Exposing myth of the Jets

SCOTT GARBARINI, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 2:28 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- They say it's not bragging if you can back it up. In the case of the New York Jets, however, the preseason sizzle has been replaced by what's looking more and more like another end-of-the-year fizzle.

A season that appeared to have the makings of something special has instead turned into a potential reincarnation of 1986 revisited for the self- proclaimed Super Bowl contenders, thanks to two straight duds that have removed the luster from the NFL's biggest talkers' impressive outward appearance and revealed a dangerously soft underbelly that's been attacked at will by recent opponents. After being woefully outplayed and outclassed by the powerful New England Patriots in a 45-3 Monday night shellacking that sent shock waves throughout league circles, the Jets followed up with a second consecutive clunker in a 10-6 home loss to the unpredictable Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

Those two disappointing results both featured a troubling lack of execution from an offence that now hasn't produced a touchdown in nine straight quarters while displaying a careless inability to adequately protect the football. A shaken and confused young quarterback Mark Sanchez was intercepted three times in the New England fiasco, then committed a pair of costly turnovers against the Dolphins while completing a dismal 17-of-44 passes and taking six sacks.

Crazy as it may seem, Sanchez's wretched performance wasn't even the Jets' lowlight of Sunday's debacle. That was provided by strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi, who disgracefully tripped and temporarily injured Miami's Nolan Carroll as the Dolphins' rookie was sprinting along the New York sidelines while covering a punt in the third quarter.

That shameful act did little to change the Jets' reputation of an assemblage of overconfident bullies that have drawn the ire of opponents and fans alike for their non-stop crowing in spite of relatively modest accomplishments. What Sunday's result more likely altered, however, is the public perception that head coach Rex Ryan's boastful bunch should be taken seriously as a major threat in the ongoing battle for AFC supremacy.

New York's preseason credentials were built on two stirring road wins in last year's conference playoffs that sent Gang Green to a surprising appearance in the AFC Championship Game. This current edition sports just two victories in six bouts against teams presently holding winning records, having previously prevailed in earlier meetings with the Patriots and Dolphins. Those triumphs came during Weeks 2 and 3 of this 2010 campaign, however, as part of a 5-1 surge that had us all buying into what Ryan was selling through his boisterous -- albeit entertaining -- statements.

In hindsight, perhaps we should have seen this slump coming, but narrow escapes over non-contenders such as Denver, Detroit and Cleveland were initially viewed as gritty measures of perseverance by a team that found a way to win when it wasn't on top of its game. Judging by the results of the past two weeks, it may be more apt to suggest that the gap between the Jets and those going-nowhere teams isn't as wide as initially thought.

Those old enough to recall that 1986 season -- and longtime Jets supporters most certainly do -- remember a team that was 10-1 and standing on the top of the AFC mountain heading into a late-November showdown with the rival Dolphins also played before a Monday night audience. New York also lost that contest by a 45-3 margin, triggering a five-game free-fall and a backdoor playoff venture that brought about additional heartbreak.

While it may be premature and unfair to compare this present swoon with that epic collapse, the prospect of a dubious repeat of history has at least entered the discussion. And considering that an offence that generated fewer points than the NHL's New York Rangers did on Sunday will be facing two of the NFL's top four scoring defences (Pittsburgh, Chicago) on the road in the next few weeks, a playoff entry that was perceived to be a lock in the not so distant past suddenly no longer becomes a guarantee.

"I'm very concerned," a more humble and serious Ryan remarked after Sunday's setback. "You look at our next opponent, and if you think this defence [Miami's] is good, just wait until next week. Pittsburgh is going to be a huge challenge, and down the road, we need to make sure we find a way to get better. We have to get better."

Though the most scarred and jaded of Jets' fans may have resigned themselves to a forecast of impending doom, both the talent level and last year's accomplishments suggest a turnaround clearly isn't out of the question, and a repeat of January's playoff run cannot be counted out either.

But in order to for that scenario to unfold, the time is now for Ryan and his charges to finally put their money where their mouths are.


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