Before the 2011 Jets ride off into the sunset, with their oversized hero Coach Ryan vaulted high on their shoulder — the same coach who will ironically claim to carry the team’s future on his own shoulders —allow me to speak for all of the wounded he has left on the field.
Men who carved out of their family time 3-4 hours per week to forget the chores, bills, or back pains, in order to unlock a barbaric yawp both figuratively and literarily. Aging hands raised toward drop ceilings all over America. Frankly, this season was war, and damn it, we were ready.
Laying low for years, we fans remained strong. We re-emerged with Rex Ryan’s easy Super Bowl prediction. We had new televisions. We convinced our wives to work a little green into the interior design. And our kids of 4, 6 or 9 were given mini jerseys like Bart Scott’s #57 or Darelle Revis’ #24 to wear on their backs.
Our GangGreen was about to steamroll the AFC, including the sissies in New England, to show the Steelers and Ravens what “mean” was all about. And those fans who paid their dues for 2-3 seasons — if not 20 — had their backs. After all these were Ryan’s Boys, the heir to Buddy Ryan, some of the fiercest defenses the NFL have ever seen.
Heck, the wide-eyed, braggadocious coach and former HBO star was predicting it. Yes, all the way! No doubt! It was inevitable, like Joe Willie’s ghost still pointing in the air, circa 1969. And there it was, our promised land, redemption for a fragmented mosaic of playoff losses with Joe Klecko, Curtis Martin, and Wesley Walker, now about to coalesce into the dream.
However, in reality, we sat in our small spaces, hoping and praying, and received not a dream or a team of great men — defensive maulers controlling their destiny — those who could slam into high gear in the clutch, and wreak havoc, or snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but a bunch of “toss-me-in-the-air” cheerleaders.
But when it came to fist pumping, or inflated rhetoric, we not only took the cake, we owned the damn bakery! After all, Mark Sanchez patted everyone before every game. Santonio “spin the ball in the end zone” Holmes was our Captain. Geez, even Ryan himself agreed to ass bump in celebration on national television — exciting stuff!
And after each costly loss, caused by a lack of intestinal fortitude, intellectual acuity, or even common sense, everyone was nice enough to own his “shared” responsibility. Respect that could not be earned on the field was sought in press conferences. Frankly, fans would have preferred they earn their respect in the dirt, not sharing it with others.
About mid season, Shonn Greene’s incessant 2-yard gains, Sanchez’ interceptions, no offensive protection, and the week-to-week cheerleading was a bit insulting. We could accept the blunders of a still-growing quarterback, the bad calls from the offensive sideline, and even the close games lost in the 4th quarter, but what we could not stand was the lack of character.
What we needed was some good old, male gumption. I’m sorry, ladies, we were a pint low on testosterone. Pitiful post-game interviews and a whole lot of chatter did not disguise our lost cojones. In fact, we were crushed by the manly teams and thumped by the talented ones. We buoyed our fragile egos by narrowly escaping losses from the lower half of the league.
We wanted our great Rex and his army to refuse to go down, to die — “with their shields or on them.” The stuff great legends — or at least great teams — are made of, but I digress. This Jets team was manhandled week after week, run on, and passed on. With the exception of perhaps Revis, Nick Mangold, Jim Leonhard, and some other notables, we were — dare I say — “soft.”
There was no pass rush — not even an occasional hard push. Ryan’s notorious blitzing became perilous gambles for the long gains, which did not stop their addicted coaching staff. No adjustments made, no personnel changes, no ability to shut down offenses, and — thanks to the fear of uncovering the sacred cow — Sanchez was left to spot opponents an early lead time and again.
On some semi-conscious level the Jets behaved like the kid who knows he is going to lose a game and builds in a handicap in order to have an excuse when it happens. Or a bully who gives his opponent a lead to intimidate through a show of superior confidence, but when the end comes he cannot recover. The Jets had no bullies, only apologies.
We did have our celebration dances, our after-game mantras, the early season predictions, but not enough to get us past Denver, the Eagles, and Giants — all games that would have put us in the playoffs. And as for the Jets standing in their own division, Brady and the Pats toyed with the Green’s defense, like a cat’s plaything — saliva and all.
Our great wild cat was clearly a de-clawed pussy, sorry.
During the final Miami 19-17 loss, fans were utterly shocked when after his first passing score Sanchez ran into end zone to jump slam Justin Keller. The Jets were behind. They were on a 3 game losing streak that had blown consecutive chances to clinch the playoffs, not in small part because of the QB’s lack of mental toughness and precision late in games.
Yet, for Sanchez and Keller — wow — we were all smiles again, for this one moment, lost in sea of self-delusion, we cheered. The background blurred. Teammates watched. We showed we were capable of an early score. But was this the consolation for a team on the brink of an 8-8 season that began with the big cheese predicting a Super Bowl?!
With all due respect, Mr. Ryan, we are all committed to Sanchez’ development — 3 years and counting, but this is not college. There are no horns blowing — no sis boom bah! No pep rallies. This is a man’s game. You celebrate when you win and when you don’t you shut up and go home.
Well, we’re going home. Hooray.