Fellow New York Jets fans, what did you say to your significant other, friend, co-worker or family member Sunday night or Monday morning when they asked, “What happened?”
Was it a dejected 'Same-Old Jets'excuse or an angry diatribe filled with unanswered questions? As if your wife knows why Stevan Ridley played so much while Chris Ivory sat on the bench.
Every football season is a unique story. Each one brings along a fresh set of characters, themes and storylines. Some stories are listless. Some stories are horrifyingly redundant. Some stories are entertaining and feel like something bigger than they ultimately are. Every story in the NFL has a sad ending, except for the one that ends with a Super Bowl trophy.
This Jets story ended with a sharp punch to the gut. The characters were in place and the comeback storyline was ready to be written. Unfortunately, three fourth-quarter turnovers and a no-show third-down defense was too much to overcome. All the familiar faces who made this year such an enjoyable ride couldn’t muster up one last performance, as they appeared to be hit with a nasty case of stage fright. The aggressive, attacking Jets who had pushed all the right buttons the past two months played not to lose.
I don’t cover or follow this team through a #SOJ (Same-Old Jets) mindset. Maybe because I’m 28 and the team has been comparatively competent to most of the league since 1998. Maybe I’m naive. It feels foolish to search for correlations between a Mark Gastineau roughing the passer penalty, a Dan Marino fake spike and Ryan Fitzpatrick melting down in the fourth quarter.
Before each of the Jets' five wins leading into Week 17, there was a sense of terror around the fan base that the Same-Old Jets were going to show up. Of course, the Dolphins would officially bury them in Week 12. Here come the Big Brother Giants to handle it in Week 13. It would be so much like the Jets to lay a clunker against the awful Titans or Cowboys in Week 14 or 15. The Patriots, even banged up, were the perfect team to end it in Week 16.
Midnight struck in Week 17 against Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills.
I don’t doubt that if the Jets had won that game but then went on to lose the following week in Cincinnati, that would have been classified as a #SOJ loss as well. Basically any loss that ended the season would have been classified as such. It is why I find it pointless to watch the team through that lens. Wallowing in perpetual misery isn’t a way to consume a sport … unless you are a Browns fan.
Yes, it was particularly painful to lose to a former coach who has excelled at keeping the Jets organization out of the playoffs for a half decade and counting. Nobody rallies the troops for a meaningless Week 17 game quite like Rex Ryan. He did it again and outclassed the Jets’ new regime, who put a turd on top of a cherry sundae, soiling an impressive debut season for Todd Bowles.
“Nobody rallies the troops for a meaningless Week 17 game quite like Rex Ryan. He did it again and outclassed the Jets’ new regime, who put a turd on top of a cherry sundae, soiling an impressive debut season.”
The entirety of Rex Ryan’s body of work from 2015 (and 2011-2014) shows the Jets made the right decision to move on. Todd Bowles won’t win the majority of this fan base over until he wins a playoff game, but he already has a double-digit win season under his belt. Week 17 turd cherry aside, he made a shrewd decision to hire offensive coordinator Chan Gailey (and the rest of his staff, outside of the special teams coaches...YIKES) and is supported by general manager Mike Maccagnan, a favorite for NFL executive of the year.
The Jets' new GM stole Brandon Marshall for pennies and watched him put up the greatest wide receiver season in franchise history, while developing into the team’s emotional leader. The same type of heist took place for journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who combined forces with Marshall, Gailey and John Idzik holdover Eric Decker to have the season of his life. Maccagnan also gave the Jets' defense a major degree of credibility by bringing Darrelle Revis back and surrounding him with ideal complementary pieces. The early returns on his 2015 draft class are also encouraging.
Next year will be more of a challenge for Maccagnan and Bowles, as the Jets need upgrades at offensive line, linebacker and running back while navigating contract negotiations with Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison. The “honeymoon” period for Bowles was ready to end by Week 9 before he righted the ship. It isn’t easy coaching in New York, but Bowles showed immense potential in his first year and will hopefully improve upon some of his rookie errors.
This organization cleaned up a total mess last offseason, appropriately moving on from just about everybody with a say in football personnel or decisions. The season was hopefully a good first step in building something stable, an increasingly impossible task in today’s NFL. Sunday’s loss will sting for a long, long time. But if there was one small sign of progress it was this: Two years ago this organization was partying for an 8-8 record; now they are despondent over going 10-6.
People will call them the Same-Old Jets until they win another Super Bowl. People will say Sunday’s loss renders a five-game winning streak, which included overtime wins over the Giants and Patriots, meaningless. It is a winning business and criticism will appear whenever that is not occurring. Just remember that this loss especially hurt because a damn good story was abruptly brought to an end.
Joe Caporoso is the editor-in-chief of TurnOnTheJets.com, a website devoted to Jets coverage.
• Do you have a fan story to tell? Email us at email@example.com