By Jason Keidel
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The moment I heard Craig Carton say before the Patriots game that the Jets were “one loss from basketball talk” it was time to remind Jets fans exactly where Gang Green was vis-a-vis where we all thought they would be.
The Jets were Jadeveon Clowney-bound before the season started. Most of the world pegged them for the four-to-six win netherworld. And ever since the cynical assertion by Mr. Carton, the Jets have beaten perennial playoff teams New England and New Orleans.
Yet here they are with five wins and four losses and seven games left, far beyond even the most jaded Jets fan’s expectations. We used the usual metrics when forecasting the Jets this season. But beyond stop watches and stats and precedent, we weren’t able to measure a far more malleable muscle.
And the Jets have that in surplus.
Since moving to New Jersey a few years ago, I’ve had a chance to chat with nurses who work at Meadowlands Hospital, which is about five blocks from my house and five minutes from MetLife.
Sunday is their busiest day, they tell me. Shocked and ignorant, I asked why. They say they pluck patrons from Jets games en masse, scooping an army of drunkards who either suffer alcohol poisoning or just drop on the street.
Considering that appalling video we saw on YouTube, with that punk going Sonny Liston on a lady, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to hear that some football fans don’t think before they act.
Now the Jets have you drunk on defense, guts, and guile.
One of my myriad Jets fan friends told me Sunday that the Saints game was a referendum not only on Gang Green’s heart and hard hat ethos, but also on Rex Ryan, whom my pal says has earned a contract extension.
Ryan was a media darling from the jump when he told us he wasn’t here to smooch Belichick’s ring. Then he had the endless loop of malaprops, malfeasance, and mad cow predictions, every year going Joe Namath before the season started.
Then it seems Rex, after chomping on copious chunks of humble pie, stapling his stomach — and his mouth — he had an epiphany. He learned that style points, clever quotes, and bombast don’t matter if you don’t match the temerity on the turf.
And thus the Jets, who have no notable studs on offense and a shellshocked rookie replacing Darrelle Revis on defense, have become the darlings of the five boroughs and beyond.
With the Giants taking the season off, the Jets seized the moment. Indeed, had someone told you our two football teams would be 2-6 and 5-4, it would have made sense until you learned which team had which record.
The Jets have turned orthodoxy on its head. Pro football’s most durable axiom is that the NFL is a quarterback’s league, yet Geno Smith won while completing eight passes, none of which traveled more than seven yards.
Half of their wide receivers couldn’t start for Oregon. The team was just released from the burn unit after being torched by the Bengals. Then Drew Brees and the Saints, who do the Cincinnati thing but much better, would surely shred the Jets’ enervated secondary.
And yet there the Jets were, preening over a prostrate Brees, showing the world that stats still only write half the narrative.
There’s something refreshing about this team, a throwback quality that, despite the gloss and sheen of the NFL shield, the nouveaux world of charts and grids and fantasy maxims, the Jets just try really hard, thus italicizing the essence of football.
There’s nothing fancy about being tough, about making the other team work harder than it is used to, where temerity thwarts talent. Sure, the Jets will probably gag the next game at Buffalo, but they aren’t going to disappear by December, which none of us pondered in September. Believe what you wish, but If the season ended today, the Jets would make the playoffs.
Since those huddles with the nurses I haven’t asked how many Jets fans they treated after so many of you tumbled off the bandwagon, cracking ankles, snapping limbs, arriving in the ER with more than mud on your face.
Maybe it depends on your insurance. Maybe you need more MetLife. No matter your coverage, the Jets don’t need insurance to ensure us that they are here, all year, for real.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel
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