By Eddie Mayrose
New York Jets Suddenly Not “Same Old”
This time it was different. The Jets loss to the Colts in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game just didn’t feel as bad as the litany of playoff debacles that have dotted the team’s history. There was no fumble on the opening kickoff or a roughing the passer call with a win virtually sealed. There was neither mud nor A.J. Duhe. The Head Coach was not so frightened as to forget that a quarterback sack stops the clock or paranoid enough to claim that he received a crank phone call from Al Davis. Even the blown lead was different; surrendered not to turnovers, as was the case at Mile High Stadium in ’98, but to a good, old fashioned, butt-kicking at the hands of one of the greatest to ever play his position. What felt so different was that, this time, the other guys were just better.
Peyton Manning took everything the Jets and Rex Ryan could throw at him over most of the first half. He was sacked a few times, hit a few more and even stood up at the goal line. But, once he’d seen the Jets’ entire repertoire and figured it out as only he can, Manning began to methodically pick them apart. That the Jets shut down All-Pro receivers Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark mattered little to the league MVP as he simply turned to Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie in order to send Gang Green home. Each had a touchdown and numerous catches of pinpoint passes with Jet defenders draped all over them. You got the feeling that Indy could pull a couple of athletic looking guys out of the stands and Manning would find a way to get them the ball. Late in the game, CBS posted a graphic that was a testament to Manning’s greatness. In the four playoff games that saw two Colt receivers gain 100 yards, as Garcon and Collie did, Indianapolis was 4-0. Amazingly, Manning had accomplished the feat with eight different receivers. On this day, the better man won.
Difficult as I may find it to be optimistic about the Jets, there is every reason to view this season as a starting point for bigger and better things. In 1986, as the Giants ran over the rest of the league on their way to their first Super Bowl title, many players cited the previous year’s playoff loss to Chicago as the starting point of their championship run. In losing to the best team in the league, they had gained an insight as to how far they had to go to be the best. These Jets may have had the same epiphany. The postseason provided invaluable experience to Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene emerged as a potential star and Darrelle Revis established himself as the best defender in the game. The core of the team is made up of young studs; all with less than five years experience, the Patriots looked old, slow, injured and disinterested on the road and in the playoffs and, through Rex Ryan, they finally have an identity. More importantly, they’ve seen how good the best is and what it will take to beat them. The Jets have a chance to be one of the elite teams in the league for a few years; something that could rarely, if ever, be said about them before. That may be a tough concept for seasoned fans to swallow considering how often they’ve had their hopes dashed in the past. It certainly is for me. However, even the most cynical fan has to agree, these weren’t the “Same Old Jets”.
Brett Favre Throws Another One Away
The most unbelievable thing I’ve heard in a long time came from Brett Favre, just minutes after throwing another Super Bowl trip to the other team. Asked why he didn’t simply run the ball at the end of the NFC Championship tilt in New Orleans and allow the Vikes to set up a field goal, Favre said he didn’t even know how many yards he needed. Twenty years in the league and he didn’t know? C’mon, Brett. That’s a play that gets a rookie chewed out in his first training camp. He didn’t need any yards, actually, as Ryan Longwell would have attempted the game winner even if Favre had taken a knee on the third down play. Instead, he mindlessly threw a floater across the field and sent the Saints to Miami. Worse, with their wounds still fresh, the Minnesota faithful now have to deal with the off season retirement dance that the self-centered Favre has made so famous. Yeah, this one’s going to leave a mark.
Holy Sheets! New York Mets Lose Out On Another Pitcher
While there are many Mets fans ready to picket Omar Minaya’s office at CitiField over the team’s failure to bring in a pitcher this winter, it’s worth noting that the same type of hysteria led to the terrible contract given to Oliver Perez last year. Lack of depth in the starting rotation is certainly the Mets biggest problem but, an acquisition just for acquisition’s sake is not the answer. Once John Lackey signed with Boston, the prudent plan was patience. Joel Pineiro is, most likely, a product of Dave Duncan’s Kool-Aid in St. Louis as he struggled mightily before becoming a Card. Jon Garland is the type of high ERA/low strikeout guy already populating the roster and Ben Sheets is too risky at $10 million, even for just a year. The fact is, Kelvim Escobar, signed early in the off season and returning from elbow surgery, is no more of a risk than any of these guys but with a much bigger upside. Once Escobar was on board, Sheets was too expensive. I’m as pessimistic about the Amazins’ staff as anyone, but can’t see the logic in paying up for guys likely to provide little, if any, improvement over those already in the fold.
“Got a Feeling 21 is Gonna Be A Good Year…”
Happy 21st Birthday to one of my all-time favorite athletes, Danny Mayrose.