The five-minute stretch that Jets fans are talking about this morning — that span where everything in the AFC East changed — might not be the five-minute stretch that matters most for the Jets this year.
Around 1:20 yesterday afternoon, an observer at a sports bar with the NFL Sunday Ticket could see, on one screen, Brett Favre leaping around like a lunatic — as is his wont — after hitting Jerricho Cotchery for a 58-yard touchdown. Just one screen away: Tom Brady, the Patriots’ MVP quarterback and bedder of Gisele, grasping his knee. It was revealed this morning that Brady will miss the rest of the season. It is considered bad sportsmanship for anyone to cheer for an injury to an opposing player; Jets fans will have difficulty observing good sportsmanship today.
The AFC East looks wide open all of a sudden, but despite the win yesterday, the Jets must remember to worry. Lost in all the hullabaloo about the Favre trade was how diametrically opposed his style of play is to coach Eric Mangini’s. That doesn’t mean that Favre can’t run his and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s system. It’s that Mangini is, by nature, a conservative, risk-averse coach; Favre, as we saw at least twice yesterday, loves to chuck it downfield and see what happens. Broadcasters call this Favre “trying to make a play.” Coaches call this “chaos.”
So, with the Jets facing a third-and-seven with two minutes left, needing a first down to secure the victory, Mangini called a handoff to Thomas Jones. The play was stopped well short, giving the Dolphins a chance at the final game-winning drive. Chad Pennington just missed on the final drive, but if he had succeeded, discussion of Favre’s first game as a Jet would’ve had a decidedly different flavor. Take this as the first warning flare in a conflict that might simmer all season long: the conservative, play-it-safe coach versus the “gunslinging” quarterback who would rather throw an interception than not throw at all. All turned out well yesterday, and that’s not even accounting for Brady’s knee. But the Patriots still have Randy Moss and Bill Belichick, and the Bills looked oddly dominant yesterday. The Jets have to take care of their own business. And the next time Mangini takes the ball out of Favre’s hands, the defense might not hold on the final drive, and then Favre might pipe up in the papers, and next thing you know, we’ve got a downright scary tabloid controversy on our hands. The Jets lucked out yesterday. The future might not hold such good fortune.