The New York Jets improved in almost every capacity this season. Their running game, their offensive line, their defensive front, even the cornerbacks; all have looked better on a consistent basis than they were during last year’s irrelevant 4–12 season. The one position they are worse at — at least when you compare this year’s performance to the one last year by Chad Pennington — is quarterback. The ultimate irony is now evident: The Jets’ season might have been doomed when … they traded for Brett Favre.
Such talk about legends veers on public blasphemy, but it’s true: Considering Favre’s performance over the last month, the Jets, had they kept Pennington, would likely be playing for the AFC East title next week. Instead, they’ll be trying to stop Pennington’s new team, the Miami Dolphins, a team that was even worse than the Jets last season, from winning the division. The Dolphins are led by executive vice-president Bill Parcells; the Jets are led by third-generation Parcells disciple Eric Mangini. For now.
Favre has been awful for four games now — one touchdown, six interceptions — but he was never worse than he was yesterday, throwing for only 187 yards and struggling in the freezing Seattle snow, conditions he has built a reputation on mastering. On the team’s final “drive,” the Jets went four-and-out deep in their own end zone, thanks largely to a Laveranues Coles drop on a rare nice Favre pass, and the game was finished. And the Jets season, for all intents and purposes, was finished.
Sure, the Jets still have a chance to make the playoffs, though it’s not much more of a chance than the 0–15 Detroit Lions have. They need to beat Pennington and the Dolphins in the Meadowlands, and they have to hope that the Patriots lose to the Bills AND the Baltimore Ravens lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars. This is extremely unlikely. It is more likely that the Jets, facing a tumultuous off-season, are going to look even more different next year than they did after all the changes this year. This team is over. Eric Mangini is likely over. And Brett Favre is almost certainly over.
A month ago, Brett Favre beat longtime Jets nemesis New England, inspiring talk of a all-Broadway (or East Rutherford, anyway) Super Bowl. He and his team have been awful since. (The Giants’ overtime win over the Panthers last night, which was perhaps the most terrific game of the NFL season, saved us from a truly epic collapse by our local teams since Thanksgiving. No matter what the Jets do, the Super Bowl will go through East Rutherford, thanks to Derrick Ward, Brandon Jacobs, and the best rushing night for the franchise in nearly 50 years.) Now, barring a miracle, Brett Favre’s Jets tenure really will go down like Joe Namath and O.J. Simpson in San Francisco, or Johnny Unitas in San Diego, or Emmitt Smith in Arizona. Like a historical anomaly, an ugly addendum better off ignored, lest it sully a legacy. Turns out, Brett Favre always will look weird in a Jets uniform.
After last night’s Giants win, which clinched home field throughout the playoffs, their game-seventeen game in Minnesota is meaningless. There will be no need to watch. And now that the Jets are likely to miss the playoffs, it’s looking like Sunday will have only one must-see New York NFL event: Brett Favre’s final game. (Though with that guy, you never know.) The last time Brett Favre ever plays a football game is probably going to be this Sunday. For the first time this holiday season, it’ll be a Jets game worth watching. That’s what the Jets’ 2008 season has come to: A novelty act. It’ll hold us off until the Giants play again, anyway.