Christmas Coming Early? For Jets Fans It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like...1968

try pCorrespondent IOctober 1, 2009

The air’s getting colder. Fall is here. It’s football weather. In a couple of months we’ll be hearing Christmas Carols and Christmas music everywhere we go. One of those songs is the familiar “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.”


For a Jets fan right now, it’s beginning to look a lot like…1968. I know, I know, it’s a huge leap, but bear with me.


Ask any true Jets fan about the 1968 season, and he could probably go on for hours about it. In 1968 the Jets had the greatest season in franchise history. Ending the year 11-3 after winning the last four games of that year and 8 of their last 9, the Jets steamrolled into the AFL playoffs, their only loss in that nine-game span to the team they would face in the postseason, the 12-2 Oakland Raiders in the infamous “Heidi Game.”


They were led by a brash, young, highly popular quarterback, Joe Namath, who was famous before the 1968 season mainly for wearing white shoes, when the rest of the league wore black cleats. Known as “Broadway Joe” or “Joe Willie”, Namath was a two-time All-Star in the AFL prior to the 1968 season, and was one of the AFL’s bigger stars.


He had been drafted out of Alabama in 1965 by both the Jets (No. 1 overall) in the AFL, and the St. Louis Cardinals (No. 12 overall) in the NFL, and had chosen the Jets, receiving a then-record $427,000 for his services.


That year, the Jets started out 2-1, with a less than convincing 20-19 win over the Kansas City Chiefs (who ended that year with a 12-2 record) to start the season. The way they finished, though, was what most remember, with the New York franchise and their brash young QB revenging the “Heidi Game” loss to the Raiders in a 27-23 win to capture the AFL Championship.


In what was then firstly dubbed the “Super Bowl” the young New York Jets took on the NFL’s champion, the 13-1 Baltimore Colts (15-1 if you count their wins over the Vikings and Browns in the NFL postseason), led by Don Shula. Most in the sports world didn’t give the Jets a chance against the Colts, who were touted as “The Greatest Football Team in History.”


A former NLF star and coach, Norm Van Brocklin, made fun of the AFL in pregame interviews, saying “This will be Namath’s first professional football game.”


Namath, hearing this, and the heckling of a Baltimore fan during his acceptance speech as he was being honored by the Miami Touchdown Club as its “Player of the Year,” made the boldest prediction anyone at that time had ever heard, stating audaciously, “The Jets will win Sunday. I guarantee you.”


We all know, of course, that the young, brash, stunningly nervy Namath backed up his prognostication, leading the underdog Jets to a shocking 16-7 upset of the vaunted Baltimore Colts in what would eventually be known as “Super Bowl III” (the first two meetings between the AFL and NFL Champions were billed as AFL-NFL Championship Games), and convincing the world that the AFL could compete with the exalted NFL.


This victory would soon lead to the two leagues merging, and was the harbinger of great things to come from the teams from the AFL, who would dominate the NFL for the better part of the next decade after the merger.


A New Brand of Brash


As in 1968, the Jets have a brash; some might even say cocky, young quarterback in Mark Sanchez. So far, the rookie from USC, who was drafted by the Jets with the fifth overall pick of the 2009 draft, has lived up to every bit of the hype that has surrounded him in the storm that is the New York media.


Leading his team to a 3-0 record (which it must be noted is better than the 1968 Jets after three games), Sanchez has many Jets fans dreaming about something they haven’t dared dream about in a long time, a possible trip to the Super Bowl. In fact, he’s actually got them dreaming about a possible Super Bowl victory.


Are the Jets, a little more than 40 years removed from that incredible 1968 season, really poised to have another amazing year?


First-year Head Coach, Rex Ryan, who has obviously already made a huge impact on the city, seems to think so, coming out publicly and letting everyone know that his team wasn't backing down from anybody, including the New England Patriots.


Coming to New York from Baltimore in January (bringing along Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard from his coaching staff there), Ryan, primarily known for his effective defense, has shown a distinct taste for the offensive side of the ball since showing up in the “Big Apple.”


The newly revamped Jets seem to be on a mission under Rex Ryan to prove they’re the equal of anyone in the NFL. Many people fail to recognize how many quality players the Jets have on both offense and defense, and the New York players seem eager to drum that reality into the heads of everyone.


In their first game of the year, the Jets went down to Houston and literally crushed the up and coming Texans. Mentally and physically, the Jets simply proved to be the better team, capping their season start off with a 24-7 victory.


There are those who would say the Texans aren’t really a very talented team. To them, I say, not true. While the Jets manhandled them, the Texans returned the next week and had an incredibly hard-fought victory at Tennessee against a very, very good Titans team (whose 0-3 record belies their actual talent), and just barely lost to a decent Jacksonville squad.


What it boils down to, is the Jets were able to handle Mario Williams, and were also able to contain the Texans’ talented WR, Andre Johnson, who was only able to haul in four catches the entire game. This does not mean the Texans aren’t a good team, but only that the Jets were better that day.


The following week Kerry Rhodes publicly announced he wanted to embarrass the Patriots.


What happens? New England tries their usual, attempting to make it appear that everything was cool and under control, and that their feathers weren’t ruffled by the bragging by Rhodes.


Next thing you know, Pow!...the Jets take ‘em out; stunning New England fans and much of the nation, with a 16-9 victory over Brady and company.


It must be noted here that while I’m against taking cornerbacks in the first half of Round 1 of the NFL Draft, if it leads to the Patriots Randy Moss being shut down by Darrelle Revis, then I’m all for it. I mean, Moss only had four catches for 24 yards; that’s impressive.


And don’t tell me something like, “Anybody can be a shutdown corner with safety help” because Moss had no problem obliterating multiple Oakland Raiders defenders, or torching the entire Denver Bronco secondary, on any given play in the two games the Patriots played against them.


I wonder, though, will Moss tip-toe across the middle the next time the Jets play the Patriots?


The following week, the Jets dashed the hopes of Titans’ players and fans of getting off the snide, beating the Tennessee squad 24-17, and making it nearly impossible for the Titans to have a remarkable season, being 0-3 now.


Next up? The New Orleans Saints and their incredible QB, Drew Brees, who seems bent on breaking every single-season passing record before we’re even halfway through the season. This game should turn out to be a good one. The Jets may suffer their first loss to the undefeated Saints, but I’ll stick with my boys, and predict a win.


Following the Saints, the Jets schedule is rather favorable, as they play the Dolphins twice, the Bills, the Raiders, and then a bye. I see them possibly going 4-1 in these next five games, and if they’re able to somehow get by the Saints unscathed they could go into the bye week at 8-0.


After that they face Jacksonville, New England, Carolina, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati. I could realistically see them winning six of those games.


Ultimately, I see the Jets finishing 12-4.


With a rookie QB and a new head coach a lot can go wrong fast. However, with Mark Sanchez, Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Dustin Keller, Chansi Stuckey, Jerricho Cotchery...not much seems out of the question.


No one has forgotten how quickly the Jets fell last season with Brett Favre, but this is a different squad and it's hard not to take them as seriously as they play.


Will this new brand of brash, young Jets, led by an equally brash, young QB and first-year coach revisit glory for the franchise?


Only time will tell.

Hotnuke contributed to this article 


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