If one were to casually glace at teams this year in the National Football League, one could do much worse than the New York Jets. On face of it, the Jets were a very respectable 9-7. Teams that were simply brutal in the 2008 NFL season include the Seattle Seahawks (4-12), St. Louis Rams (2-14), Kansas City (2-14), and, of course, the hapless Detroit Lions (0-16), who have reached an infamy all of their own by failing to win a single game.
But no team, including those mentioned above, have given their fans more heartbreak, struggle, and despair than the New York Jets. To wit:
1) The Jets have not been anywhere near a Super Bowl since winning Super Bowl III in 1969 (save for 1998, when they lost to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship).
2) The Jets have had a losing record in December, a month where NFL teams want to finish strong for a playoff push, in 28 of the 45 seasons in the existence of the franchise (a 62% rate). That's over half the Decembers the team has ever played in. Notable collapses include 1972 (started 6-3), infamously in 1986 (started 10-1), 2000 (started 6-1), 2004 (started 6-2), and, of course, this year's meltdown (started 8-3).
3) The Jets seem to always be one critical player or decision short of other teams. Much of this is rooted in decision-making of management. With better decisions at draft day, the Jets could have had, among other players, Dan Marino, Brett Favre, and Warren Sapp.
These missteps are also found in game-day decisions. On the field, they always seem to be making coaching moves from positions of weakness (playing not to lose) as opposed to strength (playing to win). This hyper-conservative game management keeps the players in a mind-set that is overly cautious, preventing them from being aggressive and going for the throat in close games.
4) In the National Football League, most successful franchises are able to do two things well: a) run the football, and b) stop the run. Teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New York Giants, the Baltimore Ravens, and the Carolina Panthers all do both well this year. Teams that are able to have a power rushing game and stop the run win more often than they lose.
This year, the Giants (12-4) and Panthers (12-4) are tops in the National Football Conference because of their ground games. Historically, the Jets have been unable to run the football well (save for this year, ironically, and a few other isolated times). Plus, their run defense has almost always been weak. At times they make average running backs look like Jim Brown.
This history of mediocrity, collapses, and bad decision-making has created a fan base that is bitter, jaded, and pessimistic. Jets fans, your writer included, are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. As a Jets fan, one cannot see the silver linings, only dark clouds. In early-season victories, a Jets fan sees the inevitable defeats on the other side of the schedule.
In a winning streak, the Jets fans sees, and waits for, the December collapse that is all too common, and all too familiar. Even Brett Favre, the iconic quarterback from Green Bay, and Eric Mangini, whom fans were calling Mangenius not so long ago, couldn't rescue the Jets this year.
Favre's poor play and Mangini's bone-headed leadership created yet another December collapse, adding perhaps the bleakest chapter to a Jets history book filled with countless disasters.