By Steve Lichtenstein
» More Columns
I don’t have any stats to back this up, but I believe that Jets fans must have the lowest divorce rate among all NFL supporters.
If we can stick through such an abusive relationship, one that has left us in tears at the conclusion of 48 consecutive seasons, then navigating the ups and downs of traditional married life should be a piece of cake, right?
Of all the teams that existed at the time Joe Namath raised his index finger to the sky, only the Jets and Lions have since failed to even reach a Super Bowl.
Yet we continue to literally wear our loyalty on our backs. I have about six Jets shirts in my wardrobe rotation, and my Freeman McNeil and Al Toon jerseys will hang in my closet until death do us part.
Heaven knows there is temptation all around us. Just look at our roommate, the four-time world champion Giants.
How easy it would have been for any of us to slip into a discreet affair when the Giants were hot before eventually professing true love for Big Blue over Gang Green.
But that’s not us. We’re not bandwagon hoppers like those New Yorkers we all loathe who swear they have been fans of teams like the Patriots or Cowboys since birth. Yeah, right. I wouldn’t trust any of them with my daughter when she reaches dating age (21).
Our collective faith has again been tested this season. Not only have the Jets disappointed us with their play on the field, they appear adrift, with no plan to give us hope for a better future. ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini suggested on Sunday that there could be a disconnect between general manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles. They’ve been partners for less than two years.
This season has been just another broken promise. With much of their core on the wrong side of age 30, some claimed that this was supposed to be a “win-now” team.
Except the Jets’ 22-17 loss to hated New England on Sunday at Met Life Stadium dropped their record to 3-8. Winning any more now could increase the difficulty of winning more later.
Yes, we’ve relapsed back to the “wish for tanking” stage, the same place we were just two years ago.
Many Jets fans were fooled when quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick rode into town in the summer of 2015 and brought excitement with his moxie, leading the Jets to the precipice of an unlikely playoff berth before faltering in Buffalo in the regular season finale. They overlooked the variables of that season — the relatively easy schedule, the overall good health and the fortunate positive turnover margin.
We should have known it wasn’t sustainable. Fitzpatrick never really changed his stripes — when faced with stiffer competition this season, he reverted to his previous form and is tied for the league lead in interceptions thrown with 13.
And what does it say about the Jets’ quarterback situation that Bowles was afraid to bench the ineffective Fitzpatrick and let either of his two younger guns — Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg — start in such meaningless games as Sunday’s? Fitzpatrick wasn’t the proximate cause of this latest Jets’ defeat, but he did fumble away their last chance with 1:51 remaining.
Some will claim that Jets fans should be happy that Fitzpatrick and his teammates took the Super Bowl favorite down to the wire. You know, that it bodes well for the future.
Sorry, but we’ve been there too many times.
If you have a positive takeaway from Sunday’s performance, you’re in deep denial. This team needs a makeover from head to toe before it can compete at the highest levels. They need an infusion of young talent. Obviously, quarterback is a priority, but the rest of the body isn’t in great shape, either.
And I’m beginning to question the minds behind the operation as well.
Bowles hasn’t shown any growth in his sophomore season. Outside of defensive lineman Leonard Williams and wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, what young player has developed into a potential stud under Bowles and his staff? Why does he continue to waste timeouts on defense? When will the defensive coverage breakdowns get fixed? (The Jets were very lucky that hobbled Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was a little off Sunday.)
Maccagnan was hired at a most opportune moment when the team was flush with cash available under the salary cap. He scored with several quick-fix hires then, but money could be tight in this upcoming offseason, possibly forcing Maccagnan to part with some of these luxuries. In addition to Fitzpatrick, we may soon be bidding adieu to such familiar faces as Nick Mangold, Darrelle Revis, Sheldon Richardson and/or Brandon Marshall.
The players may come and go, but Jets fans, despite all logic, will stand by their team through every season’s heartbreak. I can’t explain why.
I use this forum as sort of a couples counseling therapy — I wonder how others manage the pain that comes with Jets fandom.
For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1