(Long Island, N.Y.) There are two ways to look at the Jets 2009 season. One could feel content and say that the team overachieved while gaining valuable experience for a rookie head coach and quarterback. Even if they may have been viewed as a possible playoff contender heading into the season, no one expected them to reach the AFC Championship Game.
Then there is the other side, the one that says you must take advantage of every opportunity to win and nothing less is acceptable. To get this far and have it end short of the ultimate goal is tough to swallow, indeed. When was the last time you heard the Yankees say that they had a good run when it didn’t end in a locker room champagne shower?
Such is life in a town where the Bronx Bombers have set the precedent for perfection. Anything short of earning a championship ring is viewed as a failure. Sure, when your organization makes as many changes as the Jets did this past off-season, getting there can’t happen overnight. Especially when the culture of the franchise has been as bad as the Jets have had for such a long stretch.
Rex Ryan came here and did more in one year than many have in numerous campaigns, something not lost on Mark Sanchez. “We want to be a football team that is tough to play,” he said. “’ Oh, man. We have to go to New York to play the Jets, not again.’ That’s the mentality Rex wants. We’re starting to get there. That’s the mentality – being tough.”
Added Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold, “I think it’s a good start. Rex came in here and laid down the law and said this is how things are going to be. We took it to heart and ran with it.”
By getting as far as they did, the Jets can either build on it or have the loss haunt them. The 30-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts was eerily similar to the 1998 AFC Championship game. Back then, the Jets led in Denver 10-0 at half time and a long completion to Ed McCaffrey from John Elway in the third quarter was the turning point in the game. The Broncos went on to score on that drive, putting up 23 unanswered points to win the Lamar Hunt Trophy, 23-10.
In Indianapolis, Peyton Manning was staring at an 11-point disadvantage with just over two minutes to go in the first half when he found Austin Collie for a big gain down the middle. A few plays later, the pair hooked up for a 16-yard touchdown pass with 1:16 left and the momentum switched heading into the locker room. When it was all said and done, the Colts outscored the Jets 24-0 after trailing early on.
11 years ago, the Jets were in a different situation and that was their best shot at winning a title during the Bill Parcells era. Vinny Testaverde was far from a rookie and had a career year in 1998, but blew out his Achilles on opening day the following season. The Tuna was a vagabond and got out of town not too long after that. The current team has a stronghold in both of those spots and can feel comfortable that both Ryan and Sanchez are not going anywhere anytime soon.
“I think that they (the fans) have a lot to be hopeful about,” said kicker Jay Feeley. “You look at this team and there is a great foundation. There is an incredible amount of talent. Everybody likes each other. That’s a recipe for success.”
Looking at it from that perspective, these Jets may just find themselves in the same position before too long.