It’s Week 12 of the 2008 NFL season, and the New York Jet is on cruise control. With an 8-3 record, the captain of the Jet, Eric Mangini, has done a reputable job operating the jet, with a load of assistance from co-pilot Brett Favre.
But after Week 12, Mangini lost control, Brett Favre was injured and cruise control stopped working. Anxiety rose higher than a punt hitting off of the mega TV’s at the new Cowboys Stadium, and all of a sudden the season went out of control.
The Jets went 1-4 in their last five games and missed the playoffs. The crash of the Jet caused much uproar, and made many Jet faithfuls, unfortunately lose faith.
But this is a new Jets team. With a new head coach, new quarterback and a new attitude. This means no more late season collapses like last season. Or so they hope.
Just days after the 24-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 17, Mangini was fired as head coach of the Jets. Just weeks after Mangini’s firing, Favre announced his retirement.
While both are employed for the 2009 season, they did not return to the Jets, which meant that they had some huge gaps to fill.
The Jets first move was to fill the head coaching vacancy. While the names Bill Cowher, Steve Spagnuolo and Jeff Jagodzinksi were thrown out there, the Jets decided on former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.
Next order of business was to find a quarterback, and the Jets did that in exciting fashion. The Jets, who had the 17th pick in the draft this past April, traded up 12 spots to nab former-USC QB Mark Sanchez with the fifth pick.
While Jet nation was pumped up and excited as ever, Sanchez did not come cheap. In order to acquire Sanchez, the Jets gave up their first-round pick, second-round pick, defensive lineman Kenyon Coleman, quarterback Brett Ratliff and safety Abram Elam.
The Jets also made a huge splash in free agency, as Ryan was able to lure in three former Ravens playing on the defensive side of the ball.
Jim Leonhard, who started 13 games at safety for the Ravens in 2008 signed a three-year contract. Marques Douglas, a defensive lineman who has played in 104 games with the Saints, Ravens and 49ers, signed with the Jets. Then the Jets found lady luck, signing Pro Bowl linebacker Bart Scott to a six year, $48 million contract.
The Jets made one significant trade in the offseason, acquiring Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard.
Along with Darelle Revis and Dwight Lowery, Sheppard should fit in nicely in what could be one of the top cornerback rotations in the NFL this season.
While the Jets have made numerous upgrades to their team this season, anytime a team brings in a new coach, it is ultimately a rebuilding year, as the coach needs to make changes to the personnel and players.
Along with having their fourth starting quarterback in four years, the Jets will have to get used to their new look. Throw in the fact that they have to play the Patriots and Dolphins a combined four times and 2009 isn’t looking too easy for the Jets.
But the Jets can succeed. If Mark Sanchez repeats recent history, the Jets should win at least 11 games and make the playoffs. The two quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2008 draft, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, did exactly that last year, taking their respective teams, the Falcons and Ravens, to the playoffs in their rookie seasons.
But if Sanchez steps up this season, like the rookie QBs of last season, the Jets can compete with just about anyone.
Being the fact that the Jets have a rough schedule and the fact that this is ultimately a transition year for the Jets, the team will likely not have the success that their roster promises.
An 8-8 finish is likely, but don’t count the Jets out for the future. Once the players get used to the new style of play and everything gets set, the Jets should enjoy much success, but the chances of that success happening this season doesn’t look too good.