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    December 29, 2004 -- THE JETS like to remind us of the small progresses they make, the way the culture in Hempstead is so much better than it used to be. They seem proud as hell to win 10 games. They seem delighted at the prospect of making the playoffs for a third time in four years.
    Bully for the Jets!

    They aren't a football snuff film any more!

    Can that possibly be enough? Can that possibly be the length and breadth of this team's ambitions, especially in a season like this one, founded in such promise, grounded in such early prosperity? Is that really all the Jets believe we should judge them on? That it's been a while since they inspired their fans to wear paper bags on their heads?

    They really need to be more than this. They need to expect more of themselves than this, to demand more of themselves than this. They need to be held accountable for more than this, especially now. The next few weeks loom as an ominous crossroads for who they are and what they want to be.

    Forget the playoffs. They'd better make the playoffs. They'd better get after the Rams early and hit them in the mouth and jump out to the kind of lead that will inoculate them to the kind of weirdness Jets teams are so susceptible to. The Rams are a lousy team that let the Eagles' JV hang around almost to the final gun Monday night.

    It isn't about making the playoffs, not with this Jets team, not in this season. In a now league, the Jets constantly inspire thoughts about the future, about next week, next season, the next five years. They constantly are a work in progress.

    The fact is, there is no guarantee the Jets ever will be better than they are right now. There is no certainty they ever are going to have the confluence of strengths Hall of Fame running back, occasionally brilliant quarterback, above-average line, solid if unspectacular defense any time in the near future.

    The NFL is a fluid league, players coming, players going. There is no such thing as a five-year plan anymore, or even a three-year plan. You get a shot to compete for something special, you'd better take your shot. You'd better not leave any tricks in your back pocket.

    The biggest lie the Jets can sell you right now is that this season is a building block for something better down the road. No way. They are a now team. They have enough talent to compete with the AFC elite in a way that belies what they've done when they've actually played those teams this year. That talent won't be around forever.

    Curtis Martin isn't getting younger. Neither is Kevin Mawae. Lamont Jordan probably will be somewhere else next year. John Abraham might, too. Soon enough, the usual machinations of the NFL square dance will sparkle, and the roster will spin around, and who knows if the same elements will be in place the way they are now?

    This shouldn't be about survival for the Jets. They were 5-0 at one point this season. They looked every bit the Patriots' equal for long stretches of that first game, in Foxboro. They were tied with the Steelers after three quarters. A bounce here, a bounce there, and you legitimately could be talking about a 13-2 team still fighting for an AFC East title.

    But it was two weeks ago when Herm Edwards slipped in the point that "this team has won 10 games, and they've only done that around here about four times [actually eight]." It was a few days ago when a whole lot of Jets still talked about bravely fighting their way into the playoffs, failing to mention that the playoffs sure seemed like a foregone conclusion not so long ago.

    The bar has to be higher than that. The Jets have to be better than that. There's no telling when they'll have the same kind of opportunity again. Maybe next year, maybe not until next decade.

    Better to take your hacks when you still have a bat in your hands.

Related Topics


  • DJRamFan
    [Jets] Paul could go
    by DJRamFan
    Hackett in firing line if Jets flop
    Jets Insider


    If Paul Hackett (l.) can't get offense in gear for Herman Edwards, Jets fans may get their wish and be rid of embattled coordinator.

    When the Jets' season is over, whether it ends Sunday in St. Louis or somewhere in the playoffs, Herman Edwards will sit down with the brain trust and tackle the one big question that should (and will) occupy their thoughts from January to July:
    What can we do to close the gap with the Patriots?

    Answer: Improve the offense. Duh.

    Their solution: If they don't make the playoffs, hard to fathom for a team that started 5-0, Edwards almost certainly will ask Paul Hackett to hand over his playbook. If the Jets qualify, then lay an egg in the first round, it could be the same outcome.

    Put your ear to the walls at Weeb Ewbank Hall, and you can hear the rumblings. The embattled offensive coordinator is starting to look like the fall guy - if, indeed, they need a fall guy. Publicly, Edwards has remained supportive of Hackett, but the Jets' coach is troubled by the lack of point production.

    Asked Monday if there's a common denominator in their five losses, Edwards listed their point totals in those games: 7, 17, 17, 6 and 7. He rattled them off as if they're ingrained in his brain. They are. "Obviously, we didn't light up the scoreboard against those teams," said Edwards, who almost fired Hackett a year ago.

    Those teams - the Patriots (twice), Ravens, Bills and Steelers - happen to be ranked among the top seven in scoring defense, so it's not like the Jets are failing against a bunch of 98-pound weaklings.

    So how do they fix it? Because nine of the starters are locked into long-term, big-money contracts, the Jets won't have much flexibility in terms of improving personnel. If anything, the talent level could slip, with RT Kareem McKenzie and backup RB LaMont Jordan headed toward free agency. So the question becomes, if you can't change the players, how do you get better? Usually, the team changes the coach.

    A year ago, Edwards got rid of players and coaches on defense, hiring Donnie Henderson to rebuild the unit. How did it work out? Like they say in the beer commercial, "Brilliant!" Henderson's success, no doubt, will factor into Edwards' decision on Hackett.

    Hackett is signed through 2005, meaning his contract will have to be addressed in the offseason. No one wants a lame-duck coordinator. So it will be re-up or cut bait. You could make a decent case in support of Hackett. He has gone the last seven games with Quincy Carter and a banged-up Chad Pennington at quarterback. He doesn't have a threat at tight end. As for those conservative game plans, which seem to emerge every time they play...
    -12-29-2004, 04:00 PM
  • DJRamFan
    [Jets] Jets Need a Win to Assure Playoff Spot
    by DJRamFan
    AP Sports Writer

    HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -- The New York Jets started 5-0, something no other team in franchise history has done.

    And still, they may not make the playoffs. The Jets must win at St. Louis on Sunday to assure themselves of a wild-card berth in the AFC. If they lose, they need help to make it in the postseason.

    The Jets (10-5) have failed to clinch thanks to poor performances in big games, including a 23-7 loss to New England in which they could not muster much of anything. Now they find themselves in a familiar spot.

    In 2001 and 2002, when the Jets made the playoffs under coach Herman Edwards, they needed victories in their regular-season finales to advance to the postseason.

    "It seems like our team likes these situations," Chad Pennington said. "We like drama. We have definitely created a bunch of it."

    The Jets had a chance to clinch a spot with a victory over New England, but the game spun out of control quickly. After controlling the ball for most of the first quarter, the Jets had no points to show for it. But the Patriots did not make the same mistakes.

    New England led 13-0 at halftime, and the Jets were all but out of it. They had to rely on the pass in the second half, which led to a season-low in yards rushing with 46. They also tied for second-lowest total plays with 57, and had a paltry 279 yards of total offense.

    To avoid the embarrassment of failing to reach the postseason after such a strong start, all the Jets need to do is win. But if they lose, there might be trouble. They can still make it with a loss, coupled with a loss by either Buffalo or Denver.

    But if Buffalo beats Pittsburgh, Denver beats Indianapolis and the Jets lose, New York would miss the playoffs because the Bills hold the edge over their division rival based on common opponents.

    "We have the upper hand. All we have to do is win a game," Edwards said. "That should be your mind-set. I'm not going to rant and rave and do a pep rally and do a cheerleading drill. These guys are professionals. They know where they are at in this season."

    Some of them also know how it is to go into the final game of the season needing a victory. In 2001, the Jets needed to win at Oakland, a place that caused them problems.

    And they did. John Hall kicked a 52-yard field goal and the Jets made it to the first round, where they promptly lost to the Raiders. In 2002, the Jets overcame a 1-4 start and needed some help plus a win over Green Bay in the final to make the postseason.

    The help worked out. New England beat Miami, and the Jets trounced Green Bay 41-0 to give them the AFC East.

    "If you look at the last couple of times we've gotten to the playoffs, it's always down...
    -01-01-2005, 04:13 PM
  • DJRamFan
    [Jets] Edwards knows it's one or Gang's done
    by DJRamFan
    Herm Edwards certainly isn't coaching for his job on Sunday, or for a championship. But this will be his early signature game at St. Louis, the sort of contest that will define his first four seasons here in New York.

    It's simple, really, and Edwards keeps saying so. The Jets win against a flawed defensive unit and they will be 11-5, a playoff team for the third time in four years. Maybe they aren't an elite club yet or haven't set the world on fire since November. Maybe their quarterback is still searching for the old magic, nursing a sore arm and fiddling clumsily with his public posture.

    But the franchise has never before been to the postseason three of four times, and if Edwards pulls this off then the reservoir of good will spills over the banks. Everybody likes Edwards: His owner, who gave him a two-year extension last year through 2007. His players. The fans. The media.

    He is the anti-Coughlin in this way. Everybody is lined up, always hoping he succeeds. But Edwards needs to add some consistent winning to the resume, or he will never be Bill Parcells or Joe Torre around here. The Jets must show they can go out and win an important game, again, the way they did at the end of the 2001 and 2002 seasons.

    Again, this is no great trade secret. Edwards met with the team yesterday, showed them a few ugly highlights from Sunday's game, and then told them they've run out of time and excuses. They can't hope that Denver or Buffalo loses this weekend, against opponents who don't care. Even if it turns out that way, the Jets shouldn't sneak into the playoffs through the side door.

    "We don't need charity," Edwards insisted yesterday. "You want to win going into the playoffs."

    That was about it, though, with the speeches. Edwards said he wasn't going to "rant and rave." No pep rally. He wouldn't dwell on the disheartening, systemic failure against New England. He applied football's famous 24-hour rule, the law that says anything more than a day old doesn't mean a thing.

    The NFL is about immediate gratification. Edwards knows what this next Sunday is about. If the Jets lose in the dome, if they don't even make the playoffs, then this season officially will have become a mess.

    The Jets can talk all they want about the 10 victories, about double digits, about being in a tough conference and in a division with the Patriots. If they lose this game on Sunday, they will have thrown away a 5-0 start that was built on fragile victories of eight points or less. They surely will fire their offensive coordinator, Paul Hackett, who may be a goner anyway.

    Hackett's offense is supposed to be terribly predictable against some teams, the good ones. Funny thing about that: Most offensive coordinators have problems with these very same defenses.

    But there are problems, that's clear. There have...
    -12-28-2004, 10:58 AM
  • DJRamFan
    [Jets] Edwards Relishes Jets' Must-Win Situation
    by DJRamFan
    AP Sports Writer

    HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -- The New York Jets could have wrapped up a playoff berth last week with a victory.

    Ah, but these are the Jets, who seem to enjoy doing things the hard way. Now they face their toughest game of the season: They must win at St. Louis, in front of a hostile crowd, against another team playing for a postseason berth.

    A daunting task, indeed. Unless you ask coach Herman Edwards.

    "It's good for you," Edwards said Wednesday. "The harder, the better. Come on. The bigger the bully, the better. Come on. Because life is about a fight. You can't go run in your house and close the door. You're not in your neighborhood, so you'd better go fight. If we do that, we'll be OK."

    There was not much fight in the Jets (10-5) last week in a 23-7 loss to New England. They returned to practice eager to make up for all the mistakes they made against the Patriots - and knowing a victory is the only thing that matters.

    Whether or not this is a good situation come Sunday remains to be seen.

    "I don't know why but we always play our best when our backs are completely against the wall," veteran receiver Wayne Chrebet said. "We could have had it locked up and go looking forward to the playoffs this week instead of sweating it out, but ... I think we'll see a different team out there last week."

    It better be. But that will not be easy.

    The Rams have won 13 straight regular-season home games in December and January dating to 1998. The Rams last lost late in the season at home on Dec. 14, 1997, when they fell 13-10 to Chicago.

    St. Louis (7-8) also is alive for a shot at the NFC West title or an NFC wild card with a victory, thanks to a 20-7 victory over Philadelphia on Monday night.

    "It's great," Edwards said. "It will be loud; it's a playoff atmosphere. It's everything you can ask for as a coach and as a player. I love it, that's why you do this. You want these moments for your football team."

    He has gone through these moments before, in 2001 and 2002, when the Jets needed to win their final game for a playoff berth. They did just that both times, beating Oakland on the road in '01 and Green Bay at home in '02.

    Perhaps that is why Edwards and his team are not panicking.

    "Maybe we are a drama-filled team," running back LaMont Jordan said. "Maybe we like those exciting finishes. I am quite sure it gives some fans some heart attacks, and I am pretty sure there have been a couple of TVs in New York City thrown out some windows. But everything that has happened from Week 1 to Week 16 would be forgotten if we make the playoffs."

    That means...
    -01-01-2005, 04:11 PM
  • DJRamFan
    by DJRamFan
    December 30, 2004 -- YOU would think the shocking events of last autumn might alter the viewpoint Jets fans bring into these final hours of football's regular season. You would think watching the Red Sox celebrate on hallowed Yankee Stadium grounds would make Jets fans understand a few simple truths about sports:
    1) Anything really is possible.

    2) Championship droughts don't have to be life sentences.

    3) The mystical forces that try to figure things out for the universe really don't have time to sit around and figure out how to best torture those select sports franchises - be they Red Sox, Clippers, Cubs or Jets - who some believe wander about the world with poxes placed on their homes.

    You would think.

    "I've seen this script way too many times before," a Jets fan from Huntington named Kevin Slattery was telling me the other day, inside a sporting goods store at Roosevelt Field mall, a squib kick down the Meadowbrook from Weeb Ewbank Hall. "The Jets specialize in this kind of [stuff], right? They get you believing, believing, believing, then . . . "

    He slammed his workboot onto the ground and began twisting, as if snuffing a cigarette. Only in this case, instead of a butt of a Pall Mall, he was crushing his own imaginary football soul (thrown on the ground, no doubt, by Paul Hackett).

    "I'm tired of this [stuff], dude," Slattery said. "I've had it."

    It really is one of the fascinating recurring stories in all of New York, these self-loathing, self-fulfilling prophesies espoused by Jets fans whenever their team provides even the slightest glimmer of hope. Yankees fans have their haughtiness, Knicks fans their cosmopolitan wistfulness, Mets fans their feisty complexes, Rangers fans their affinity for bartenders who believe in buybacks.

    Jets fans believe in the Worst Case Scenario.

    "Think about it," said Angelo Vardi, sitting with his Chad Pennington jersey in the stands at the Garden the other night, trying to enjoy a Holiday Festival basketball game but fretting endlessly about his football team. "These are our options: Get some help from the Colts [against the Broncos], who have nothing to play for. Or get some help from the Steelers [against the Bills], who have nothing left to play for."

    I gently remind Angelo that the Jets can make the playoffs simply by beating the Rams in St. Louis on Sunday, that they don't need help from anyone else. He looks at me as if I am speaking Sanskrit.

    "Sure," he said. "Maybe if the Rams had nothing to play for. But they got to play the Eagles last week, and of course they had nothing to play for, either. It wears you out, being a Jets fan."

    It really is an amazing truth about life with the Jets. For years, players have talked...
    -12-30-2004, 02:12 PM