Expectations of the Jets are not aligned with reality
By Todd Gerstenhaber
Early expectations of the New York Jets were never aligned with the reality of the franchise not only for 2016 but their entire existence.
Let’s all take a moment to pump the brakes on the panic meter when it comes to the New York Jets. To quote the popular wordsmith Drake, the meter has gone from “0 to 100 real quick”. The question is, where did this all go wrong for this iteration of a typical Jets team, or, when was it ever right?
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Let’s look back at the last five full seasons of Jets football. After one of the best seasons in franchise history in 2010, the Jets appeared to be on the cusp of something great. However, the team never fully tore down that foundation to build another one once things went south. Since that season, the Jets have been floundering in a mirage of expectations, unaware of their ceiling year after year.
So, to keep it short and sweet, here’s how the last 5+ seasons played out (in case you forgot):
2011: High expectations, mediocre/dysfunctional performance (8-8)
2012: Decent expectations, poor performance (6-10)
2013: Very low expectations, encouraging performance (8-8)
2014: Decent expectations, terrible performance (4-12)
2015: Low expectations, very good performance (10-6)
2016: All-time high expectations, terrible performance (1-4)
Why does this keep happening? There is no other team that has had this kind of roller coaster in terms of expectations versus performance that comes to mind other than the Jets. What goes over the heads of many is the fact that it takes years for a team to alter track enough to become a perennial performer (unless your quarterback is named Peyton or Tom).
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A good point to build this story from would be the point in the 2015 offseason when quarterback Geno Smith got sucker-punched by former Jets linebacker I.K. Enemkpali.
Just think about where the team was at that point.
With Smith, who had a record performance in the final game of 2014, and the additions/re-signings of players like Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Darrelle Revis, and Antonio Cromartie, and some offensive line help, the Jets appeared to be trending in the right direction in the eyes of most. This is only due because of the thought it couldn’t get any worse.
Once Smith was punched, the Jets’ reputation took another hit. The team was once again dysfunctional. People pointed to the “same old Jets” culture and continued to question whether this team could get out of its own way.
With Smith out, there was no other choice but to go with the man who personifies quarterback mediocrity – Ryan Fitzpatrick – to determine if he could keep the Jets afloat.
What happened last season was lightning in a bottle. It struck once, and that’s it. Unfortunately, even still, the Jets were unable to make it to the postseason. The Jets would have had as good as a shot as anybody to win it last year. What happened in games 11-15 of 2015 was nothing short of a miracle. It will never happen again with this cast, and those in charge need to realize that to get expectations aligned with reality.
An all-time easy schedule aided in the Jets 5-0 stretch, and when the team got their hearts broken in Buffalo, the prevailing thought was that this team would have the fight and veteran leadership to come back firing on all cylinders next year.
This is where we need to pump the brakes. This is by no means saying that there are not veteran leaders on this Jets team, but when did Gang Green become a “veteran team”? The role of the veteran leaders on a team like this was to enhance the competition (a favorite word of the Mike Maccagnan/Todd Bowles regime) and provide a steadying presence in a locker room full of young players and unproven talent.
Aug 11, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles during the 1st half of the preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium. The Jets won, 17-13. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Let’s fast forward to last Sunday in Pittsburgh. The Jets, with a group of players in uncharted waters dealing with high expectations coming into the season, faced the Steelers, a team that consistently performs at a high level due to decades of sustaining a regime with a certain trademark. What should have been expected to happen did happen. The Jets were overpowered by a team used to performing.
So then, are these Jets a disappointment or are they “who we thought they were” originally before last season? Has this team’s identity changed in five years? While the Jets are not in a “perfect position” as Brandon Marshall would like us to believe, they are far from off track. The perfect storm of youth, veterans, and guys out with something to prove that worked last year has now backfired as the youth hit the bumps in the road, the veterans are wearied by injuries or typical wear-and-tear, and the guys with something to prove hit their ceilings.
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These are the true Jets: a perfectly-imperfect mess trying to find out what their identity is. How can expectations be set when externally when there is no identity internally. It’s not a matter of good versus bad with this team. It’s a question of what this team is at its base. Until that question is properly answered – which it hasn’t been since 2010, then we just have to see what happens as it transpires.