By Jason Keidel
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Jets fans have an odd relationship with their team. Not all, of course, but the vocal, vulgar sort who seem to dominate social media sure do.
They hide behind handles, from the comfort of their cubicles, sneak onto Twitter and Facebook and belch their ugly bromides. None of the rancor is directed at the team and its performance, of course, but rather at those of us who point it out. But no aliases or pseudonyms can protect them from the truth.
The Jets are appalling. The Jets are lost. The Jets are losers.
Their free-fall down the rungs of relevance has to be galling to even the most jaded Jets fan, the ones who buy the hype and frame the team in surreal, Pollyannaish hues.
Their team has no talent on offense, left $20 million in cap cash on the table, and can’t agree on anything. Rex Ryan admitted he can’t switch quarterbacks with total autonomy. And it’s clear to everyone except Rex that his GM doesn’t want him there. Indeed, it seems the only reason Rex is still the HC of the NYJ is the bedrock bond he has with owner Woody Johnson, who has always seen Rex through an odd, romantic prism.
The door was open like no other over the last 15 years, with the Patriots no longer having their customary choke-hold over the AFC, more vulnerable than we’ve ever seen them in the Brady epoch. The Bills and Dolphins are scrappy, but are still the Bills and Dolphins.
You remember the last, pastoral scene of 2013. The Jets won their final three games, formed that group hug in the tear-drenched locker room, a choked up Idzik handing the game ball and the head coaching job to a sobbing Ryan, while the team clapped, cried, and fawned like their coach had just won the Academy Award.
So it was time for the Jets to make their move. And they beat the Raiders — the worst franchise in football over the last decade — by five points, at home, and Jets Nation was roaring like lions over a fresh carcass. They actually felt sorry for their Big Blue roommates down the halls of MetLife.
And now, at 1-4, their ashes just poured onto the plane after being vaporized by the Chargers, the Jets won’t change their take, their tune, or their temerity.
This is the peak of a doomed culture. Every year we hear how the Jets are a draft pick, trade, or free agent from first place — always a tweak or two from their ordained place atop the NFL totem pole. Their twisted hubris has always been incongruous, all the haughty talk about how good they are despite their win-loss record, their hollow lockers by New Year’s Eve, or their 44-year Super Bowl drought. And heaven forbid they actually dip their beaks in the sweet water of success, reach an AFC title game or two; you’d think they were the 1965 Packers, progenitors of the dynasty, Lombardi clones who helped create the modern NFL.
After wiping the cleat-marks off their backs, the Jets finally turned to Michael Vick, who could do nothing that late in a rout. Vick flashed some of the seductive talent that made him so coveted when he entered the league, yet wound up taking a beating in the pocket, like the rest of his battered teammates.
On Monday, like always, the Jets were a day late, a dollar (or $20 million) short, and, as they say where the horses run next door, out of the money. They are dysfunctional and disjointed, no part of the brass aware of the of the man next, above, or below him. The Jets are a case study in incompetence. And the systematic chaos is so deep, so profound, that it’s impossible to know where it starts or how to fix it.
I planned to start this column by calling for Rex’s head. Can the windbag. But what would that do? Then I figured they should bench Geno Smith, especially after his jaunt to the movies instead of making a team meeting. But what would that do? Fire John Idzik. But what would that do? He just got here.
The Jets are so diseased, so wholly inept for so long, that the problems melt into each other. And thus the answers are abstract and elusive, if even understandable. You can’t fire the owner. But is he the problem? How do you remold a team that hasn’t won a title in 44 years? Look at the Browns, the Falcons, the Bills, the Lions, the Bengals. How do you frame or fix historical ineptitude?
First four-game losing streak in seven years. The first NFL shutout this year. Worst start since 2007. By any metric the Jets are a mess. We can’t keep speaking in the rosy platitudes we hear every week. The Jets aren’t a play or two, a player or two, from anything.
More and more we adhere to numbers. There’s an algorithm for everything. Long gone are the cigar-chomping, Mesozoic scouts who live by instinct, judge a guy by gut feelings. But what amalgam of mathematics can define the Jets?
We’re told there’s no such thing as curses. To hell with hexes. But how do you brand decades of desolation? There have been countless coaches, executives, and owners since the ’60s, none of whom gathered the right talent and temerity for just one run to the Super Bowl.
Maybe the problem is no one admits the Jets have one. The team’s mantra has always been oddly positive and open ended. As soon as this happens … then we can …
And all they have to do is gaze across the office to see how it’s done. The Giants may not be the model franchise but they are a model franchise. But the Jets are so proud and petulant, they have become the 12-step definition of insanity, doing the same nonsense and expecting different results.
Bill Parcells, patron saint of local football, famously said you are what your record says you are. So what are the Jets after four losses? Four decades of losses? How do they recover from their record, from their wholly wretched history? The first step in any recovery is to admit you have a problem.
But the Jets still insist they are misunderstood, which means they still don’t understand, which means more of the same. Their persona is insanity personified.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel
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