By Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
So much of predicting what the Jets will be this season and who may or may not lose their job as a result is about conventional wisdom. It’s sadly about what logic should dictate based on the completion of exactly zero games that matter.
It’s rather ridiculous if you ask me, but a prerequisite I guess to be a sports fan in and around New York City.
Just to be clear, I’m under no illusions nor am I suffering delusions of grandeur. I understand that the Jets’ quarterback situation and the fact that a good number of rookies will be starting don’t paint the brightest of pictures and allow the Jets to give off an air of superiority.
But can we see a regular season game? Is it possible that people even acknowledge that the NFL is now and has always been in the salary cap era a league of parity?
If you believe everything you read there’s really no reason for the Jets to even take the field this season. And a lot is coming from people who wouldn’t understand the words “objectivity” or “loyalty” if they were tattooed to their foreheads.
It’s extremely frustrating to the fans who would prefer to draw their own conclusions or for a writer like myself who is overwhelmed daily by the type of negativity that is absurdly comical, even by this media market’s often extremely low standards.
For example, to apply an absolute to how Geno Smith will develop and the number of subsequent wins that will come as a result is extremely short-sighted. There’s simply no way to know what will happen or how owner Woody Johnson will react to the end result.
Which is why I believe that 95 percent of the speculation you’ve read the last five weeks about Rex Ryan’s future has been utterly pointless. I understand that many feel the need to create the buzz and cash in on Web traffic, or pound their chests as online NFL aficionados, but I wonder just how much of that is a product of people jumping on the bandwagon or fearing they may not be getting ahead of a story, as is the new trend these days.
Predicting how an NFL season will shake out is like trying to say with confidence how a thoroughbred racehorse will run. Due to breeding or past success the situation may scream that things should go in a certain direction, but once the race starts the truth is nobody knows what’s going to happen.
Just look at last season. The Colts turned over two-thirds of their roster and started a rookie at quarterback after dumping a legend. Where were the growing pains? Indianapolis finished 11-5. The Redskins put their faith in a rookie QB, went 10-6 and won maybe the toughest division in football. The Seahawks started a largely unknown rookie at QB with a non-name brand receiving corps, went 11-5 and came within a last-minute defensive lapse of getting to the NFC title game. Conversely, the Saints were armed with perhaps the league’s best and most seasoned QB and easily one of the best offenses the NFL has seen over the last 20 years, but won just seven games. The Ravens, a team loaded with veterans, lost four of their last five before bucking the many calls for a first-round playoff ouster to go on a championship run.
Would you have predicted any of that to happen? Only the optimist of all optimists might have taken the plunge.
Smith will undoubtedly have the weight of the world on his shoulders, but there’s simply no way to say definitively what he will be, or what the Jets will be around him. Too much has already been written in ink instead of pencil.
Is this kid not athletic? Does he not have a very good arm? Is he not at least somewhat mentally tough? There’s no proof to say he doesn’t have the attributes to be good and experience some success right away. There’s at least enough there to counter any arguments highlighting his shortcomings.
Then there’s Mark Sanchez. If after returning from injury he does end up taking back his starting job there’s no way to say with authority that he’ll make the same mistakes as in years’ past. A lot of people believe offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s offense is more conducive to Sanchez having success than in any the now-fifth year QB has played in before. Can we see him behind what figures to be a very good offensive line with Santonio Holmes, Kellen Winslow Jr., and Chris Ivory, among others, all on the field at the same time before we just assume he’ll be a disaster?
It’s really not asking a lot.
I’m not expecting miracles from this team. I think .500 would be quite an accomplishment. But this idea of predicting three or four wins is just as silly as saying 11 or 12. You just don’t know.
How you assess the Jets should be on a week-to-week basis. You shouldn’t get too high following a win or lose your mind after a loss. If you’ve set high expectations you are just asking to be let down. A more conservative, wait-and-see approach could end up leading to a more positive viewing experience for all involved.
In a lot of ways this is like a house money season. Usually those follow championship runs or something otherwise unforeseen yet overwhelmingly positive. But the Jets are coming off chaos, so maybe just a return to a more common definition of normalcy, regardless of the number of wins and losses, should be viewed as progress, especially when you consider that the Jets could be $30 million to $40 million under the salary cap next season.
This is up to the individual, because the media and a certain cross-section of fans won’t make it easy on the folks who want to see how things go a bit before offering a blanket final verdict. The naysayers will grind on you daily. It’s up to you to take things at face value as you see them, not as people try convince you they are based on an extremely limited sample size.
I realize I’m asking a lot here. The sky is perpetually falling when it comes to this franchise. But keeping a level head about you as the weeks go by is really the only way to enjoy a work in progress. It’s that or never reading a newspaper or online report, and certainly never checking out the lay of the land on social media.
Ryan is in a tough spot here, but in a lot of ways it feels like he’s already been fired, which is pretty sad commentary. The dead-man-walking approach to daily coverage, along with seemingly everyone’s insatiable need to have a starting quarterback be named before one has truly earned the nod, has cast a dark cloud over everything the Jets actually did accomplish during the preseason. Among them was the creation of a true competition at basically every position. They demanded and then received efforts from a lot of players that were as much positive as they were unexpected. They got rid of guys that can no longer get it done.
All of that was what the fans wanted, but most of it has been deemed unimportant, which is more sad commentary.
Here’s what I wonder: If the Jets were to somehow start off 3-1, would they even get credit? Or would the powers that be make excuses or point to mitigating circumstances that led to their early success? If God forbid this team makes the playoffs, would it be because of a great conspiracy?
The sad thing is that I even have to ask in the first place.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet
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