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Wednesday
Nov212012

Thanks, Jets. No, Really.  Thanks.

How does a blog devoted to Italian Culinary goodness, gracefully transition towards a well thought out rant concerning the disgraceful organization that is the New York Football Jets? A couple of ways I can think of: (1) The Jets play on our most food centric holiday - Thanksgiving - so a rant is relevant. (2) The Jets have a large Italian-American fan base.  Boom.  Connection forged. 

First: a brief introduction on my history with the Jets.  I am 31 years old.  I am, for better or worse, a life long Jets fan.  This embarrassingly intense connection was forged by my dad who, like many from his generation, was lured to the Jets by one of the coolest athletes of all time, Joe Willie Namath. Dad then imposed his football views on his obedient young son.   I'm also a Knick and Yankee Fan, but, with age and a man's always evolving need to re-prioritize his interests in life, I've lessened these loyalties for one reason or another. Nonetheless, the Jets - despite our tumultuous and largely unreciprocated relationship - have retained sole possession of first place in my heart's sports franchise pecking order.   I suppose I love torturing myself, what can I say?

As many of us gather around the Thanksgiving table to eat some bird, crush apple pie and, yes, watch football, I wanted to recap the top 10 things about the Jets that have caused the most amount of heartbreak for me over the years; i.e., things I'm NOT thankful for:

#10 "The Spike Game"

Almost two decades ago Dan Marino's fake spike against unsuspecting rookie cornerback Aaron Glen is still a stinging reminder that the Jets can, and will, often break your heart by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  Jets fans know the rest of the story here: The Dolphins won, a promising start to the 1994 season then spiraled out of control, and Pete Carroll was fired as head coach. Make way for Rich Kotite!

#9 New York Jets Draft Picks

This video pretty much sums up how putrid the Jets' scouting and drafting has been throughout the years.  I wonder when the extended version will come out, with Vernon Gholston and Dewayne Robertson? 

#8 The 2012 New York Jets

Originally, this was in my top 5, but the recent win against St. Louis has resuscitated my hopes for meaningful December games which, at this point, is all I can ask for - as pathetic as that sounds.  But let me take a minute to justify the '12 Jets' appearance on this list:  This seems to be, by far, the most clueless, passionless, disorganized, and talentless group of players/ coaches assembled during the Rex Ryan era.  The most disturbing trends of the season: (1) my quarterback/coach/gm seem to be regressing and (2) the owner would rather create buzz (Tim Tebow) than win games and, from a die hard fan's perspective, such a posture is about as crappy as it gets.

#7 The Rich Kotite Era

His mere name conjures up images of oafish incompetence.  Two Years, four wins, twenty eight (28) losses.  Watching Jets games during this period of time was comical.  When you're rooting for your squad to lose, simultaneously marveling in their unacceptable levels of performance, it's definitely not good.  Nonetheless, the Kotite years did bring about two positives: the discovery of Wayne Chrebet (an all time great Jet) and the (needed) arrival of Bill Parcels.  Say what you will about the Big Tuna, but the effects of his turnaround are still being felt today.  Barely.

#6 2002 Divisional Playoff Loss to the Raiders -

This loss will always be a particularly painful one for me.  When Chad Pennington took over for Vinny Testeverde in week 5 of the 2002 season, I remember being conflicted at the time.  Vinny was, and is, my favorite Jet of all time, but there was no question that as the season played out, Chad was the better player.  When Chad was healthy (which wasn't for long) I remember having an odd, unfamilar sense of optimism watching Gang Green.  Chad was calm, cool and rarely made mistakes.  He was accurate, smart, and played with an intensity that I will always respect and admire.  After the season finale against the Packers and the 41-0 drubbing (41-0!!!) of the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, I admit to committing the cardinal sin for any Jet fan: thinking positive. 

#5 Joe Namath, Drunk and on TV

Granted, I may not have been as embarrassed by this as some older Jets fans, but watching Broadway Joe - essentially the face of the franchise - proclaim that he "couldn't care less about the team struggle-ing" and then try to make out with Suzie Kolber was undoubtedly one of those "oh, christ" live television moments that left you shaking your head, and feeling sorry for everyone involved.

#4 Brett Favre and the 2008 Jets 

Alright, so the above video is not directly on point, but I'm still to this day amazed at the legacy of Eric Mangini, who can thank Brett Favre for at least a portion of his rapid fall from grace.  Prior to his Big Apple arrival, Brett Favre's media reputation was stronger than oak and slicker than Teflon.  For years, commentators and columnists ignored his reckless, gun slinging, me-first attitude and instead drooled over his apparent "aw-shucks" country boy persona who only cared about football, jeans and tractor rides.  When the Packers decided to finally divorce themselves from Favre's constant back and forth offseason diva routine, the Jets - always happy to generate some buzz (see Tim Tebow) - were happy to bring Favre in.  And just like that, Favre's simple, country boy disguise was exposed.  After starting out hot at 8-3, with back to back to victories against the Pats and the previously undefeated Titans, the Jets imploded the rest of the way going 9-7 and  "Mangenius" was fired.  To make it even more mortifying, it was subsequently all but confirmed that Brett was texting pics of his Anthony Weiner to female employees throughout this collapse.  Classy stuff right there.

#3 Vinny's Achilles

Entering the 1999 season, the Jets were one of the favorites to make a serious run for the Lombardi (ahem, another great Italian) Trophy.  However, in the first game of the year and before your fanny even hit your couch cushion (to borrow a term from beloved WFAN radio host Joe Benigno, another great Italian) Vinny ruptured his Achilles tendon and, essentially, the Jet's Super Bowl hopes as well.  This also set the stage for Bill Parcells leaving the organization, and then D-Coordinator Bill Belichik being hired for about five minutes before subsequently resigning, and then leaving to coach the New England Patriots.  What a mistake that turned out to be for him!

#2 The 2004-2005 Divisional Playoff Game vs. The Steelers

Also known simply as the "Doug Brien Game" amongst me and my friends.  In truth, I don't ENTIRELY blame Brien for missing consecutive field goals of 47 and 43 yards.  If I recall correctly, at that time no kicker had made a field goal in Heinz field over 42 yards.  Also, the playcalling down the stretch was absurdly conservative.  It was also later discovered that Chad Pennington was essentially playing that game with a throwing shoulder that was probably more suited for organ donation, much less a playoff football game.  But the game, and its back and forth nature, was still nonetheless extremely heartbreaking.  I found this youtube clip of these kids (which brings back memories of my own reaction) reacting to Brien's final missed field goal which would have sent the Jets to the AFC championship game.  But, as we all know, that never happened and the Jets went on to lose the game in OT.  Just an Excruciating Turd of Suckiness.  (See what I just did there?)

#1 The 1998-1999 AFC Championship game vs. The Broncos

To me, this is the game that I will also look back on with the most regret.  Why? Because the Jets were better than the Broncos.  Yes, I said it: better.  I don't care what the final score was.  They should have won that game.  In the first half, Vinny's spirals were piercing the mile high winds like a speeding bullet and the Jets were pushing the Broncos around.  But uncharacteristic fumbles by otherwise reliable "Parcells Type Players" like Curtis Martin and Keith Byars - both in Denver Broncos territory - left the window of opportunity open for the Broncos and they were able to steal the momentum.  I've heard Parcells give recent interviews in which he cites that game as the one game he'd like to have back in his coaching career.

(Honorable Mention - Mo Lewis' 2001 hit on Drew Bledsoe, Back to Back AFC Championship Losses in 2009-10 and 2010-11, Chad Pennington's various injuries ,Victor Cruz's 99 yard TD against the Jets on xmas eve, '86 OT Playoff Loss to Browns*)

Alright.  Now, on to tomorrow night.  Notwithstanding the foregoing, you can bet your sweet potatoed ass that I'm going to be pacing, screaming, cheering and, most likely, crying during tomorrow's game against the rival Pats.  HOWEVER - I have an oddly positive feeling about this game, and can see the Jets squeezing out an extremely stressful and heart attack inducing victory.  Final score - Jets 24, Pats 21.  Jets win on a late Nick Folk field goal that may or may not hit the upright before going in, capping an impressive 4th quarter Mark Sanchez-led drive that permanently cements him as our Sanchize quarterback.  You heard it here first.

*I was a bit too young to comprehend the apparent heartbreak associated with the loss to the Browns. But it sounds terrible. 

 

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