As Joe pointed out yesterday, there is a distinct advantage to knowing that the major, yank-up-the-roots overhaul that every NFL team that isn’t the Steelers inevitably has to do is in the Jets’ rearview. The main decisions any team has to make involve their head coach and their quarterback — everything else is just filling in around that. The Jets took care of both of those last year, and they’re set for years to come. Or, they would have been set had the two January playoff wins not happened. Now that they have, though, the landscape is altered a bit. The time line has been pushed forward.
That is to say: The way these matters are supposed to work, freak occurrences like the 2008 Arizona Cardinals aside, is that you rap-rap-rap on the window of triumph until, at last, the window of triumph busts open and little shards of triumph sprinkle all over whatever kind of carpet they have in a room that has a window of triumph. (We’re thinking cut-and-loop pile.) The Jets hit the window a little too hard in the playoffs: Now everyone expects them to bash through next year, rather than 2011–12.
Now, to nimbly dance away from that bewildering metaphor, the Jets have a few decisions to make in the next few weeks, but, considering the playoff success, they’re more convinced than they might have been that the decisions are more tweaks than anything else. The main two humans of concern are Thomas Jones and Braylon Edwards. Jones is owed a $3 million roster bonus this March, which they’d likely pick up if Jones weren’t 31 years old and they didn’t have Shonn Greene stomping and snorting and ready to take over. Edwards is a restricted free agent, and even though we’re fairly certain he’s fumbling with his car keys as we speak, the Jets would be wise to keep him. Deep threats like him are difficult to find: Hopefully no other team will go too crazy with free-agent offers and they can keep the matching price down.
The Jets could also use a pass-rusher in the draft (or a wide receiver if Edwards leaves), but what they really need to fight against is the notion that they are just a player or two away from being obvious favorites in the AFC. We all loved the playoff run, but this is still a team that was 9–7 last season and needed two teams tanking down the stretch to even reach the postseason. The Jets are on the right track. They don’t have to start over. But they do need to remember that they’re probably not as close as everyone wants them to be.
Oh, and they need Mark Sanchez to turn into Joe Montana really quick. But he’ll obviously do that.