By Gregg L. Hayim
Iâ€™m not going to lie, this is not what I had in mind. No, this is definitely not what I had in mind when I woke-up yesterday with those feelings of internal optimism and outward boldness that often accompany a day that offers such opportunity. I woke up with those same feelings that you did; those feelings of anticipation, confidence and hope. The feeling that this day would serve as the new beginning, the day New Englanders would refer back to as The Day the Music Died. No, this is definitely not what I had in mind. Yesterday, was not that dayâ€¦..I guess weâ€™re just going to have to wait a year.
After a night of understandable loathing and self-pity, I decided to come back down to earth to analyze this season with a new sense of clarity. I decided to take a look at this season as a whole, not just a single game, and I came up with a few thoughts for you guysâ€¦..
Before we get to yesterdayâ€™s game, letâ€™s take a quick look back at this season, a season of ten wins and six losses. Ten wins, say it out loud (it sounds better that way) and let it marinate. 365 days ago, ten is a number that warranted a sports-talk hang-up, a chuckle and a condescending remark, had it been suggested by any Jet fan delusional enough to outwardly predict it. The fact is this, the NFL is the well-oiled machine that it is predicated largely on the fact that they offer there fans the notion of new hope, regardless of the team (except maybe Arizona and Detroit), each and every year. We can listen to Joe Theismann until weâ€™re blue in the face, but the so-called â€œexpertsâ€? pre-season predictions have proven to be as reliable as a Brett Favre retirement ceremony. Itâ€™s not uncommon to see teams transform themselves from â€˜bottom feedersâ€™ to â€˜sharksâ€™ in a single season. We have seen it time and time again and it is precisely the reason we believe in this hope every August. The NFL is not the NBA or MLB where eighty or one hundred plus games, respectively, ensure that inexperience and lesser talent sink as their counterparts rise. Rebuilding does not take five to ten years in the National Football League; instead it takes two to three. The progression northward can, and often does, go as such; â€˜mediocrityâ€™ followed by â€˜over-achievmentâ€™ and culminated with â€˜legitimacyâ€™. In my mind, we just finished up the â€˜over-achievementâ€™ phase and its time now to move on to real contention. We were not incorrect with our feelings over the past month, rather, we weâ€™re just early.
When sitting down to write this piece, my natural reaction was to compare this 10-6 team with the 2004 10-6 team. After all, the two teams had identical records and similar post-season success (anything short of Conference championship performance is the same in my mind). I thought to myself, what makes this team different, why do I somehow feel better this time around? It took a few minutes but it finally came to me, in a word, optimism.
When I think back to the 2004 Jets, I see a team eerily similar to the 2006 Kansas City Chiefs. If you watched Saturday nights Chiefs game you should be able to conceptualize the point I am trying to get across. Both teams shared the common traits of backing into the post-season, an unimaginative game-plan, a predictable offense and, of course a head coach who I would hire to live in my closet, only to come out and â€œmotivateâ€? me as I get dressed in the morning, before I would hire to run my football team (I have a hard time getting to work on time, something tells me, a daily Herm pre-game speech might help get the juices flowing). More precisely, Herman Edwards coaches teams to hit their ceiling with a post-season birth. A different sort of coaching mentality is needed for true post-season success. A mentality to coach in a manner that outwardly exudes the sense that your team belongs, that your team expects to win. Teams tend to take on the persona of their coach. A post-season swagger that says our season begins in January is needed. Herm doesnâ€™t have it, probably never will, I sincerely believe Eric does. In this sense we should be grateful. Grateful that although both teams (Jets and Chiefs) wonâ€™t be playing next Sunday we, at least, donâ€™t have to listen to Herm give his customary (and of course goose-bump raising) post-season press-conference and, once again feel duped, just as we were two years ago. Duped into believing the team is an actual contender, a victim of unfortunate circumstance rather then non-factor that they really were from the start. The problem we had two years ago is that we all believed Herm, the organization included. Somehow, through the powers of persuasion, he managed to sway our thought process away from the two, uncompetitive, regular season games against New England and convince us that we were in fact â€˜a kicker away from the Super Bowlâ€™. Truth be told, if Doug Brien makes one of those kicks we donâ€™t go to the Super Bowl, rather, we go back to New England and witness, yet another, coaching mismatch. Point being, there is an un-tangible difference between simply making the playoffs and actually contending for a championship, today was the first step toward the latter.
Realistically speaking, yesterdays final score was far from indicative of the actual game we witnessed. Yesterday, was a test for Eric Mangini and the rest of his staff, a test in pressure and a test of wit. Sunday was the day we got our first glimpse of the future, a small sample of what this staff can get come up with during the time of year they expect to be playing in. In mind, they passed. Of course we can second guess a decision here or there. Why Brad Smith wasnâ€™t involved early or why they stayed with the blitz as long as they did? Some of the red-zone play calling was suspect and the question can be raised of how in the world an offense isnâ€™t made aware, in practice, that a backwards pass is a live ball? Regardless, the point is negligible as these same questions can be asked after any loss. Iâ€™m not one for moral victories, but what I saw yesterday was a coaching staff implementing a very complex and well-designed game-plan that fell short based more on personnel, or lack there-of, then anything else. We didnâ€™t see a game plan that differed all too much from what we have seen throughout the season. We didnâ€™t see radically different play calling or a conservative blitz package. We saw the same thing we saw all year, an aggressive, creative scheme, tailor-suited to capitalize and adapt to the supposed weakness of the opponent on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately, the adaptation was countered well and that creativity came back to hurt us and, in a single play, changed the game from a toss-up into a blow-out.
So we lost. So, Sunday wasnâ€™t the day we finally â€˜stuck it to the manâ€™ and put a muzzle on the Patriot fan base that needs another Super Bowl like Tom Brady needs anymore â€˜female companionshipâ€™(I really hate that guy). Fortunately, all is not lost. I would like to offer this advice; handle this loss differently then ones of the past. This is not the let-down that it appears to be, nor is it the same type of â€˜punch to the stomachâ€™ that we have felt before. Take this loss at face value and view it as the natural stepping stone that it is.