ESNY looks back at the promising start to a disastrous decade of New York Jets’ football while reflecting on the 2010 campaign.
The New York Jets look primed to be contenders for a long time at the turn of the decade.
They were led by their new head coach, Rex Ryan, and their young quarterback, Mark Sanchez. They were fresh off an AFC championship game loss in the 2009 season.
That didn’t matter, though. Jets fans had hope for the future with this team. They built around an unbeatable defense and the best running game in football.
They believed, if Mark Sanchez could just take that next step forward, they were going to win it all.
Who could blame them for thinking that way? They had just done the impossible the prior season. They became the first rookie head coach and QB tandem to ever make a championship game. The sky was the limit.
When the 2010 season came along, there was nothing that was going to bring fans down from the clouds.
The Regular Season
The season got underway in the worst way possible. The Baltimore Ravens completely shut down the Jets’ offense. They dropped the game, 10-9.
Sanchez threw for just 74 yards. The running game didn’t look the same and it was an awful start to the year by any metric.
That all changed the next week. The Jets hosted the New York Patriots and crushed them. Their offense came out firing, putting up 28 points, while the defense held Tom Brady and company to just 14.
That started a five-game win streak. Fans were riding high into the bye week. This was finally going to be the year the Jets dethroned the Pats.
Then the offense was shut down again. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers engaged the Jets in the most defensive game that year. The Packers won, 9-0.
The Jets defense held Rodgers and the Packers to just nine points and couldn’t win the game.
Yet, that didn’t deter fans. The defense was too good for them to not win. Once they got to the playoffs, they believed the defense would carry them. All Sanchez had to do was show up when it mattered, which he did in 2009. So, fans felt they had nothing to fear.
The next two weeks proved those fans right. The Jets won both games in overtime. Sanchez led the 5-2 Jets back from a 20-10 deficit against the 2-5 Detroit Lions. Then he led a game-winning TD drive in overtime against the Cleveland Browns with just 16 seconds left on the clock. Though, Santonio Holmes deserves most of the credit for that one.
The Jets wound up winning four in a row after losing to the Packers. They stood atop the AFC at 9-2 after 11 weeks. That’s when things began to crumble.
The Jets got crushed on Monday Night Football by the Patriots. It was a complete embarrassment. The game was so bad that my Mom actually threw a candlestick at her TV.
The Jets just compounded it by losing at home to the Miami Dolphins the next week. That was the fourth time the offense had been held under 10 points that year, and the second time in as many weeks.
Questions about Sanchez began to rise. Fans openly wondered if the team could win in the playoffs with him. They began to wonder if Rex Ryan was the wrong head coach for the team, thinking he was an all defense coach who couldn’t lead this team to the promised land.
When the Jets beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh, though, all was forgiven. They had beaten one of the best teams in the AFC, a real contender. Winning cures all that ails.
The Jets finished the regular season with two unspectacular games. The offense put on a show in a loss to the Chicago Bears in week 16, a game that saw the Jets blow a 21-10 lead.
They rolled the Buffalo Bills in week 17. It was a complete demolition the Jets won by a final of 38-7.
The fans were excited about the Playoffs. The Jets were set to take on the league’s best with arguably the league’s best defense and an offense that put up 30+ points in the last two games.
The playoffs started exactly where they left off the year prior. Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts hosted the Jets.
The Jets offense got off to a slow start in this game. They didn’t score a single point in the first half. The defense kept them in the game, though. It was 7-0 at the half.
Ladainian Tomlinson would not be denied. He led the Jets in the second half with two rushing scores to give the team a 14-10 lead.
It all looked for naught when Adam Vinatieri gave the Colts a 16-14 lead with just 53 seconds left in the game.
The cardiac Jets kept on coming. Sanchez led the offense down the field (after a tremendous Antonio Cromartie kick return sparked the drive) to set up Nick Folk, who hit a game-winning field goal. The Jets expelled their demons.
The next week, they went to New England to face the Patriots. Sanchez did the unthinkable. He outplayed Brady en route to one of the greatest upsets in NFL playoff history.
All those great feelings came crashing down in the AFC Championship game. The Jets fell down 24-0 against the Steelers and that was it. The Jets Super Bowl Hopes were dashed when Sanchez was strip-sacked.
They tried valiantly to come back, but ultimately fell short, losing 24-19.
The New York Jets never recovered from that loss to the Steelers. They finished 8-8 in 2011, and by that time, most fans had turned on Sanchez.
By 2012, the team created more laughable headlines than it did quality football. Mark Sanchez’s butt-fumble made sure of that. The Jets have remained in a tough spot since that moment. It cost Ryan his job after the 2014 season.
Things got better for a year under Todd Bowles. Ryan Fitzpatrick helped turn things around. Even then, things weren’t meant to be. The Jets managed to choke away their playoff hopes in 2015.
Jets fans have had all their hope beaten out of them. The little they have left is reserved for Sam Darnold. Though, Jets fans are starting to wonder about his long-term value as well.
As Jets fans look to the next decade at least they can say, “It can’t be worse than the last one.” For now, the organization’s tremendous 2010 season is remembered fondly as the last great campaign before the fall.