There’s an old song by The Hives that I know of because I got the Spiderman soundtrack after the movie came out (Thanks Mom). The song is called “Hate To Say I Told You So” and is pretty good. As the title suggests, this post will have nothing to do with remorse.
I’ve been living in NYC for almost a year now. It goes without saying that things are different and bigger down here than in my hometown of Rochester. That also goes for the sporting world as well. I don’t get to watch Bills games on TV every weekend and the only team I follow that is talked about on sports radio is the Mets. So I’ve had to listen to how amazing the Jets were and are going to be this year for far too long. Finally, they get some sort of punch in the face in front of the entire country after barely looking like a playoff team in their 10-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football. The name may not say Giants Stadium anymore, but you can bet it certainly is after getting beat down in their own house while the Giants start out 1-0 on the year.
Ever since Rex Ryan took over as head coach for the New York Jets, the team has become one of the most polarizing in the entire NFL. Ryan has provided the media and fans with an endless string of guarantees (and profanities thanks to Hard Knocks) that has for the most part, in my opinion, been unfounded. There’s a very fine line between being confident and being cocky and he is on the arrogant side more often than not.
After an improbable run to the AFC Championship game last season, expectations were high coming into this year. Ryan had no problem proclaiming the team a Super Bowl favorite and all I heard was how good the Jets were simply because of how long their season lasted in 2009. And I have to be honest… I never understood why.
I will be the first to give credit where credit is due. The Jets started off the 2009 season and looked pretty darn good doing it. They beat the Texans, Patriots, and Titans, all teams that finished the season .500 or better. Still, that wasn’t a guarantee that the Jets were unstoppable. Remember, the Titans started the 2009 season 0-7 so the Jets played them at the right time and 2 of those 3 games were at Giants Stadium. Still, what’s not to like about a 3-0 start?
From there the Jets went 1-6 in their next 7 games and after a week 15 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, in which the vaunted Jets defense let Matt Ryan march his team 73 yards for the game winning score in the final minutes, Rex Ryan even thought the team had been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. It turns out that wasn’t the case and they needed to win their next two games against the Colts and Bengals, two teams that had already wrapped up their divisions and had nothing to play for. Are you seeing a theme here about playing teams at the most opportune times?
This is when Jets mania went into overdrive and really started to become obnoxious. Heading into a week 16 showdown with the Colts on the road, the Jets needed a win to keep their playoff hopes going. The only reason why anyone thought the Colts might actually play their starters a full 60 minutes was because they were a perfect 14-0 at that point. Colts head coach Jim Caldwell made it very clear that his eyes were on the Vince Lombardi trophy and not a 16-0 regular season record when he didn’t let Peyton Manning out onto the field for the last 25 minutes of the game. So the Jets went on to win the game 29-15 and trounced the Bengals the following week 37-0 to make the playoffs with a 9-7 record. Good for them.
I will be the first one to admit that the making the playoffs rocks and is important, especially since my Bills haven’t done that in a decade. However, I was also the first to point out that the Jets playoff appearance was more a matter of circumstance than anything else. As I’ve already mentioned, they played teams at the best possible time they could. If Peyton Manning plays the entire second half in Week 16, you can be very sure the final score isn’t 29-15 Jets. Would the Jets have still won? It’s certainly a possibility. But look no further to what Peyton Manning did to the Jets in the second half of the AFC Championship game and you’ll know that it was anything but a foregone conclusion that the Jets would have held on to win that game.
You also have to remember that the Jets finished 9-7 in 2008 as well. With no playoff appearance to show for the same exact record they put up the following season, head coach at the time Eric Mangini was handed his walking papers and Ryan was brought in. So even though they finished with then same record as the season before, they make the playoffs because the rest of AFC wasn’t as good as the year before.
The Jets finished the 2009 with the top defensive unit in the league as well as the best rushing attack in the league, yet still only managed a 9-7 record and a trip to the AFC Championship game. If defense and a solid running attack are supposed to lead you to the Promise Land, the Jets should have been raising Lombardi’s Trophy last year, not the Saints. So what’s the deal?