Supposedly Doomed From The Get-Go, Jets Have Taken Control Of This City

By Jason Keidel
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Aloof. Soft. Selfish.

Those adjectives stuck like skin tags to Geno Smith. He plunged down the draft based on a few cynical scouting reports. We assumed he was toxic. And then the Jets plucked him, assuring us that he was.

Yet the rookie quarterback just marched into Atlanta like the Union Army and burned the Falcons, going 16-for-20 with three touchdowns and zero turnovers.

And he glued a million mouths shut. I wasn’t as cynical about Smith as most, but I was most macabre over his employer. The Jets had all the hallmarks of a four-win franchise…

  • New general manager with no experience as a general manager.
  • New offensive coordinator.
  • Owner forces old coach on new general manager.
  • Coach loses large chunks of power over front office.
  • Coach drafts defense. General Manager wants offense.
  • Coach admits he rarely even looks at offense.
  • General Manager drafts QB to replace coach’s franchise QB.
  • Coach’s franchise QB is lost for season before season begins.
  • Running back is busted for DUI before he plays a down.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the cellar.

The Jets, who are above .500 through one-third of the season, legitimately ensconced in a playoff race — if not the chase for a division title — are the only local team worthy of bold ink and back pages. Whereas the Giants are suddenly and surreally fodder for Page Six, the Jets are legit. And if you say you saw this coming, you are full of fecal matter.

Perhaps the Jets backed into it. Perhaps they benefited more from incompetence than prudence. After all, Smith has the job only because Rex Ryan parachuted Mark Sanchez into the second half of a meaningless preseason game, protected by scrubs. And then when some behemoth went Mo Lewis on No. 6, the Sanchize turned the franchise over to Geno.

We’ve heard the cliche that it’s better to be lucky than good. And perhaps the Jets were that. Even the best teams need the ball to hop an odd way, for Tom Brady to sit there in the sixth round, after 198 players we can’t name were picked before him.

And what does this say about Ryan? He has gone from dead man walking to Coach of the Year candidate. This is a team with a dearth of decent talent, at least on offense, and a first-round cornerback who was benched. Ryan has taken an amalgam of misfits and remolded them into confident, hard-charging underdogs who have flipped the script on our city.

Had anyone told you a month ago that our teams would be 3-2 and 0-5, you would have nodded in solemn sympathy. Maybe you expected the Giants to be 4-1 instead of 3-2, but there was unanimity over the Jets, whose ticket in the Jadeveon Clowney raffle was stamped and laminated.

Now it appears Jerry Reese will have his pick of the collegiate litter this spring. The Giants are next playing in Chicago, on short rest, with a rudderless team, against a furious Bears franchise that just got embarrassed by the Saints.

Mike Francesa isn’t the only Gang Green antagonist. ESPN had the Jets 32nd in their preseason power rankings. Ryan, who isn’t always the corpulent, arrogant blowhard he used to be, was sure to reference the ESPN slight during his postgame presser Monday night.

Ryan is coaching better than Tom Coughlin. Smith is playing better than Eli Manning. The Jets are just a game out of first place. The AFC East is among the best divisions in football, while the NFC East is the worst. The NFL’s inverted orthodoxy this year has made for a surreal season. That usually means the Jets are bottom-feeding, big-blue-brother-envying, season-ticket-selling chumps counting the seconds to the offseason.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the cellar.

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel

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