Script Flipped on Jets in AFC Title Game

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 1/26/10

Mark Sanchez stood at the podium, his playoff beard finally gone, like the Jets hopes of winning Super Bowl XLIV.  His “Wonderboy” T-Shirt…no where in sight, replaced now with a blank, white one, perhaps symbolic of the clean slate the New York Jets will have the next time they take the field in 2010.

Head Coach Rex Ryan

All the big wins down the stretch, the top ranked defense and running game, the bluster…all just a memory now.  That’s the way it goes in the NFL.  One day you’re playing in the Conference Championship Game, only sixty minutes from Super Sunday, and the next thing you know, you’re staring at a blank page, pen in hand, script unwritten.

Unfortunately for authors like Sanchez, Head Coach, Rex Ryan, and the rest of the Jets organization, it’s often difficult to stick to any script in this league.  There are always so many variables, unforeseen injuries, salary cap calamities, unfavorable schedules, and inclement weather that could get in the way.

Opportunities like the one the Jets just had are rare in the NFL.  Bright futures can dim rather quickly.  Players age, become free agents, or retire, and windows propped open by hope and promise are humbly slammed shut with little notice.

The 2010 Jets should be favored to win their division, and contend for a place in Super Bowl XLV.  It’s exactly what awaited the 1999 Jets after losing to Denver in the AFC Title Game the year prior.  That team, devastated by a week one Achilles tendon injury to quarterback Vinny Testaverde, failed to reach their Super goal.  So have the ten Jets teams since.

It took eleven years to get back to where they were in January 1999 – a halftime lead in the AFC Championship Game, and only thirty minutes from the Super Bowl.  This year, like 1999, they failed to score in the second half as the Indianapolis Colts took the game 30-17, and punched their ticket to Miami at the Jets’ expense.

Make no mistake about it though, the Jets did not lose this game in “Same Old Jets” fashion.  They were beaten by the better team, with the better quarterback.  There is no shame in the way this latest Jets team played.  They were resilient, positive, had great team chemistry, and captured the imaginations of every fan that bleeds green and white.  Ryan made everyone a believer in 2009.

In his final team meeting of the season, Ryan told his players to “wear their Jets stuff and be proud of it.”  Why shouldn’t they?  Ryan has created a new culture within this organization, an environment that players can thrive in, and one that is enticing for prized free agents to come be a part of.

Though there is no assurance of anything in 2010 and beyond, the Jets appear to have all the pieces in place to succeed – in this unpredictable league, that’s the best any franchise can hope for.  Gang Green is set up with a young, star quarterback, a fiery, crafty head coach, a powerful defense and running game, and a brand new stadium – all components that any NFL author would salivate at the chance to write into the script.

There was no storybook ending this year, and there is no guarantee there ever will be.  But the future appears bright and Jets fans will have to wait at least one more season for the next chapter in Jets history to be written.

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