By Brian RoeÂ
Itâ€™s not our time. Itâ€™s as simple as that. When the Jets traveled up to Foxboro this past weekend and received a 37-16 thumping at the hands of the decadeâ€™s best football team, this much was clear.
But instead of the tired and expected â€œSame Old Jetsâ€? denunciation, Jet fans were overcome by a quiet contentment with all their team had achieved this season, and hope for an immediate future filled with perhaps the franchiseâ€™s greatest prosperity. After all, the Jets had just made a historic 6 game improvement from the 4-12 mess that Herman Edwards left in New York over a year ago. They had just closed the gap on their hated rivals, the New England Patriots, so fast that it brought â€œworryâ€? to All-World Quarterback Tom Brady. They had received the very initial payout from investing in a 35 year-old head coach who came in with a mission and a plan.
The Jets are a very young and blossoming team with a brilliant coach in Eric Mangini. They have close to $30 million in cap space this year and 3 draft picks in the top 40. Undoubtedly the Jets will acquire a few nice new toys to fit their system. All of the Jetsâ€™ key players remain under contract, with Anthony Clement, BJ Askew, and Hank Poteat the only starters headed toward free agency. The Jets will make plays to acquire defensive line help, a number one running back, a top cornerback, and a new right side of the offensive line.
Aside from the new additions that will surely bolster the Jets lineup next season, this yearâ€™s rookie class, which has already contributed substantially to the teamâ€™s success, will continue to grow. The offensive line was solidified by two rookies. Center Nick Mangold made all the offensive line calls and has drawn heaps of praise as the next â€œgreat centerâ€?, while fourth pick Dâ€™Brickashaw Ferguson, though he garnered less attention, effectively protected Chad Penningtonâ€™s backside and committed only one penalty. Shifty RB Leon Washington developed as a dangerous open field threat, and will likely be used as a third down back in the future. Brad Smith showed signs of being an Antwan Randle-El-like playmaker, while safety Eric Smith was infused into more and more defensive packages, and is expected to challenge Erik Coleman for a starting position next year. Perhaps the most important piece to this rookie class in the future, Kellen Clemens, could take over the #2 quarterback spot next year.
But even after all this hope of a prosperous future, Jet fans are left with the vile taste in their mouths that the Patriots have another shot at making a Super Bowl run. The Jets, however, are being built in similar fashion to this Patriot team on the decided backside of its run. The Jets have been instilled with a team mentality on both sides of the ball, and Mangini has stressed accountability and hard work. Though the Jets still lack the playmaker at the quarterback position and a few more pieces, the gap is quickly closing, and New England can feel it.
A wild card weekend in Foxboro was not the proper stage for the mutiny. It is proper that the torch be passed, perhaps in a year or two, at the Meadowlands in Januaryâ€”most fittingly, the AFC Championship at Giants Stadium. A victory of this magnitude would slay the â€œS.O.J.â€? demons and redeem long suffering Jet fans everywhere. It would put an end to Patriot dominance over the Jets, and silence the undeserving, disgruntled Red Sox Nation, known more appropriately in baseballâ€™s offseason as â€œPatriot fansâ€?. One thing is for sureâ€”with this coach, this front office, and this young core of players, the Jets have the tools to do the job.