3 New York Jets Can they get off the ground again after a tumultuous off-season that cost them brain- and star-power?

August 27, 2000

"We lost a legend, a genius and a star," Al Groh, the Jets' new
coach, said at the opening of training camp. "I don't know if we
have a chance."

He was kidding, but he wasn't smiling. Groh and the Jets are
sick of talking about all the guys who aren't with them this
year. Legendary coach Bill Parcells has moved to the front
office, where he has been making a noise like an oyster. Bill
Belichick, the defensive genius, left to coach the Patriots.
Keyshawn Johnson, the star wideout, was traded to Tampa Bay,
where he's been flogging his old team unmercifully. The Jets
know they have big holes to fill.

"Look," the 56-year-old Groh says, "we tried every way we could
to keep Keyshawn. Paying him what he wanted would have put us
deep in the hole." The Jets made the best of the situation by
getting two first-round picks from Tampa Bay for Johnson--which
gave them four total. They used those picks to grab a bucketful
of young players whom they hope will fill several holes in their
roster.

For now, you have to believe the Jets on this one, because their
front office has shown that it knows how to take care of
business. No one expected the Jets to keep all four of their
first-round picks and then get them signed and into camp on time.
It's a minor miracle, and their cap specialist, Mike Tannenbaum,
gets a lot of credit. But Johnson's exit means that in an era of
big wideouts, the Jets will have 6'3" Vincent Brisby and a
quartet of shrimps: 5'10" Wayne Chrebet, 5'11" rookies Laveranues
Coles and Windrell Hayes and 5'9" Dedric Ward.

"Everyone says I'm a marked man because I'm now the go-to
receiver," Chrebet says. "To me it's just a label. I've caught
331 passes in five years. I know how to catch the ball." In the
opening exhibition game he scored the Jets' first touchdown,
slashing through the Saints' zone for 75 yards like a scythe
through a wheat field.

Vinny Testaverde, who quickly suffered a setback while trying to
come back from a ruptured Achilles tendon that cost him the '99
season, is philosophical about losing Johnson. "I don't know if
we'll be as productive offensively," he says, "but the trade-off
is that the first two guys we drafted [defensive end Shaun Ellis
from Tennessee and linebacker John Abraham from South Carolina]
will give us more defense, which will give us more opportunities
to score."

Two plays in the Ravens' exhibition game showed the tenuousness
of the quarterback situation, when Testaverde went down with a
turf toe and rookie Chad Pennington, who somewhere picked up the
idea that he could run over NFL linebackers, got a whack on his
left knee; the resulting sprain will sideline him until October.
It remains to be seen if Testaverde will be hampered. It's his
left foot, his plant foot, the same side the torn Achilles was
on.

Ready to step back into the picture is Ray Lucas, who won five
games against playoff teams as he quarterbacked the Jets to a
6-3 record last year, a forgotten man when Pennington was
drafted as the heir apparent to Testaverde. "When I read that
stuff, I wondered if I was still on the squad," Lucas says. "I
thought maybe they'd traded me."

"It wasn't me that made those quotes," Groh says. "No one
appreciates Ray's moxie and heart as much as I do."

The loss of Belichick? Well, Groh worked under him on four NFL
staffs. Except for a few wrinkles, the genius's defensive system
will stay in place, and Groh has more weapons than Belichick did
last year.

Finally there's Parcells, who has kept a low profile as director
of football operations, whatever that means. People say that the
Keyshawn trade was his doing, that he dumped his best player out
of frustration, annoyance or a sense of betrayal. Rival coaches
say that they would not want to be in Groh's spot, trying to run
a team under the watchful eye of a legend.

"Thirty-two years ago," Groh says, "I reported as a 24-year-old
second lieutenant to coach the linebackers on the plebe team at
West Point. The first person I met there was Anne Staley, working
in the office. The second person I met was Bill Parcells, the
defensive line coach for the varsity.

"This morning I kissed Anne goodbye--we've been together for 31
years--and reported to this building, where I said good morning to
Bill Parcells. That's a good chunk of my life there. One of the
reasons Bill and I have gotten along is that although we're very
different personalitywise, we believe in the same things
philosophically."

With a young, aggressive line, anchored by Pro Bowl center Kevin
Mawae, and a slashing, relentless back in Curtis Martin, New York
can run the ball. The defense, with or without Belichick, has a
pair of Pro Bowl players--left corner Aaron Glenn and strongside
linebacker Mo Lewis--plus a couple of serious hitters in strong
safety Victor Green and inside backer Marvin Jones.

Keyshawn's happy as a Buccaneer, Belichick's being hailed as a
savior in New England, and Parcells seems to be content playing
desk jockey. The Jets say they're happy everybody's happy. At
least that's how the script reads.

--P.Z.

COLOR PHOTO: MITCHELL LAYTON/NEWSPORT POWER PLAYER Whether Testaverde is ready or not, New York can depend on the strong, slashing running of Martin. COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO

SCHEDULE

Sept. 3 at Green Bay
11 NEW ENGLAND (Mon.)
17 BUFFALO
24 at Tampa Bay

Oct. 1 Open date
8 PITTSBURGH
15 at New England
23 MIAMI (Mon.)
29 at Buffalo

Nov. 5 DENVER
12 at Indianapolis
19 at Miami
26 CHICAGO

Dec. 3 INDIANAPOLIS
10 at Oakland
17 DETROIT
24 at Baltimore

FAST FACTS

1999 Record 8-8 (tied for 4th in AFC East)

NFL rank (rush/pass/total): offense 11/28/25; defense 17/24/21

2000 Schedule strength
NFL rank: 4
Opponents' 1999 winning percentage: .559
Games against playoff teams: 8

PLAYER TO WATCH

Last season Randy Thomas became the first Jets guard to start as
a rookie since Randy Rasmussen in 1967. Tough, good on the move
and a punishing drive blocker, Thomas was a big reason that
Curtis Martin set a club rushing record of 1,464 yards. "This
year," coach Al Groh says, "Randy has a chance to separate
himself from the offensive linemen in the league." "The two
linemen in the league I admire most," says the 6'4", 295-pound
Thomas, "are Larry Allen, for his explosion off the ball, and
Bruce Matthews, for his technical skill. Matthews is just so
smooth, he makes it look so easy. Someday I'd like to hear
people say that about me."

PROJECTED LINEUP WITH 1999 STATISTICS

Coach: Al Groh
First season with Jets (0-0 in NFL)

Offensive Backs PVR*

QB Vinny Testaverde 56 15 att. 10 comp. 66.7% 96 yds.
1 TD 1 int. 78.8 rtg.

RB Curtis Martin 11 367 att. 1,464 yds. 4.0 avg. 45 rec.
259 yds. 5.8 avg. 5 TDs

RB Bernie Parmalee 285 27 att. 133 yds. 4.9 avg. 15 rec.
113 yds. 7.5 avg. 0 TDs

RB Richie Anderson 192 16 att. 84 yds. 5.2 avg. 29 rec.
302 yds. 10.4 avg. 3 TDs

Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen

[PVR*]

WR Wayne Chrebet 68 48 rec. 631 yds. 3 TDs
WR Dedric Ward 131 22 rec. 325 yds. 3 TDs
WR Vincent Brisby[1] 186 18 rec. 266 yds. 0 TDs
TE Anthony Becht (R)[1] 194 35 rec. 510 yds. 5 TDs
K John Hall 229 27/29 XPs 27/33 FGs 108 pts.
PR Dedric Ward 131 38 ret. 7.6 avg. 0 TDs
KR Laveranues Coles (R)[1] 259 0 ret. no avg. 0 TDs

LT Jason Fabini 6'7" 312 lbs. 9 games 9 starts
LG Kerry Jenkins 6'5" 305 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
C Kevin Mawae 6'4" 305 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RG Randy Thomas 6'4" 295 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RT Ryan Young 6'5" 320 lbs. 15 games 7 starts

Defense

LE Shaun Ellis (R)[1]42 tackles 8 1/2 sacks
NT Jason Ferguson 31 tackles 1 sack
RE Rick Lyle 45 tackles 1 sack
OLB Mo Lewis 87 tackles 5 sacks
ILB Bryan Cox 43 tackles 1 int.
ILB Marvin Jones 91 tackles 1 sack
OLB Roman Phifer 48 tackles 4 int.
CB Aaron Glenn 51 tackles 3 int.
SS Victor Green 124 tackles 5 int.
FS Omar Stoutmire 31 tackles 2 int.
CB Marcus Coleman 69 tackles 6 int.
P Tom Tupa 81 punts 45.2 avg.

[1] New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college
year) *PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 139)

THE BOOK an opposing team's scout sizes up the Jets

I see a lot of question marks here. Keyshawn Johnson was a pain
in the butt but a great player. I love Wayne Chrebet as a
separation receiver, but how will he do in double coverage? I
kind of like Dedric Ward, but he's young. I don't know if he's
an every-down player.... Watch Vinny Testaverde closely to see
if he's the same player he was two years ago. If he starts
tiring late in games, he'll see nothing but blitzes.... Bill
Parcells won't mess with Al Groh early in the season, but if the
Jets struggle, he'll make his presence felt, and that will
create problems.... The two rookie offensive linemen they
plugged in last year, Randy Thomas and Ryan Young, were unknown.
Now everyone has a book on them, and they're going to get a lot
thrown at them.... My two favorite players on this defense are
Marvin Jones and Victor Green. Both of them will knock the hell
out of you.... Nobody's talked about this, but the player
they'll really miss is Leon Johnson as a returner. He blew out a
knee. Now there was a guy who really had talent. I don't think
they'll be able to replace him.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)