“Play like a f****** Jet!”
If you took the time to watch HBO’s fantastic documentary series “Hard Knocks” this preseason, you probably heard this phrase uttered at least half a dozen times an episode.
The Jets were the media’s darling this offseason. Brashly outspoken head coach Rex Ryan predicted a Super Bowl. They traded for troubled Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes. Did I mention the very public contract dispute with superstar corner Darrelle Revis? Coming off of their miracle (lucky) playoff run, many consider them to be Super Bowl favorites for the 2010 season. But why, exactly?
Rewind to 2009, week 15 of the NFL season. With two weeks remaining the Jets are 7-7 but in the fortuitous position of having to win their final two games to get into the playoffs. At first glance, matchups against the playoff-bound Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts seem to doom their fate. Yet, it turns out to be advantageous, as both the Bengals and Colts opt to rest their starters for their respective playoff runs. Two weeks and two wins later, the Jets are in the playoffs. A bit of a suspect way to get in, no?
Yet, you cannot diminish their actually playoff run. A week after beating down the Bengals’ reserves at home, they travelled to Cincinnati and beat their starters. A week later they travelled to San Diego and escaped with a victory after some serious kicker miscues by San Diego (they won by three and San Diego’s kicker missed 3 FGs). They were finally bumped out of the playoffs (and dominated) by Super Bowl runners up, the Indianapolis Colts. An impressive playoff run indeed, but does this make them Super Bowl favorites?
For starters, the 2010 New York Jets are a completely different team. They lost their leading rusher from 2009 (Thomas Jones), traded a solid safety (Kerry Rhodes) and cut a former Pro Bowl OL (Alan Faneca), who was coming off a bad year. They filled the runningback hole by signing LaDainian Tomlinson (who hasn’t played up to his lofty standards since 2007). They traded for playmaking but inconsistent corner Antonio Cromartie (who put on this poor effort vs. the Jets in the playoffs last year). They signed aging former Pro Bowler Jason Taylor. Finally, they traded for Super Bowl MVP wide receiver Santonio Holmes. Each move was flashy and attractive based off the big name quality, but does it realistically make them a better squad?
However, the most agonizing (and damaging) part of the offseason was the delayed signing of Darrelle Revis. Revis finally inked just before the start of the regular season, but in Week 2 he suffered a hamstring injury that may shelve him for 2-4 weeks. This shouldn’t surprise anyone as long contract holdouts often turn into poor seasons for one reason or another.
The Jets looked sloppy in week 1 against the Ravens but sharp in taking down the New England Patriots (even without Revis for a half) in week 2. Why should we suddenly expect a team that realistically won 7 games last year to be a Super Bowl contender? I admit, I enjoy Rex Ryan and his many antics. But that doesn’t make them any more of a Super Bowl contender. As it stands, they will be battling just to get into the playoffs.