It's Time To Believe in the New York Jets

ChrisContributor INovember 26, 2008

When will the Jets bashing ever end?  

The unfortunate franchise plays its games in “Giants” stadium and toils in the same division as the perennially mighty Patriots (at least in this decade).  The franchise even suffered through two full seasons with Richie Kotite as Head Coach.

It ain't easy being the Jets!

Now that the Jets have posted a strong 8-3 record thus far in the 2008 campaign and (evidently arguably) established itself as a legitimate playoff contender in the AFC, the anti-Jets writers are back at it. 

They seem to only be happy when the Jets are struggling.  Once the green and white start looking like winners, they sharpen their knives and begin writing their blistering criticisms and unjustified attacks to create doubt concerning the franchise’s hard earned success. 

They are outraged by Jets’ fans hubris to actually utter the words playoffs or championship.  To them evidently, disgraceful and delusional Jets fans are the only fans who talk about their team’s playoff and Super Bowl prospects. 

Why does every anti-Jets sports writer highlight that it has been almost 40 year since the Jets won a Super Bowl?  Consider the Cardinals, Falcons, Bills, Panthers, Bengals, Browns, Lions, Texans, Jaguars, Vikings, Saints, Eagles, Chargers, Seahawks and Titans have never won a Super Bowl!  Ever!  That’s 15 teams! 

While 47 percent of the league has never won a Super Bowl, they pick on the Jets for only achieving one SB win?  Occasionally reverence will be paid to the achievement of Broadway Joe and the 1969 AFL champions topping the NFL Colts in the Super Bowl. 

That acknowledgment, however, is traditionally followed by a condescending footnote that the Jets have not been back to the big game since.  Decades of futility!

The Buffalo Bills, who have not been to the playoffs since 1999, were treated as a playoff contender by these same writers earlier this season when they jumped off to a 4-0 record.  Those victories were over the hapless (in 2008) Seahawks, Jaguars, Raiders and Rams.  It was perfectly acceptable to consider the Bills as legitimate playoff contenders—a team that has not had a winning record this decade.  These facts are not listed to pick on the Bills, but to expose the pedantically anti-Jets syndicate.

In comparison the Jets have made it to the playoffs four times since 2000 and as recently as 2006.  Prior to last season, the Jets had achieved winning records in five of the seven seasons since 2000.  The two losing seasons directly correspond to significant injuries to QB Chad Pennington. These achievements were realized while playing the NFL dominating Patriots twice each season. 

Unfairly, the ugly 4-12 record of the 2007 campaign is held over the Jets rendering any improvements this season dubious.  Realistically, the 2007 season should be seen as the aberration.  In the 12 post-Kotite seasons including this 2008 season, the Jets have amassed a respectable 99-88 record (a .529 winning percentage).  Only three of the twelve have been losing seasons.  It likely would have been only two losing seasons if not for the 8 - 8 season in 1999 when QB Vinnie Testaverde went down in week one with a torn achilles tendon.

Perhaps the incredulity applied to the Jets’ 2008 accomplishment is predicated upon last season’s results.  Forgotten is the woeful 2007 offensive line not blocking for either Pennington or Kellen Clemens.  That line was improved significantly in the off season with the addition of Pro Bowler Alan Faneca and Damien Woody and the continued development of third year linemen, Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson.  All four are first round draft picks.

The 2007 Jets also initiated a 3-4 defense with 4-3 defense players carried over from the Herm Edwards years.  The defense’s ineffectiveness was exacerbated by the offense that couldn’t stay on the field for more than three plays at a time. 

Over the last off season the Jets modified its defensive personnel to better match the new defense scheme effectively.  They jettisoned former first round pick and Pro Bowler, undersized MLB (6’1”/230 lb) Jonathan Vilma and brought in (6’4”/260 lb) linebacker Calvin Pace.  They selected Ohio State’s LB/DE Vernon Gholston in the first round of the 2008 draft specifically because he fit the newly instituted defensive alignment.  To stop the run they added Kris Jenkins (6’4”/335 lb) from Carolina. 

The addition of another 2008 first round pick, receiving TE Dustin Keller, is also looking like a good decision when he is used in concert with another pre-season acquisition, Hall of Famer Brett Favre.

Even pre-game analysis lately is unable to rationalize certain statistics.  It continues to amaze me how the "analysts" are unable to make the correlation that the passing yards the Jets defense is giving up is almost entirely the result of the Jets’ overall domination of their opponents. 

The Jets have absolutely dominated the past three games against three playoff teams.  The early Jets scoring over the past three games including 40-3 against St. Louis, 24-13 against NE (NE was down 24-6 going into the final four minutes of the first half), and 20-3 after three quarters against Tennessee, provides a clue as to why the Jets defense has permitted its opponents to tally high passing yardage late in the games—prevent defense.

I am not a big fan of it as it allowed the Patriots to get back into the game November 13th.  Cassell threw for over 259 of his 386 passing yards in last drive of the second quarter and the second half.  He was also NE’s leading rusher with 62 yards easily gained on the Jets’ prevent defense. 

The Jets showed last Sunday in Nashville that they are now confident enough to play a tighter defense and continue an aggressive points scoring offense later in the game after establishing a lead.

It is perfectly acceptable for Jets fans to begin to dream of what might lie ahead for Gang Green.  Why not?  Aside from early losses in weeks two and three against New England and San Diego when Favre was just learning the system and the team had not yet jelled, the Jets have only lost a west coast game in overtime to the Raiders. 

Remember in week four when they led Arizona 34-0 at half time?  The offense added another 22 points in the fourth quarter when prevent defense against Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin proved ineffective after the Cardinals scored 21 points in the third quarter.  The Patriots, Dolphins and Jets were all sorting out their new QBs in the first few games of the season.  The Patriots enjoyed the advantage as Cassel was in his fourth season with the offense. 

Since then Pennington has proven his professionalism and ability to manage games helping the Dolphins be a competitive team again.  The old veteran Favre, however, has settled in and now looks as strong as he has ever been on a team as strong as he has ever led.

After the overtime victory in New England, the experts expected the Jets to fall to the undefeated Titans.  The Jets travelled to Nashville and destroyed the NFL’s only undefeated team.  Now, an expert analyst, Lyle Fitzsimmons of The Sports Network, has determined “With a win (over the Broncos), the Jets will officially stamp themselves deserving of the chatter that's begun following them in recent weeks.  A loss could start the downward spiral that many still contend is on the way on the green side of North Jersey.” 

So the Jets don’t get the “stamp” for beating the Patriots in Foxboro and the undefeated Titans at LP Field and will only prove worthy of respect after beating the 6-5 Broncos in the Meadowlands? 

And a loss sends them back to their rightful place in the abyss? 

Will the meaning of a victory over the Broncos be re-analyzed as an unconvincing win over a .500 team that lost to the Raiders the week before?

The inconvenient truth is that the Jets have enhanced a good team this past off season and have been a strong organization in the NFL these past 12 years in spite of a change in ownership and five head coaching changes in the past ten years (including one day of the Belichick years). 

Any Jets fan will tell you this season is different.  Not just because Brett Favre is a confident winner.  Perhaps the Patriots success has forced the Jets to build better just as the Red Sox finally out Yankeed the Yankees. 

The Jets fans know that the Jets have built a really good team that is just getting going regardless of what the experts say.  It’s time to believe in the Jets.