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Green Lantern: Jets Now A Model Franchise? Believe It

Pursuit Of Elusive Title Will Never End Under Current Regime
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Sione Pouha

Jets defensive lineman Sione Pouha. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork.com

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — There are days when the Jets deserve to be criticized by the fans, ridiculed on talk shows and destroyed in the press.

But it shouldn’t be the case on this day, nor any other in the immediate future.

In the aftermath of the AFC Championship game loss to the Steelers most of what you heard from pundits and so-called supporters of this franchise was knee-jerk reactions based on frustration. I can’t tell you how many comments I heard or tweets I read killing some aspect of the Jets and how they do their business. Players and coaches were thrown under the bus with relative ease. All that was accomplished prior to that frigid Sunday night at Heinz Field was conveniently forgotten by a lot of people.

The reaction was, for the sake of a better term, without perspective. Not because I don’t understand how hard it is to get over a bad loss, but because the venom didn’t just last a day or two. It’s still going on, and it really has to stop.

In the past two seasons the Jets have given their disgruntled faithful more on-field success and off-field entertainment than at any point in the last four decades. I get that many like to throw 1969 around as this great shining moment in the franchise’s history. I realize that magical season is the benchmark, but it was so long ago and the makeup of the fan base is so darn young these days it’s hard to really relate the NFL circa 2011 with the year man walked on the moon for the first time. Everything about the game and the league is totally different than what a lot of your fathers witnessed.

As far as I am concerned, the Jets are still looking for their first Super Bowl appearance and championship.

Which is why I look at the last two seasons and see nothing but serious progress. The Jets shocked the North American sports landscape in 2009 by getting to the conference championship game and could have won it had it not been for an untimely injury to Shonn Greene. Then there was 2010 — a different animal in that the hype was so overwhelming there really was no way the Jets could meet expectations unless they got to the Super Bowl. Considering all that happened, the Jets really did keep up their end of the bargain. They went 11-5 in a division with Tom Brady, salvaged their reputations as serious players in this thing by winning in Indianapolis in the wild card round and then made it one of the best seasons in franchise history by going up to New England and beating a Patriots team many felt they had no business beating.

The loss in Pittsburgh was rough, but for many to still be playing the blame game is short-sighted. The Jets didn’t lose because of Brian Schottenheimer’s play-calling. Does he make you crazy with some of his philosophies? Yes. Do you wish he’d just stick with the hot hand more? Of course. But the Jets fell behind 24-0 in that game and Schotty wasn’t even given the opportunity to disappoint you.

The Jets lost because they had the ball for just 4 minutes in the first quarter and a little more than 8:30 in the half.

The defense, which had played brilliantly in the 28-21 win over the Patriots the week before, looked somewhat tentative. For whatever reason the Jets couldn’t tackle. They allowed Rashard Mendenhall to cut back against the grain with relative ease. They committed some ill-timed penalties. They let Ben Roethlisberger escape and forgot about Heath Miller at times.

That loss was in no way on Schottenheimer.

Sure, some will kill him for that ridiculous goal-line series in the fourth quarter that ended with LaDainian Tomlinson running up the middle on 4th and 1 from the 1 and getting buried. But, really, it never should have come to that. If the Jets had come out from the start with the intensity we expected to see they likely would have been the ones dictating the tempo instead of being forced to play from behind.

So, it’s over. It’s done with. The best thing now for every last fan of this franchise is to look forward because if you don’t see an extremely bright future the odds are you will never quite be satisfied with anything.

General Manager Mike Tannenbaum is faced with a daunting task. He actually has to execute his craft better than he did last offseason, when he left little doubt that he was on the short list of the best front office executive’s in football and maybe all of professional sports. Forget that he has yet to win a championship. As far as his job goes, there’s really no way to do it any better.

The one thing Mr. T shows beyond anything else is a go-for-broke mentality and the ability to amass talent without breaking the bank. The Jets, as you may remember, got future Hall of Fame players Tomlinson and Jason Taylor for basically bargain basement deals and traded for established stars — Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie — with so much upside  you would have had to have been completely jaded not to acknowledge the man’s brilliance.

But now he’s faced with having to do it all over again. The stakes are even higher. And with the collective bargaining agreement in limbo it’s unknown when he’ll actually be permitted to get down to serious business.

But his reputation now precedes him.

Tannenbaum must decide how to fairly treat more than a dozen of his own players, find a few musts on the defensive side of the football and solidify a passing game that is on the cusp of being elite. He’s also going to have to be mindful of the future with less draft picks than he’s accustomed to, but you have to figure if there is a way for the Jets to either move up to get someone they want or stockpile picks for later he will find a way to do it.

He’s earned your faith — and then some.

Keep this in mind as we go forward: Tannenbaum has bought some allegiance among his current players and, Rex Ryan’s influence notwithstanding, has convinced a lot of other players around the league that playing for the Jets may just very well be the in thing to do going forward. Through various rumors and outright declarations many of the NFL’s elite players have said they’d prefer to play for Rex. Now this isn’t like those who say they want to play for the Yankees, where there is no salary cap and often the financial bottom line is indeed the bottom line. Players want to come to the Jets because they love Rex. They love what Rex and Tannenbaum have done. They see that this franchise isn’t going anywhere for awfully long time. The Jets have skyrocketed in popularity in reputation, sales and on the Internet.

I know all of this to be true because the hatred for the Jets is as vehement as their loyalists’ love. They’ve in a sense become the Cowboys, the Yankees, the Lakers, the Celtics or any other elite franchise you’d want to name, not because of their overflowing trophy case, but because of their commitment to filling that still empty trophy case.

So if in the coming weeks the CBA is worked out and the business of the NFL gets back to being the business of the NFL, you shouldn’t be surprised to see some current Jets re-up, maybe at a hometown discount (Braylon Edwards?). Expect to see some of their more deserving players — David Harris comes immediately to mind — get locked up for a long time. And don’t do a double take if someone like a Nnamdi Asomugha somehow ends up wearing green and white.

And that’s just for starters because you’d be crazy to rule anything out.

The Jets ultimately didn’t realize their 2010 goal, but their commitment to maintaining this new-found excellence should not be viewed as a passing phase. Love ‘em or hate ‘em the Jets are now a model sports franchise, one that is changing before our very eyes how things are done — both on the field and in the front office.

The only thing “same old” about this franchise is its name.

More by the “Green Lantern.”

Do you agree or disagree with the Lantern? Share your comments below.

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