By Jason Keidel
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Same old Jets?

Depends on your definition.

If you mean the Jets aren’t in the Super Bowl, you’re correct in the most literal sense. If you mean the Jets are still losers, you’re rather wrong. The Steelers’ first half was slightly more important than the Jets’ second half, and this win was much more important than the Jets’ win in Week 15. Combine the two games and the two teams are tied.

The Steelers won by a whisker because Ben Roethlisberger has been there and Mark Sanchez hasn’t, because Mike Tomlin has been there and Rex Ryan hasn’t. Ben was bad for about 59 minutes. But when it had to be done, he did it. Big games are won more by nuance than dominance. It’s about converting a third-down more than a theatrical, 80-yard overtime dash.

The Jets and their fans owe no apology. Ryan has taken the Jets from moribund to mighty in two years by dint of his will and his willingness to take the flak for his boys. Beneath the rotund frame is a fine football brain. Rex knows what he’s doing. When you consider that the Jets made the AFC title game a once-in-a-decade affair, the corporate climate is decidedly – and perhaps permanently – better.


Rashard Mendenhall had a big day. The Steelers met the maxim of running well and stopping the run well. The Jets appeared sleepily out of the tunnel to start the game and made their charge too late.

But this isn’t about chalkboards and telestrators as much as one team has the innate confidence and composure of success and one team hasn’t. Last year was a fluke; this year the Jets arrived as bona fide contenders. And it was almost enough. Almost.

The Jets are going through an agonizing initiation phase. Jordan’s Bulls went through it and Peyton’s Colts went through it. It’s a sporting – if not life – mandate. There is copious precedent and, while we all wish our teams conquered their respective sports instantly and always, it doesn’t work that way.

Many of you who aren’t ready to accept that your season is over, who will say you lost more than the Steelers won, you don’t understand the game and the game of life well enough. Yesterday had to happen. And perhaps you can sit back and consider your team just three years ago, before Ryan stomped in and stamped the team and the town with his confident coda – that the Jets kneel at no altar other than the Lombardi Trophy. Such an approach was laughable in 2007. It is reality in 2011. You’re good, very good, and you’re about to become great.

There are a number of free agents who may come off the books and the team bus next season. The Jets have some tough choices to make, toeing the salary cap while keeping the team intact. But the essential duo for football success is in place for a long time. One wears a headset and the other has a green dot glued to the back of his green helmet.

There’s no reason, with a pup for a coach and QB, to think the Jets won’t be here again, and be here often. Even if it doesn’t feel that way now.

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