By Jason Keidel
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Even by their subterranean standards, the Jets plunged to a new low last week, replete with backbiting and backstabbing, anonymous quotes from players, clumsy pressers from the owner and delusional declarations by the head coach. It feels like they’re in the middle of a morbid dream, interrupted by sleep apnea and carbon monoxide poisoning. But rather than die they live to slither into the next nightmare.
To hear the mutating totem pole that has become the Jets’ hierarchy, you’d think that they were 6-3 last week instead of 3-6. They drown us with corporate platitudes pulled right out of a Tony Robbins sermon, led by Rex Ryan, who saw improvement with each loss.
Then the Jets won, which just made them 4-6 and still looking up in wonder at New England, who will try to drive the official football stake into the Jets on Thanksgiving night.
The official mantra is that they acquired Tim Tebow to help the team, not to sell tickets. And only they believe that. Or only they believe that we believe that. The bungling triumvirate of Ryan, Mike Tannenbaum and Woody Johnson seems to be an interchangeable fiefdom. Ryan is the first coach in NFL history to declare improvement in the midst of a 1-5 stretch. Tannenbaum is dying on his dulled sword, and the born billionaire is handling it all with the leadership skills of Captain Queeg.
The owner is a portrait in conflict. He makes a quintessential PR play in bagging Tebow, and then says it was a football move. Then the shampoo heir’s hair stands at the sight of their sordid play, and says that he lives and dies with Gang Green football. Yet a month earlier he said that boosting his boy Mitt Romney into the White House was more important than guiding Gang Green to the Super Bowl. Consider it a dual disaster.
It isn’t one moment or mantra or mistake that felled the Jets this year, or any of the last 43 years. There is a systemic sickness in them, and it’s hard to find a cure. If Woody fires Tannenbaum and allows Ryan to pick the successor, then there’s no point in firing Tannebaum. If he fires both then he admits he made an error in hiring both.
Tannenbaum speaks with an odd affectation, starting each stumbling response with, “Sure.” What makes his tenure so tormented is the fact that he started so well, drafting Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, David Harris and Dustin Keller, and then trading up to pluck the premiere cornerback in pro football, Darrelle Revis.
From there it has been an appalling drop off in talent and increase in torment, starting with Santonio Holmes, whom the Jets made a captain and signed to $50 million Gang Greenbacks.
If you haven’t heard Mike Francesa’s interview with the embattled GM, please lend him your ears. Francesa vaporized Tannenbaum after each attempt at semantic subterfuge. If nothing else, Tannenbaum is quite gifted at talking at great length without saying very much. To hear Francesa call him out on it was delicious or atrocious, depending on your allegiance.
You’ve heard the gripes and seen the gaffes ad nauseum: they’ve stripped the offense of all bona fide players, at least at the skill positions, leaving Mark Sanchez on a symbolic island with no boat, bottle, pen or paper.
Braylon Edwards? Gone. Plaxico Burress? Gone. Brad Smith? Gone. Thomas Jones? Gone. Jerricho Cotchery? Gone. We could go on. And while some players would have left with age or wage, the central truth is that there have been no proper replacements.
Trading for Tebow was cosmetic and superfluous, but it’s not the reason that Sanchez’s production has vanished. A confluence of factors, from poor play to poorer roster moves, have grinded the Jets’ offense to a crawl. If you want to take ephemeral solace in that game in St. Louis, against a team that has waved the white flag, washed it and waved it again, then help yourself. You have until Thanksgiving to rejoice.
I browsed Thursday’s gridiron menu to synchronize with my culinary one, and I was pleased to see that the Jets were the late game, and hence it had no chance to give me indigestion; just something soporific, a soundtrack to which I can nod off with my last gulp of dessert. The bird will go down with Detroit, then stuffing and cranberry sauce with the Cowboys and Redskins. By the time the Jets surrender the sixth touchdown to Tom Brady, the apple pie will be in the intestinal abyss.
Should the Jets lose — and lose they should — then the hounds return to their doorstep, calling for a revolt. The problem is that anything other than the evisceration of the coaching and scouting staffs will be cosmetic. And perhaps the problem that needs changing is the one that can’t be changed: ownership.
The Jets/Mets masochist of a fan has endured heartache of historic contours. And it isn’t likely to change because the men who own both clubs are focused on finance and back page fodder. The Wilpons were grossly preoccupied with Bernie Madoff, which was woefully juxtaposed with a new ballpark, bloated contracts and empty seats.
The Jets haven’t even had their own stadium since, well, ever. When they weren’t losing in lockstep with the Mets they morphed into little brother for the Giants in 1984. And even though they are finally cotenants in the Meadowlands, the only life in MetLife beats blue.
No matter the history or histrionics that the Jets shove through the turnstiles, their additions never add up to a zero-sum industry: winning. During last week’s awkward, ad hoc Q&A, Johnson said that winning is his only job, which trumps PSLs and hot dog sales (his words).
But how do you become good at something you’ve never done? It would behoove Mr. Johnson & Johnson to bring in new blood, blue blood. Football’s iteration of “no more tears,” to borrow a slogan from his other business — the only one he seems to understand.
Every Thanksgiving, our president pardons a turkey from the chopping block. That’s more than the Jets can expect this year. Johnson voted for the other guy, the one who lost.
Did the Jets’ win over the Rams give you any semblance of hope, or was it nothing but a tease against a bad team? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…