told Suzy Kolber that he wanted to...kiss her. Sigh.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is what it means to be a Jets’ fan. Their one legend—the only person who has ever brought this team to the Super Bowl (much less won it)—had just torn their hearts out with a drunken display.
To this day, the Jets have not been able to replace the great Namath. And now, even those memories are stained with the image of Namath’s glossy-eyed proposition.
That is part of the reason why the Jets need to get Jay Cutler. I’ll go into it further in a minute. For now, please read the following hypothetical tale (think ABC Family special geared towards the tween crowd):
Mike is an average high school senior. He’s not the captain of the football team, but he’s not the geek who gets beat up every morning either. Average in every way. Like most high school seniors, he’s a little insecure and tries to do nothing to embarrass himself. Also, like most high school seniors, he’s stressing about finding a date for the prom.
You see, all the ingredients are there for an incredible prom night. He and his friends have rented a huge stretch limo with a bar and a high def TV. They have access to a friend’s house down on the shore where they will surely have a time to remember.
The only problem is finding a date. His current plan is to take Kelly, his third cousin. She’s average in every way, just like him. She’s not ugly. Nobody knows they’re cousins. It will be...fine. Not perfect. Fine.
Last year, Mike was in a similar situation. And, as he always does when it comes to women, he took the easy way out. He just wanted a date that he wouldn’t be embarrassed by.
He took Britt, his older sister’s hot friend. Britt was super popular in high school and jumped at the opportunity to relive some of that high school glory. She liked college enough, but high school was the bomb.
Taking Britt wasn’t bad. She looked good (although a little out of place) and was a good date and a good dancer. But, she also came off as trying to live off her reputation from her high school days.
It was a little pathetic—but it didn’t reflect poorly on Mike. He was average and she was good looking. You could call her a cougar in the making. It was fine. Not great. Fine.
The thing is, Mike’s good friend Jane just broke up with her boyfriend Josh. It seems that Josh was screwing around with Maddy – the girl who finished junior year about forty pounds overweight and came back to school in the fall in great shape and looking...almost...hot.
Everyone in the school knew Josh was trading down in that deal, but he couldn’t help it. Jane dumped him. Jane also happens to be the prettiest girl in high school, very smart, and has all the makings of a long term girlfriend - not just arm candy for the prom. She does have a flaw that she gets a little bitchy in certain circumstances.
But, as she proved with her old boyfriend Mickey, she is very loyal and the bitchiness could certainly be reigned in – to the point where she could be a once in a lifetime girlfriend.
There is no question. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Mike to kill two birds with one stone. He would be getting a great prom date—ensuring a fantastic prom—and a girl that Mike would love to date long term.
He just needs to seize the opportunity. She’s definitely looking for a nice, smart guy after being spurned by an arrogant moron. The suitors were sure to line up. Teams like Detroit and Tampa Bay uhh....I mean...Other guys with more to offer are knocking down her door. But, none of them have a better fit.
None of them have a fan base, I mean family that would appreciate her more. All of them have had a bit more success in this arena than Mike. It’s his turn. Mike needs a strategy. Should he play hard to get? Given the interest from other guys, that was probably not an ideal approach. Should he just call and ask straight out—losing a ton of leverage? (Leverage? This analogy is really starting to get weak)
He thought for a moment that he could drive by her house a few times – and duck if she sees him. Maybe even call and hang up a couple of times. As much as he liked that idea, the risk of imprisonment seemed too great.
The opportunity is there. Mike knows what he NEEDS to do. He just needs to find a way to do it.
The tale just completed – despite being able to hold on literary merit alone – was actually a metaphor (or something like that) to the situation that is occurring in Denver. The characters in the tale represent current stakeholders in the Cutler saga.
Mike, the average high school senior, represents Mike Tannenbaum, the GM of the New York Jets—a team that has been very average since Willy Joe strutted around in nylons.
Kelly, the third cousin who was a serviceable prom date, represents Kellen Clemens, who is the Jets' current option at QB.
Britt, the older cougar who relived her glory days by joining Mike at the Junior Prom, represents Brett Favre who was an adequate player in his one year with the Jets. But, there was something about him that just didn’t seem like the Brett Favre of the nineties.
Jane, the unbelievably hot and (equally unbelievably) available (and bitchy) high school senior represents Jay Cutler.
Josh, the senior who didn’t know what he had in Jane, represents Josh McDaniels.
Don’t look now, but the New York Jets have looked somewhat (gasp) competent in putting together what should be a (gasp) contender in the 2009 season.
Tired of playing second fiddle in their own market (if you count the other major sports in the area, they go from second fiddle to sixth or seventh fiddle) and hoping to hit the ground running when they open their new stadium next year, the Jets have made splashes in back to back off-seasons.
Last year, their haul included big contracts for free agents Alan Faneca, Kris Jenkins, Damien Woody and Calvin Pace.
Later in the offseason, in a move that generally flew under the radar (in the same way that Curt Schilling’s comments fly under the radar; and the same way that Jennifer Lopez’ backside flies under the radar; and Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan etc.), the Jets traded a mid-round pick for Brett Favre.
Faneca and Jenkins were generally outstanding while Woody and Pace did what they were brought in to do—upgrade their respective positions. And despite some opinions to the contrary, Favre was ok in New York.
This year, all the Jets have done is add Bart Scott—the best defensive free agent who has never stepped on Andre Gurode’s head—and a coach in Rex Ryan who was the brains behind the Baltimore Ravens defense.
For the record, Rex Ryan was also the brains behind the 2007 timeout call that allowed the Patriots to move to 12-0 on their way to an undefeated season. Given the general sentiment towards the Patriots that year—e.g. Spygate, running up the score—I would imagine many, many dogs were kicked in frustration after that move.
The Jets have most of the pieces in place to be a contender.
The only issue? Favre retired (we think) leaving a gaping hole at quarterback. The Jets proved last year they would pay top dollar for even a one year fix at the position. Cutler represents much more than that.
A handful of reasons Cutler is the perfect fit for the Jets:
- He looks like the real deal. Drafting a quarterback early in the first round has become much riskier in recent years. Whether it’s the need to prove themselves too quickly—and justify the money they’re being paid in their huge rookie contracts—or just the shock of the transition to the NFL, highly picked QBs seem to be failing at a higher rate than ever. Alex Smith, Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, Vince Young, Matt Leinart (the list goes on) were all high draft picks who flamed out (or look like they’re going to flame out) early. Teams paid dearly for these players in the hopes that they would, at least, become franchise cornerstones, and, at best, become stars in the mold of Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. In other words, they gambled in the hopes that a player would look and perform like Jay Cutler after three years.
Look at it a different way. How much would a team give up for a player who, coming out of college, looked like he had all the tools to be a star? And, three years later, is following the trajectory that teams dream of when they draft a quarterback high in the first round.
- A quarterback like this hasn’t been traded (or available in free agency) since...ever? At least the last couple of decades. The most similar case in the last 25 years was when the Colts traded Jeff George to the Falcons in 1994. However, despite many comparisons currently being made between the two men—due more to personality than talent—George hadn’t enjoyed nearly as much success as Cutler has enjoyed to this point. Most of the quarterback trades that have taken place are for veteran’s whose team wants to move on (Favre, Montana), backups who have had some success in the preseason or in place of an injured starter (Cassel, Scott Mitchel, Matt Hasselbeck) or lower tier quarterbacks.
- The Jets’ in-town rival, the Giants, and their biggest division rival, the Patriots, are both fielding franchise quarterbacks that should keep them in contention for at least the next five years. By not making this move, the Jets face several more years of chasing the Giants and Patriots.
Oh, and Pats fans would HATE him.
- Cutler’s brash (arrogant?) personality could be either a perfect fit or a toxin in New York. He was very popular in Colorado, which certainly doesn’t equate to popularity in New York. However, if he can learn to contain himself a little—and realize that ANYTHING that sounds remotely like complaining by a young millionaire athlete can only create a negative perception with the fans—he could become New York’s biggest sports personality.
New York is currently taking applications for most popular athlete. Michael Strahan has retired. Derek Jeter is getting older. ARod is...well...ARod. The Knicks’ biggest accomplishment in the last five years has been giving up fifty points to Kobe and LeBron in back to back games. The opportunity is there.
If Cutler ends up in New York, he should call Tom Brady’s PR people and do whatever they say to take advantage of the current lack of sports heroes in New York (at least by New York standards).
And, if you don’t believe that a “fish out of water” southern guy can’t own the big city, look at Joe Namath.
- The Jets can’t count on the draft for the current need at quarterback. With the players they have on the roster, the Jets are in a position to win now. They have pieces in place at most other positions and can’t wait the two or three years that it takes a rookie to develop—if they ever do. The Vikings are in a similar position and have been stunted by Tarvaris Jackson’s growing pains.
Finally, I offer Jets fans this final nugget. Imagine if (and it’s a big if) Jay Cutler comes in and does what Namath did. Meaning, he’s a charismatic figure who leads the team to a Super Bowl victory.
But, let’s add one piece to this hypothetical scenario. Twenty years after his retirement, Jay Cutler does an interview at halftime of a Patriots—Jets Monday night game. Like Namath, the clearly intoxicated Cutler says he wants to kiss the reporter interviewing him—Suzy’s granddaughter Meg Kolber.
Jets fans cringe—they’ve seen this before. But, something strange happens. Meg looks at Cutler and plants a big wet one on his mouth. She then puts down the microphone, tells the cameraman the interview’s over, and takes Cutler back to her room.
That’s an ending that the long suffering Jets fans deserve.