It's very hard to just slap a definition on the word elite. Are the New Orleans Saints elite? Absolutely. What about the Colts? I would say so. And the Patriots? Maybe a declining team but they can probably still be considered an elite franchise. So, what about the New York Jets?
Before I give you a yes or no, let's delve a little deeper into the term elite.
Here's what you need to be an elite team:
1. You need to be a well-balanced team that can dominate both offensively and defensively.
2. A solid special teams. By solid, I mean top 10 or 12. They must be able to cover. And they must have an explosive playmaker on the return side of the ball.
3. A quarterback that's more than just a game manager. He has to come up in the clutch and make big plays when the offense is relying on him to.
4. A balanced run game that has a power back and an explosive back. An elite team will have a running back that can catch the ball and accelerate well for a screen.
5. Fullbacks that are strong and can carry the ball to back up the halfbacks.
6. Strong veteran leadership in the locker room.
7. A receiving corps that's athletic and fast.
8. Management that has both the money and the intelligence to bring in good players via free agency and the draft.
9. A no-bullshit coach that isn't scared to make the risky calls that can make or break your career.
So let's just go down the list. The Jets have developed their offense immensely. They can put up points through the air and on the ground against good defensive opponents. And of course, they are a dominant defensive force.
Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie will prove their ability on national television in a few days. Randy Moss and Co. will not be able to do much against the Jets secondary. And the run defense is statistically one of the best in the league, even without Kris Jenkins.
The pass rush is slightly hurting, but Calvin Pace will be back for the upcoming game against the Vikings. Trevor Pryce was recently signed as well.
That's 1 for 1.
Gang Green has an impressive special teams controlled by the excellent coaching prowess of Mike Westhoff. They have guys that can make tackles. And Brad Smith has given the team great field position from kickoff returns this season.
Dos for dos.
Mark Sanchez has looked like an elite quarterback through four games. Emphasis on "looked like". I am not completely sold yet, but the Jets pass offense is looking pretty scary with Santonio Holmes set to return Monday night. He hasn't made one mistake all season. No interceptions. No fumbles. Iceman.
3 for 3. On a roll...
Shonn Greene barrels over defensive linemen for extra yardage on every play. LaDainian has rejuvenated his career and looks like he did a few years ago.
4 for 4.
Tony Richardson. John Conner. If you don't know who they are, look them up.
5 for 5. Notice I'm getting lazy...
Bart Scott. Tony Richardson. Mark Brunell. Jerricho Cotchery. Shaun Ellis. LaDainian Tomlinson. Santonio Holmes. Calvin Pace. Trevor Pryce. Brandon Moore. Jason Taylor. Bryan Thomas. Damien Woody.
6 for 6.
Braylon Edwards has speed and athletic ability. Jerricho Cotchery has made more tippy toe sideline catches than anyone I've ever seen. Santonio Holmes is a Super Bowl MVP!
7 for 7.
This entire team has been built from the ground up over the past three years. Mark Sanchez was drafted. D'Brickashaw Ferguson was a draft selection. Vernon Gholston isn't worth the first rounder that was used on him, but he is slowly turning into a useful pass-rusher.
David Harris was drafted. Dustin Keller was drafted. Revis, too. Drafted Conner. Drafted Nick Mangold. Drafted Shonn Greene.
Traded for Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes. Traded for Cromartie.
Signed Jason Taylor. Signed LaDainian. They've opened up the checkbooks and brought in some impressive talent on both sides of the field.
8 for 8.
Do I even have to say anything about Rex Ryan? I'm going to anyway. He says what's on his mind. He isn't scared to go for 4th downs when he needs to. He isn't scared to blitz just about every play. He might not live up to Tony Dungy's standards because of his potty mouth, but he is a great coach in my book.
9 for 9. ELITE.
So are you sold? I think Gang Green has transformed from the "Same Old Jets" to the "No Bullshit, Smack-Talking, Sanchez-Ryan Era New York Jets". It's a mouthful, but it still sounds better than SOJ.
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