By Jason Keidel
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Only a fool would eulogize the Jets — a first-place team after three games — in Week 4. Yet it won’t be the first time I’ve acted the fool.
The Jets’ season is over.
Done. Dead. Muerto.
The Jets and their fans, led by Craig Carton, are painting a Pollyannaish mosaic, silver linings streaked across the canvas.
You don’t cancel the season just because you lose a cornerback.
He’s only one player.
He only covers one receiver.
He hardly tackles.
The Jets went 8-8 with him last year, so let’s not crown him king of football.
Among all the siren songs is rampant duplicity. It’s amazing how good, how vital, how essential Darrelle Revis was to the Jets — before he got hurt. Now he’s suddenly an afterthought.
While I join the joyous chorus claiming there are no ugly wins in the NFL, that the Jets needn’t apologize or sympathize with the Dolphins after taking the backdoor to victory, the loss of Revis negates any postgame euphoria.
Yes, they have two wins in an anemic division. Yes, the Patriots are the only club resembling a playoff team. Yes, the Jets have a better record. Yes, they pounded Buffalo in Week 1. Yes, the Dolphins look lost, from Hard Knocks to Chad Ocho/Johnson’s domestic violence beef and sudden, subsequent unemployment to Reggie Bush’s injury to Coach Philbin’s eerie resemblance to Mr. Magoo.
But the only way the Jets can make the playoffs is by winning the AFC East. And they will not win the AFC East. They will face an ornery Patriots squad in a month. Before then, the Jets play the two best teams in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers, caught in that trap game up in Minnesota, will be particularly vulgar and violent this Sunday. If the Jets thought they struggled against Miami’s new, no-name (and no-talent) defense, wait until they run into Jim Harbaugh’s wolf pack, led by a conga line of All-Pro linebackers.
So, after a 1-3 month, the Jets will face the surprisingly decent Seahawks, the bona fide, bruising, 3-0 Cardinals, the Patriots (again), the explosive Chargers, and the Bills — in Buffalo — in December. Not to mention the Dolphins always give the Jets agita and will be out for vengeance on October 28.
Jacksonville is horrendous, and the Titans are hardly titanic. But the Jets play both on the road, which is never pleasant in pro football. It’s hard to find more than four more wins on their schedule. Let’s be generous and give them five, which lands them at 7-9.
Then there’s the matter of Mark Sanchez, the franchise, Sanchise quarterback whom they’ve drowned in conflicting impulses.
They’ve given him fewer weapons each year, gutting the running game, planting a turnstile at right tackle and signing inadequate wide receivers. Then, in the ultimate act of romantic confusion, they sign Sanchez to an extension while trading for Tim Tebow, the most socially pyrotechnic backup in NFL history, who needed a private jet and personal press conference upon arrival. Did David Carr need either when he joined the Giants? How about Charlie Batch when he joined my beloved black and gold? How about any backup player at any position in NFL history? Woody Johnson has been vocal about star power, and acquiring Tebow was much more about Q rating than QB rating.
Forget Sanchez playing hubby, house (and cougar) hunting with a certain celebrity whose dating proclivities are predictably linear (find young, handsome athletes, pose for Page 6, and divorce them). There’s enough trouble in his vocation sans vacation.
Rex Ryan can gripe about the circulating, circus metaphors all he wants, but the label fits as snugly as his newer wardrobe. Rex dropped at least 100 pounds this offseason. With the weight went some of his bombast, his mojo, his essence. We are what we are, and the Jets don’t have an identity now. They can’t run, they can’t throw and the defense that Ryan branded so deadly just took a deadly hit on the knee.
So much of Ryan’s schemes are predicated on and dedicated to the idea that Revis would blanket the opponent’s best receiver, allowing Ryan a few risks in blitz packages. Without Revis, Ryan doesn’t have the horses up front to rush the passer in conventional formations. Expect a lot more passing against Gang Green, starting with Alex Smith and Matt Schaub, hardly household names who are now leading Super Bowl favorites into MetLife Stadium. And the scorekeeper could get carpal tunnel tallying Tom Brady’s yardage.
Losing a player of Revis’ gravitas would hurt any team, but losing that player is more poignant with the Jets because they don’t have depth. (Do you really expect Kyle Wilson to make the fans forget Revis?) The Giants absorbed the free agent losses of Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs, and then they lost Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks to injury last week. Yet they killed Carolina, on the road, on a short workweek — because they had depth.
Andre Brown and Ramses Barden stepped in seamlessly. Indeed, the Giants are 7-0 when Nicks sits one out. No doubt that’s an anomaly, a statistical hiccup, but it does speak to the Giants’ bottomless talent pool filled by Jerry Reese: perhaps the most underrated — if not the best — general manager on the planet.
Has a quarterback ever fallen out of favor so quickly? Indeed, Sanchez has gone from savior to stiff in a year. No doubt he’s earned some scorn, but you can’t go from four road playoff wins to draft day bust without a little help from his friends in the front office and the coaching staff.
Sanchez is what he is — a good quarterback who can be stellar one Sunday and an eyesore the next. And considering the rules, which are relaxed and far more favorable to the passing game, the Jets will be forced to ride the wings of a talented and now tormented quarterback, who now has a fraction of the traction he had while making a name for himself as a playoff road warrior. Don’t those two AFC Championship games feel like decades ago?
This season is lost, even if the record doesn’t say so today. It will say so tomorrow. Ryan, Mike Tannenbaum and Sanchez, three men inexorably tethered to each other, are lugging a team and a town toward a mirage, a Super Bowl that seemed so close just two years ago.
Since then, they have regressed, while their Big Blue roommates have progressed. There are four Lombardi Trophies in MetLife Stadium. Wait, there are five, but when the Jets won the title it wasn’t even named after the iconic coach.
It was just so long ago, it’s easy to forget — just like the Jets.
Did Revis’ injury officially kill the Jets’ season? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…