Brett Favre. LaDainian Tomlinson. Braylon Edwards. Tim Tebow.
What do they all have in common? All have been successful NFL players at a time – the latters (Tebow, Edwards) productive, the formers legendary. Yet all experienced mixed (at best) results during their time with the Jets. Why?
That leads us to the most important common bond between them: their colossal celebrity. These high-profile stars, among others, are the poster boys in Jets’ owner Woody Johnson’s insultingly transparent scheme to capture headlines first and wins second.
But there are more actors in the Jets dramedy than just the aforementioned seat fillers and press thieves. There is their boisterous and literally larger than life head coach Rex Ryan, who can be counted on for cheap controversy every so often, but has managed to stick his own foot in his mouth more than his wife’s (remember this?). There is the pretty boy quarterback straight out of Hollywood, Mark Sanchez – the lead in Johnson’s masterpiece – whose initial debatable success has been forgotten amidst his impending exile.
Remaining believers in the franchise, a dwindling collection of delusional diehards, might argue that the Jets reached consecutive AFC Championship games in 2009 and 2010. My first response is they didn’t win the Super Bowl (and would’ve missed the playoffs in 2009 if not for Bill Polian & Jim Caldwell’s tragic decision to essentially forfeit).
My second response is this model of success is the equivalent of taking the easy way out; a paltry shortcut that epitomizes short-term thinking at its finest. Instead of building a sturdy foundation for lasting achievement, the Jets invested in washed-up or overhyped talent that sacrificed the future for two years of moderate opulence.
Now, despite a win in Week 1 thanks to Bucs linebacker Lavonte David’s arcane stupidity, the Jets enter the 2013 season as the clear favorite to occupy the ground floor residence of the AFC East. Their chances of making the playoffs are that of Mel Gibson enrolling in rabbinical school. Save Jacksonville, nobody can make a convincing argument that any team in the entire league is decidedly worse than the Jets.
After the departure of Darrelle Revis, even an optimist would tell you the team is left with zero stars and perhaps four or five good players, none of whom will help the team score – a crippling weakness in today’s shoot ‘em up league. Throw in a red-faced coach on the hot seat, who finally found a way to stir controversy in the offseason without even opening his mouth. He surmised it wise to put his presumed starting quarterback into the fourth quarter of a preseason game, which resulted in what appears to be a season-ending injury. He then decided attending the team’s final cuts after training camp was optional.
Throw in a rookie quarterback, no running game to speak of, and a pass rush that’s belonged on the back of a milk carton since John Abraham bolted to Atlanta in 2006. Finally, throw in the same owner whose vision and leadership has led the Jets to this familiar land of almost certain failure. Stir up these toxic ingredients and you get a potion more pernicious than anything Walter White could brew up.
The downfall of the Jets in such a short timespan has been as ironic as it’s been predictable. The limelight that Woody Johnson so desperately craves has indeed been shining, because car accidents are what the limelight is reserved for. But as both the fans’ and media’s tolerance for dramatic ineptitude diminishes, so does the light that exposes what the Jets are truly after.
As in all show business, the performer must fear apathy from its audience above all else. Then, at long last, the limelight is unplugged, and the stage is dark.