Collapse Complete: New York Jets Fall to Pennington, Dolphins; Miss Playoffs
The final chapter of the Jets season was "Penned" (pun intended) at the hands of former quarterback Chad Pennington and the Miami Dolphins, who came into the Meadowlands and defeated his former team (insert score), completing an improbable run to clinch the AFC East championship, while eliminating New York from playoff contention.
This is a team that in spite of a number of big changes and big moments, falls short, putting into serious question the Jet careers of their head coach, his coordinators, and hall of fame quarterback.
The Jets underwent a 140 million dollar face lift, which culminated in the acquisition of Brett Favre just prior to start of pre-season games in the beginning of August.
An impressive opening day win over Miami coupled with New England Patriots starting quarterback Tom Brady suffering a season ending knee injury opened the door for the Jets to claim their first division championship since 2002.
In bringing in Favre, they released Pennington, who signed on with division rival Miami, coming off a 1-15 season.
The Jets started slow, looking good at times, such as when Favre threw six touchdowns in a win against the playoff bound Arizona Cardinals, and looking awful in losses to Oakland and even in wins against the Herman Edwards led Kansas City Chiefs.
A five game win streak, that led to premature talk of an all New York super bowl, ended after impressive wins in New England an in Tennessee, defeating the Titans who at the time had yet to lose a game.
Since winning five in a row, the Jets began a slide which included losses in San Francisco, in Seattle and at home to Denver. They also won a game they had no business winning, a game gift wrapped by Buffalo Bills head coach Dick Jauron who inexplicably let his quarterback attempt a pass when running the ball would have iced the game. The Jets forced a fumble, recovered it, ran it in for a touchdown and kept their playoff hopes alive for another week.
It would simply be prolonging the inevitable, as despite being given a chance to simply win their final two games and win the AFC east, the team laid in egg in that loss in Seattle, while coming up short against Miami in the season finale.
There are plenty of fingers to be pointed, starting with the coaching staff.
Once dubbed "the Mangenius," Mangini proved himself to be anything but as he was unable to help his team establish an identity offensively or defensively, where both of his coordinators came up horrifically short when as far as play calling is concerned.
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who worked wonders with Pennington in Mangini's first season, never recaptured the ability to call a successful game from beginning to end. After he was handed Favre, he seemed unsure of how to use him, knowing Favre's propensity for throwing interceptions (which he did early and often this season with 22), and seemed to place Favre in more a game managing role than a play making one.
Leon Washington, who seemed to be making at least two game changing plays a game, was non existent down the stretch, as was rookie tight end Dustin Keller, who Favre briefly developed a very solid rapport with, highlighted in the New England victory when Keller converted a huge third and 15 in overtime, setting up the game winning field goal.
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton was given a temporary reprieve with the early success of new addition Kris Jenkins, who solidified the defensive line playing a pro bowl worthy nose tackle during the first 11 games. Unfortunately like the rest of team, Jenkins was nowhere to be found during the Jets season ending collapse, and Sutton never was able to come up with a pass rushing scheme to offset the Jets underwhelming secondary.
Outside of second year corner Darelle Revis (a very deserving pro bowler this season), the usually reliable Kerry Rhodes was a non factor, and bringing in Ty Law mid-season proved worthless.
of course when takling about the 2008 J-E-T-S, the most popular name to debate will be B-R-E-T-T.
Brought in via a trade with Green Bay after he announced he was un-retiring, Brett Favre became the final off season addition to a major roster overhaul that also included all pro offensive lineman Alan Faneca, pro bowl fullback Tony Richardson, former first round pick on the offensive line Damien Woody, linebacker Calvin Pace, as well Jenkins at nose tackle. The Favre trade also signaled the end of the Chad Pennington era, as the long time Jets starter was released.
Having shown Pennington the door, the Jets officially adopted the win-now mentality Jets fans always crave. In Favre, the team was adding a hall of fame quarterback known for for ability to get the ball down field and durability (two things Pennington lacked) along with championship experience and a winning mentality the team had long lacked.
Like the rest of his team, at 8-3, Favre could do no wrong. He had just played his two best games of the season, winning games in New England and in Tennessee, looking like the vintage Brett Favre Jets fans had hoped they had received back in August.
Unfortunately, those two wins would be the last they would see of Brett at his best. Over his final five games, Favre three only two touchdowns while being picked off nine times. He finished the season with 22 interceptions, a stat which would rank him first among all quarterbacks with that dubious distinction.
Favre looked old, tired and at times somewhat disinterested during those final five games. More specifically, he looked like a quarterback who knew he best days were behind him, reluctantly trying to accept the finality of a brilliant professional career.
The final game of the season was perhaps a microcosm of both the Jets fortunes this season and throughout their franchise's history. The term "same old Jets" is going to be thrown around in the New York tabloids over the next few ways, as the team collapsed in an eerily similar way to how the New York Mets concluded each of their last two season.
Adding insult to injury, their season came to merciless end at the hands of Pennington, the very person the team sent packing after bringing in Favre, thinking they were upgrading the position and giving them a better chance to win this season. Sure enough, it was Pennington who would have the last laugh, leading Miami to 11 wins and a division championship.
Regardless of who deserves the blame is irrelevant at this point, as the bottom line is that after spending 140 million dollars to upgrade the roster, after bringing in Brett Favre to lead the offense, after having a break out season from running back Thomas Jones and after winning eight of their first 11 games of the season, this Jets team couldn't get it done down the stretch when it mattered most, and now finds themselves facing a long off season of questions and second guesses.
Will Mangini stay or go? Will Favre retire (if so, will he stay retired?)?
Let the speculation begin.
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