New York Jets fans have waited patiently for a long time –- through the past 40 seasons to be exact –- for a chance at another Super Bowl title, ever since Broadway Joe and his Jets fulfilled Joe Namath’s guaranteed upset of the powerhouse Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
Since then, the Jets at times, after failing to produce a single winning season throughout the 1970’s, have had some flashes of success: four playoff appearances in the 1980’s, a couple more in the 1990’s, and four more in a span of six years, between 2001 and 2006. There were also the division championships in 1998 and 2002, and the Jets’ last appearance in a conference championship game in 1998.
Over that time, the Jets, a few times, thought they had the leadership they needed to eventually produce more championships. There was the attempt of pairing Bruce Coslet with Boomer Esiason after the two shared success together in Cincinnati. The Bill Parcells and Vinny Testeverde era then gave some hope, as did the Chad Pennington seasons which followed. And finally, there was the Eric Mangini and Brett Favre union, which through eleven games last season, had Jet fans talking realistically about an NFL championship –- that is, until it all fell apart over the Jets’ final five games of the 2008 season, leading to the Jets going in yet another direction with both their head coach and quarterback.
And still, no other Super Bowls for the Jets since that famed game in 1969.
So, it’s with trepidation that only two games into the Jets’ latest head coach/quarterback era, that Jet fans are ready to say that the leadership of current head coach Rex Ryan and Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez will become the magic combination that ultimately produces what Jets fans have been seeking for the past four decades.
After all, when things looked good for a short while under Mangini, both Jet fans and the media alike tagged the Bill Belichick disciple with the “Man-genius” moniker. It wasn’t long before that label gave way to much less flattering names.
However, just one preseason and two regular season wins into 2009, there already appears to be a real future for the Jets. It may not be this year, or even next, but it seems as though the Jets are finally in good hands.
The NFL is a quarterback’s league and a head coach’s league, particularly when that head coach understands how to win with defense first.
Sure, there have been previous Super Bowl winners that had good, but not dominant defenses, and yes, there have been others that have won with only a mediocre quarterback. And, of course, it takes many different facets of a roster working together to be a champion in the NFL.
But, for the most part, championship-grade success in the NFL has been predicated on solid leadership at perhaps the two most key areas: the head coach and his quarterback.
Just ask the combination which has stood in the Jets’ way for years in the AFC East, the aforementioned Belichick and his field leader, Tom Brady –- which is why their loss on Sunday to the Jets’ with Ryan and Sanchez now at the helm, the first time New England lost to the Jets at the Meadowlands since 2000, could be symbolic of the future of the AFC East.
Sanchez hasn’t been spectacular by any stretch in his extremely young career thus far, but he’s already proven to be an adequate NFL starter with a lot of poise, a great work ethic, and perhaps a lot of talent and upside as well.
Ryan meanwhile, seems to really get it. In his short time in New York and as an NFL head coach, he’s already changed the culture of Jetville and ingratiated himself to the New York media and to long suffering Jet fans. That’s no easy task in your first full season, let alone just two weeks into that season. Most of all, Ryan has brought what wins, to New York –- tough, aggressive, hard-nosed, yet smart and efficient play, from his coordinator days with the Ravens in… ironically, Baltimore (given the city of the team the Jets beat for their only other Super Bowl title).
No one has a crystal ball. For the sake of Jets’ fans and the Jets’ franchise, it won’t take another 40 years before Jets capture that second championship, though we never know.
One thing though, already seems apparent. With the new Ryan-Sanchez era underway, Jet fans may be envisioning as bright a future for their team as they have since the last time the Jets won what their fans have been waiting for ever since.