No one likes losing, especially fans. They pay through the nose for tickets and jerseys, decorate their computer screens with logos and images of players and devote an abnormal amount of time toward watching and discussing their favorite team.
Having all of their efforts result in a seven- or eight-win season is certainly not what fans sign up for when they invest so much emotion and money into a team, but for New York Jets fans, they have to be pleased with how the 2013 season has played out.
There are two different ways to look at the Jets' season. One way is to view it as a lost opportunity, as they were favorites for a playoff spot after winning five of their first nine games.
However, an all-too-familiar late-season collapse will leave the Jets at home this January for the third season in a row.
Fans certainly have a right to be frustrated with how the final two months of the season played out. After all, their schedule actually got easier as Geno Smith and his teammates crumbled around him, scoring just nine points in one particular two-game stretch.
To take this perspective of the Jets' season, however, would be ignorant of the reality of where the Jets were as a team. The Jets did not blow an opportunity—they just started to play like the team everyone expected them to be prior to the start of the season.
It is no secret that the Jets had extremely low expectations heading into this season. The Jets and Rex Ryan were written off as a team that was "doomed" to fail, and for good reason. They hardly improved on their previously 6-10 roster, trading their best player away (Darrelle Revis) and starting a rookie quarterback in place of the injured Mark Sanchez.
Still, Rex Ryan was able to churn out five wins out of his overmatched ball club. For the first time in his tenure, he was getting a young quarterback to play up to his potential (relative to his age) and fielding yet another top-quality defense despite starting seven new players.
Ryan and the Jets may have been the beneficiary of a few late-game miracles to keep themselves as relevant as they once were, but the fact that his supposedly inferior club was able to knock off the likes of the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints was nothing short of impressive.
The Jets may have missed the playoffs, but they gave any reasonable Jet fan more entertainment and joy this year than anyone could have anticipated.
This is not to excuse the Jets from not putting out a team capable of winning a championship, but every team goes through "down" periods of rebuilding, especially soon after replacing a general manager. For a year that was supposed to be filled with growing pains, the Jets season has been as smooth as any since the last time the Jets were in the AFC Championship Game.
For a team in its developmental stages, the success of a season cannot be measured in wins and losses. The Jets tried to win as many games as possible this year, but not at the cost of developing their young players and weeding out the weak links in an effort to build a perennial contender.
Heading into this season, the Jets were the seventh-youngest team in the NFL with an average age of 25.6, which was certainly by design. The Jets have been content with getting their young players valuable experience, even if it cost them wins in the immediate future.
While players like Sheldon Richardson and Damon Harrison would have earned their starting jobs outright, the Jets forced several other players this year into the starting lineup to see how they would respond to the NFL spotlight.
|New Jets Starters (for Week 1)|
|Antwan Barnes (later replaced by Quinton Coples||OLB|
Dee Milliner, Brian Winters and even Geno Smith were given such responsibilities before they were completely ready, and it may have cost the Jets a few games (and a playoff berth in the process).
However, as painful as it may have been to watch these players struggle at times, the Jets are better off in the long run for their bold decisions. Not only did these players develop and get experience with playing time, but the Jets have more infinitely intel on them as professionals than as college prospects a year ago.
Because they stuck to their plan, the Jets can now formulate an educated opinion as to whether or not Smith, Milliner and Winters can be the long-term answers at their respective positions.
It is difficult to call a .500 season (at best) a success, but when comparing where the Jets were as a franchise six months ago to the position they are in now, there is no doubting the fact that the Jets accomplished everything they set out to do, all while winning a few morale-boosting games in the process.
Rex Ryan knows that his job is to win games, but even as a head coach (whom are notoriously shortsighted thanks to their lack of job security) he knows that the Jets have a lot of positives going for them, even if it may not reflect in the standings just yet.
The Jets certainly made their share of mistakes this season. They may have gotten a bit too comfortable with their success when they signed Ed Reed, a move that wound up costing them a few big plays on defense.
As frustrating as these mistakes can be sometimes, the alternative is that the Jets might never have had a season to ruin in the first place. Rather, the Jets rookies could have been miserable from the start, and the Jets would have been even further behind schedule than they were last year.
It is easy to forget how tarnished the Jets brand was following last year's disappointing season. While the "circus atmosphere" label that surrounded the team last year may have been bogus or overblown, it nonetheless dragged the Jets' emblem through the mud, and only a respectable season like they one they had in 2013 could have gotten them out of the never-ending reel of punch lines.
The Jets have a long way to go before they can be comfortable with where they are as a franchise, and repeating this year's results next season will be unacceptable.
Still, when taking a step back and looking at the outlook for the green and white in 2014 and beyond, it is difficult to deny the amount of progress this team has made in less than a year.
That, in itself, is a smashing success.