Late in the fourth quarter yesterday, with the Jets down 13–10 and facing an insane Oakland Raiders home crowd, Brett Favre reminded everyone he was Brett Favre. After a dreadful game (his second in a row) against a last-place team that had just fired its head coach, and his team scrambling in a game it absolutely had to win, Favre just started throwing the ball, randomly, with no apparent intent, down the field, to someone, anyone.
This is the Brett Favre way, of course, and sometimes you end up with something brilliant and amazing, and sometimes you end up with an awful interception that costs your team a trip to the Super Bowl. And in this fourth quarter, Jets fans saw the former. Favre chucked several dramatic heaves out of pure desperation, and they landed, because he’s Brett Favre, and somehow he gets them to land. Going into overtime, with the Jets winning the toss, the Raiders looked scared, and why wouldn’t they be? Brett Favre had rediscovered his mojo.
And, as has been happening so often this season, the Jets staff promptly swiped it away. The conservative game plan that Favre inherently chafes against — and the one that had contributed to the offensive impotence before the final fourth-quarter drive — returned in overtime, and the Jets were stopped in their tracks. Eric Mangini’s natural tendency is to coach not to lose, which couldn’t be more the opposite of Favre. Theoretically, this should lead to battles of field position and big plays from the special teams. Unfortunately, in practice it led to an overtime in which neither team could move the ball, and the one who won was the one with the kicker who could boot the ball 57 yards. That team was not the Jets.
Favre is too much of a professional to criticize the coaching staff, but it’s clear the reason he was forced out of Green Bay has followed him here: NFL coaches have become too control-freaky to deal with a wild card like Favre. (It’s telling that the hot rumor yesterday was that Favre had called the Lions earlier this season with tips on how to beat the Packers. He still hasn’t let go.) Maybe Mangini has the right idea. Maybe Favre does. But the point is that they have opposite ideas. And that has led to a 3–3 record, two games behind the first-place Bills, with the easiest part of the schedule behind them. The Jets will need to go 7–3, at least, in their final ten games to dream of a playoff appearance. They will be favored, by this estimate, in five of them. They absolutely cannot afford to lose games, like yesterday’s, against inferior teams. It’s not even November, and the Jets are running out of time.