Not even a tremendous 4-1 start by Todd Bowles could have the New York Jets and their fans feeling good after nine games into the season.
By Robby Sabo
A long time ago, in a football galaxy far, far away, the New York Jets were the laughingstock of the NFL.
When I say laughingstock, I don’t mean the “same old Jets” type in which very “Jetsian” things happen from time to time (hello Butt-Fumble). I mean they were truly the worst or the bunch.
With Rich Kotite the head man, how could they not be?
In 1995 they finished 3-13, and in 1996 a special 1-15 mark plagued their fans. The Neil O’Donnell experiment failed miserably and the inexplicable drafting of tight end Kyle Brady in the first round headlined the phenomenally terrible Kotite era.
Then came the news not even the most cockeyed optimist could’ve envisioned: Bill Parcells was coming to town.
Owner Leon Hess finally threw his hands up and asked the Big Tuna to take control and show his hapless organization exactly how to build a winner. It wasn’t easy reeling that type of fish in, but thanks to his falling out with Robert Kraft in New England, Hess was able to provide Parcells with exactly what he wanted: the ability to control all football operations.
After all, Parcells firmly believed “if you’re cooking the dinner, the least they outta do is let you buy some of the groceries.”
What Parcells promptly did in the AFC East was shift the balance of power upon arrival. In 1997 he transformed a 1-15 team into a 9-7 squad who just missed the playoffs. Then, in 1998, he shockingly took them to a powerhouse 12-4. They captured their fist division championship (during the NFL era) and came within 30 minutes of advancing to the Super Bowl.
If it hadn’t been for a Vinny Testaverde achilles injury during the preseason of 1999, Gang Green could’ve done serious damage, for they were one of the favorites heading into the season.
Though his reign only lasted three seasons, stability was introduced to the Jets. Since Parcells took over in 1997, they’ve only suffered through five losing seasons of a possible 18 afterwards.
Still, the franchise hasn’t experienced quite the same overall dominance since the Big Tuna’s 1998 season. Even worse is how each coach’s reign has progressed, or in this case regressed.
Al Groh was the unfortunate soul to take over from Parcells (thanks to Bill Belihick spitting on proper laid plans). He came close to the tournament, but thanks to a season ending loss in Baltimore, finished 9-7.
Herm Edwards was next. In 2001 Herm led Gang Green to their Shrek year – dubbed so famously by the media as they were the “team who won ugly,” just like Shrek. Get it? The Green color of each also goes hand-in-hand. Finishing 10-6 was a pleasant surprise, but losing to the eventual Tuck-Rule bitten Oakland Raiders ended the Jets fate during the Wild Card round.
Herm’s next four seasons were up and down, never winning the division and, while winning two road playoff games with Chad Pennington, could never get over the hump (Doug Brien).
In 2006 Eric Mangini continued the trend of Jets new head coach getting off to a hot start. Taking Herm’s 4-12 squad, he turned the Jets into a surprising 10-6 squad who lost to the Pats in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, just like Edwards, Mangini’s next two seasons were up and down as well (4-12 and a the Brett Favre 9-7 campaign).
Then came the excitement of Rex Ryan, the guy with all the bluster and surprisingly, the results to boot. Not only had Jets fans thought Woody Johnson finally nailed his long term coach – after two consecutive AFC Championship Games – but with youngster Mark Sanchez leading the way, it seemed as though they finally found their franchise quarterback.
Of course it turned out to be another case of too good to be true. Not one of these coaches after Parcells were able to find that consistency and stability needed to last a long time in this league.
It’s not hard to see why Jets fans become giddy when their new leader starts off a season 4-1, as Todd Bowles did this season. They’re in search of their guy. Their guy, not only at the head coach position, but at the quarterback spot. This is why some fans quickly fell in love with Ryan Fitzpatrick as well early this season.
Considering Jets history, and the fact they’ve had the unfortunate position of playing in the same division with Tom Brady since 2001, eagerness from a fan point of view will always remain high.
Now that Bowles’s hot 4-1 start has quickly turned into a disappointing 5-4 mark, fans have taken a step back once again. They now understand stability and the Jets will remain a mirage until further notice.
Not until consistency shows face, can the Jets fan claim stability. Not until a true franchise quarterback and head coach combo do it on a year-to-year basis, can they truly dream up wild notions of dethroning the Patriots.
If the loss to Oakland and the struggling win against Jacksonville wasn’t evidence enough, the disheartening loss to former friend Rex and the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium on Thursday night proved it.
These Jets just aren’t ready for primetime yet. General manager Mike Maccagnan knows this. With a pretty old roster and a gaping hole at the QB spot, he probably already knew this heading into the season.
Now we, the fans, know this as well.
Mission No. 1 will continue to revolve around finding that franchise QB who can make Todd Bowles look sparkling for many years to come. 2015, while they’ll still battle for a spot in the tournament, will be about Bowles’s development as a young NFL head coach.
Not yet Jets fans, not yet.
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