New York Jets: Team of the Century

The sporting gods are probably offended by the Jets, who have done everything that a football team is not supposed to do. They have been brash, loud, obnoxious, and most of all, presumptuous. This is a team that only made the playoffs last season because their last two regular-season opponents openly tanked, a team that even their boisterous coach had written off, saying “We’re obviously out of the playoffs, and that’s unfortunate.” (This was a month after the Jets had fired their defensive-line coach after a crushing loss.) Sure, they caught a couple of nice wins in the playoffs, but over two overrated teams whose weaknesses happened to line up precisely with the Jets’ strengths. The Jets should have come into this year humble; on the verge of something potentially pleasant, sure, but aware of the pecking order, hoping just to catch a few breaks and then obligingly, but politely, take advantage of any opportunity. This is not what has happened.

The Jets have done all in their power to draw attention to themselves. They have a coach who won’t shut up, ever, about anything. They took part in an endless, ultimately pointless contract negotiation with their best player. They’ve openly taunted their bitter rival New England, to the point that their not-really-squeaky-clean-at-all quarterback admits he “hates them.” They’ve plastered advertisements all over the city, with various “celebrities” wearing eyeblack and proclaiming their devotion to a team that has been a citywide joke for most of the last three decades. “Worst” of all, they signed up for Hard Knocks, a self-promotional vehicle that’s the very definition of off-field distraction. The reason this season’s Hard Knocks has been so much more entertaining than past seasons is because the Jets love it; in many ways, this has been a nonsense camp, farce.

The football gods hate this, and by “the football gods,” we mean the mythical, Parcells-ian, Belichick-ian, Lombardi-an notion that football is won by sweat and blood and hard labor, by staying out of the spotlight and digging in. The Tom Landry “act like you’ve been there before” crowd. The Jets certainly have not been there before, but that isn’t stopping them from acting like it. They brought in vets looking for titles like Jason Taylor and LaDainian Tomlinson, they’ve employed “troublemakers” like Santonio Holmes, they’ve even run off old franchise saws like Thomas Jones and Leon Washington once they’ve served their purpose. This is a team that believes this is its year. This is a team that assumes everyone else feels the same way, obviously. These are the types of sins the football gods love to punish.

But what if that isn’t what happens? (After all, football gods — sportswriting tropes to the contrary — don’t actually exist.) What if all the cards fall right? What if the defense is as dominant as Rex Ryan thinks it is? What if Shonn Greene is a 1,500-yard rusher? What if Mark Sanchez, the most important player on the team and the one guy who could most easily tear all this down, is an efficient quarterback who avoids turnovers and even, lo, hits a man downfield every once in a while? What if the Jets really are as good as they think they are? What if they go 13-3, win the AFC East, and clinch home-field throughout the playoffs? What if they back it all up?

Then, friends, you have instant history: You have, essentially, the new-era version of the Shufflin’ Crew Chicago Bears. You have huge personalities, a matinee-idol leader, Mayor Bloomberg–approved nicknames like “Revis Island,” generous helpings of swagger, and a head coach who is such a character that Hard Knocks can’t even contain him. (If they win the Super Bowl, he’ll have his own cooking show.) You have a season that would never be forgotten, the Jets, the doomed-sad-sack Jets, for crying out loud, dominating the NFL and making sure the world knows it.

If they can back this up, if they can play the way they self-promote, the way they assume they will, this could be special. These aren’t the boring Indianapolis Colts. These aren’t the hyper-efficient steamrolling Yankees. These would be the balls-out, fuck-’em-all, hilariously nutty and awesome New York Jets. They’d write songs about these guys. If the Jets can pull this off, they will be legends. They will never be forgotten.

We are skeptical this will happen: Sanchez doesn’t seem ready, Greene is untested, the wide receivers are erratic, and just because the defense was dominant during stretches last year doesn’t mean it’ll be like that all season this time. But if it all falls right, folks, we’re in for a treat.

New York Jets: Team of the Century