August 11, 2015; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive Muhammad Wilkerson during practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports
After months of chatter and speculation and hyperbole — are you ready for some football? The New York Jets have had plenty of nonsense to deal with this off season, and the new regime handled things remarkably well. It really does finally feel like adults are running the show. General manager Mike Maccagnan has handled things well in balancing the bottom of the roster with young talent who most likely won’t get activated at game time.
A new regime usually signifies a building process, but the team’s high-priced veteran defense is built to win now. Yet despite all the upsides, their quarterback situation has become a looming problem. The aging and ever-injured Ryan Fitzpatrick may be far more of a professional than Geno Smith or Mark Sanchez will ever be, but based on past track record, there seems minimal chance of him remaining upright through a full NFL season.
Jet fans fretted over the final 53-man roster, but in the end, there were no shockers, and all the right guys found their way back to the roster or practice squad. If you want an idea of how badly previous general manager John Idzik messed up, no players cut by the Jets got claimed by any other franchise. If there’s any injuries later in the year, they can always pick up the phone and call Shaq Evans or Jason Babin.
All these reasons for optimism and pessimism outline five logical reasons the Jets can win Todd Bowles‘ coaching debut this Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the woebegone Cleveland Browns. Take a look at 5 top reasons why they should be victorious.
Next: 5. Rex Ryan's Right Hand
Sep 3, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine during the third quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
5. Rex Ryan’s Right Hand
Mike Pettine rates positives as a solid X’s and O’s coach and a hard-charging motivator of men. But he gets major negatives for getting outed as Rex Ryan’s 2013-era locker room mole, spilling to media the team’s darkest secrets. Naysayers say that at best Pettine may be a baby-step above former Jet coaching wannabe Doug Marrone, which is no compliment to either Pettine or to any notion of a deep-rooted Ryan coaching tree.
To be fair, Pettine is in an impossible position. He is the latest in a long line of punching-bags for a tortured fanbase. And it’s not like his team’s big-talking front office (infamous for general manager Ray Farmer‘s upcoming four-game suspension for in-game texting) has given him enough high-powered tools to succeed.
Now there’s those whispers growing louder about Urban Meyer’s possible NFL debut, driving 150 miles north up I-71 from Columbus to Cleveland. Plus now there’s that ugly indefinite suspension of Pettine right-hand, offensive line coach Andy Moeller, after an alleged assault of a female acquaintance.
The upshot is that nobody in Cleveland actually expects a winner. And if Pettine was able to build even a regular winner, they’d build LeBron-sized statues of him outside FirstEnergy Stadium.
Next: 4. MetLife In The Fast Lane
Sep 3, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets corner back Darrelle Revis (24) in a huddle before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
4. MetLife In The Fast Lane
The grub at MetLife ain’t exactly “foodie-approved about,” but have you ever eaten in Cleveland? All kidding aside, sleeping in one’s own bed cannot be underrated. There’s something to be said for the players being able to wake up on a Sunday morning, and get to East Rutherford on time for their pre-game rituals and other forms of mental focus.
On Sunday afternoon, the Jets will face no angry opposition fans, no pelting of the team busses, no growling Dawg Pound, no irritable ugliness from drunken screamers. The Jets usually play well in front of their fanbase, and the good vibrations will abound — for the start of the NFL season, the introduction of Bowles and Maccagnan, and the return of conquering hero Darrelle Revis.
You can tell that the players would like nothing better than to present a game ball to Bowles, who has quickly and quietly commanded the utmost respect of the entire locker room.
Next: 3. Josh McCown/Johnny Manziel
Aug 13, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) and quarterback Josh McCown (13) on the sidelines during the fourth quarter of preseason NFL football game against the Washington Redskins at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Complain all you want about the Jets’ jaw-dropping quarterback quagmire. And now the recent alarming admission by Bowles that Matt Flynn and Josh Johnson were brought into camp not due to Geno but because Fitzpatrick got banged up pretty bad from his limited pre-season reps. But nothing could prepare you for the Browns’ quarterback conundrum.
This week’s waiver acquisition of serviceable 2014 Rams quarterback Austin Davis may bring serious competition to Cleveland’s tandem of the incredibly average 36-year-old veteran Josh McCown, the greatest gunslinger in Sam Houston State history, and that perennial train-wreck Johnny Football, who — his 75 days of drug/alcohol rehab and recent elbow injury not withstanding — has shown little more under-center acumen than one Tim Tebow. It makes one appreciate the good ol’ days before IK Enemkpali sent out invitations to his charity gala.
And here’s something scary to ponder, Jet fans: can Baylor rookie Bryce Petty capably serve as an NFL-ready lifeline just in case of a breakdown between the metal rod in Fitzpatrick’s leg and the metal plates in Geno’s jaw?
Next: 2. Veteran Locker Room Presence
Dec 28, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) laughs on the sideline during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
2. Veteran Locker Room Presence
Scan booth squad’s rosters and then realize the relative strength of the Jet’s 2015 talent pool. The Browns’ defense has the potential to be among the NFL elite this season. But the Jets honestly believed they can be the league’s No. 1 defense, week-in and week-out.
But there will be hell to pay from the peanut gallery if the Jets’ vaunted zillion-dollar secondary fails to shut down McCown passes to the likes of Travis Benjamin and Brian Hartline, or if the purported best defensive lineine in the league can’t stop the off-tackle runs by a running-back-by-committee led by “The U” standout Duke Johnson and someone named Isaiah Crowell from a school called Alabama State.
More importantly, a Jet loss in this “gimme” game would be a terrible way to kick off a promising 2015 season. If the game is tight in the fourth quarter, the pendulum swings to the Jets with the quiet leadership of Revis and Fitzpatrick and Mangold and Wilkerson. That’s why those guys are paid the big bucks.
Next: 1. The Mistake By The Lake
Dec 22, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive tackle Leger Douzable (78) and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) combine to sack Cleveland Browns quarterback Jason Campbell (17) during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
1. The Mistake By The Lake
There must be some reason that Cleveland is consistently the worst sports towns in American history. There must be some reason that this relatively new Browns haven’t been that much better than the original moribund Browns that split to Baltimore in 1996.
There’s a pall that hangs over that town, a graveyard buried with the bodies of NFL sports years past. One glance at the comments on the Browns blogs reveal a sick gallow’s-humor with no sense of optimism. Pettine, when questioned about the strength of his roster, can only spiel in the most general of sports aphorisms. So, in the end, there are many more reasons to doubt the Browns than to extol the Jets.
Here is just a handful of legitimate reasons you should feel good about the Jets’ chances this weekend, no matter what the point spread.