By Jason Keidel
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In a league built by parity, the Jets remain a parody.
Putting a January postmortem on the Jets has become as predictable as those galling, blinking Christmas atrocities beaming from your neighbor's terrace right into your bedroom window, long after the season ends. And this year, the Jets made your New Year's hangover historic. Indeed, blacking out and waking up in a dank Bangkok hotel room next to a monkey and Mr. Chow would be more pleasant than the dud your beloved Jets delivered.
In this, the 43rdconsecutive epitaph for a team that tinkers with new ways to lose, the Jets summoned the spirits of the Mud Bowl, throwing interceptions to jelly-belly linemen, surrendering chunks of yardage to the immortal Matt Moore and a no-name offense and a team formerly famous for its no-name defense.
The Jets lost to an inferior teamsans its most superior player (Reggie Bush). Miami had nothing to play for, while Rex Ryan said his was the team to pray for, imploring his fan base to light candles and hope for the best after his club would surely beat the Dolphins.
But the Jets' performance made it all moot. You needn't watch anything in the cube within your tube, one eye on Gang Green the other on the small screen. Didn't matter if you watched the scoreboard or Ryan Seacrest.
Rex Ryan has never been penalized on the field for excessive celebration or taunting, but his haunting declarations will surely resonate among Woody Johnson's corporate fiefdom and the team's fandom. The (alleged) guru of defense – his sanctified unit somehow ranked seventh despite yielding more points than 21 teams – allowed that interminable, 21-play, 12-minute, 92-yard drive that could have been timed with a sundial. Ryan's defense has surrendered 30 or more points five times this year (and 29 another time) – all of them losses.
So please resist your impulse to blame Brian Schottenheimer and Mark Sanchez. Ryan lost his grip on Gang Green this year. If their play weren't putrid enough, the camera caught team captain Santonio Holmes shouting over Dustin Keller's shoulder, reportedly at Wayne Hunter. After the spat someone from the sideline yanked Holmes from the game, where he plopped on the bench and ignored the final two minutes of the most important game of the season, an MVP of a Super Bowl brooding while his teammates plowed on, scoring a touchdown to shave the deficit to two points. Holmes's pouting will serve as a sublime emblem for the 2011 season.
LaDainian Tomlinson said some scathing things about Holmes, implying that the star wide receiver quit on the team long before the televised temper tantrum in the huddle. And while Holmes will become the itch that Jets Nation can't scratch, remember that the team folded long before the Santonio Saga..
Ryan said he didn't know why Holmes was pulled, that he was surprised as the rest of us that his best offensive player wasn't playing. Holmes said he had no idea why he was removed, either. But if a team captain goes rogue and quits on his team, that speaks right to the coach of the team.
Notice a theme? No one is capable or culpable, a team caught in a twisted omerta. This will be a cold, horrible winter for the haughty coach, who seems irrevocably cursed with the Ryan family's foot-and-mouth syndrome. And Rex, who never met a microphone he didn't love, will find that there's a dark side to coaching in America's media vortex, while his words, his gratuitous promises, boomerang back to him.
Bill Parcells once said you are what your record says you are. At 8-8, the Jets are more court jester than title contender. And Ryan's act is getting ancient and pungent. But some will still defend him, buying into his bombast so thoroughly that the facts become incidental. And some of the Jets' fan base is so jaded that mantras like losing two AFC title games are sufficient, a logical defense where losing is winning in the inverted world of a team that's never had its own stadium. When you say the Jets lack identity, you can use almost infinite contexts. Making life exponentially worse, their co-tenants in MetLife (the Giants) handled their business, rendering the Meadowlands relevant for at least one more week.
Teams as historically inept as the Saints won a Super Bowl. The NFL thrives on the notion parity is the panacea for eternal incompetence. Even the moribund Lions, recently 0-16, clawed back to the playoffs. Tim Tebow, an embellished wishbone quarterback, squeaked into playoffs. But not the Jets. When you're forced to dig four decades deep into the archives to find your last real winner, you're a loser.
The Jets are little more than an amalgam of disparate parts, hollow promises, and suckers for 43 seasons. And you, the fan, will be asked to buy another lie, another lost season for whatever reason. If four decades haven't deterred you, perhaps the pain has morphed into a kind of pleasure, a sporting masochism of microscopic expectations. The Jets have given you little reason to expect anything more than less. Just ask The Quotable Rex Ryan, assuming he's still talking.
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