F.A.Q.: What is the story with these New York Jets?
Josh Benson: What do you make of this season so far?
John Koblin: It's been a really weird year, right? On the one hand, the Jets are 11-5! Only the fourth time they've reached 11 wins in franchise history. In the playoffs back-to-back years! And yet the coverage makes it sound like this team either a) underachieved or b) maybe isn't as good as we thought.
Josh: Joe Namath has said they're not as good as they think they are.
John: How disappointing. Also, I know it's beside the point, but Joe Namath this year ... has turned a bit into Tom Seaver? Time to go away?
Anyway! I don't think we know that until the year officially ends. I'm holding out judgment until the season is finished and we'll see if Rex "cashes his checks" or "goes to the bank" or whatever. I've definitely got a slightly queasy feeling about the high stakes going into the playoffs this year, unlike last year, when it felt like they were playing with house money. There's actual pressure this year.
Josh: I'd like to believe that the significance of last year is that it showed this team to be one that plays at a higher level in the playoffs. I know the science there isn't completely sound. But they can beat the Colts, right?
John: Yes, absolutely. And I guess that's what I mean about pressure. The Colts are favored, but that somehow seems like a technicality. The Jets are a better team than the Colts. They've got a better record; they just are. And they should win.
Josh: If nothing else, they'd forestall all these columns about Rex writing checks he can't cash and not putting his money where his mouth is and putting his foot in his mouth and having eyes too big for his stomach. I don't think I can bear any more of that, if only because it's all so boring.
John: I agree completely. They'll be merciless. What are your feelings on Rex?
Josh: Sympathetic, at this point. He's chatty and indiscreet and everything, but he's not a bad guy. More importantly, he's a good coach. I think what you get with him is the ancillary downside that you'd get with anyone who is a) a players' coach and b) a reporters' coach. So, iffy discipline and lots of bulletin-board material. I can live with all that if the trade-off is that the team is good at playing football.
John: OK! Well, is this team good enough for you then?
Josh: Maybe you should ask after Indianapolis? I mean, I find it hard to complain about 11-5, although it will all have felt a great deal overblown if they can't win one game in the post-season.
John: Well, let me ask you this then. Going into Indy, how much confidence do you have in this team to go back to that awful indoor dump and grab a win?
Josh: I have a good feeling about it. I'm dumb that way, though.
John: Yes, I mean, Manning is such a "genius" and is such an incredible Xs and Os guy and Rex kryptonite and blah blah blah, but come on. This team was 6-6, and barely held off a 84-year-old Kerry Collins (who threw for 300+ yards) and a bad Titans team. And despite the fact that every pundit in the country has picked the Colts (seriously! find one who picked the Jets), I think the press is really just paying attention to the last four weeks of the season, which is really not the best way to evaluate these things.
Josh: OK, so I think we're agreed that it'll be a mess if the Jets do anything but win the whole thing, in terms of the coverage. Which is the only way it could be, given all the hype, starting with "Hard Knocks." What if they win? Who gets to write the book on this season?
I mean, it's a book, right?
John: I don't know. It's a fairly boring book, if you take away all the hype. The Jets' off-the-field drama is way overblown. Someone had a DUI (bad job, Braylon, bad job, but it was what it was) and there was the tossing of the football toward the pretty-lady reporter. Not a Roethlisberger-level disaster. There's Favre, which, if I'm writing this book, I don't want to go there because by then it's at least a two-year-old story. And then what else? Rex's wife's feet? A tick-tock on how he posted the videos?
I watch these reporters strain to talk about how wild and crazy these Jets are, but frankly they're not very wild and crazy.
These aren't the Bad Guys, loudness notwithstanding. Someone somewhere decided the Jets were the Team to Hate and ... it's really unfortunate. You got that very sad story about Mark Sanchez hanging out with the kid with terminal cancer. You have Nick Mangold. Ellis. Thomas. Nothing but character guys everywhere and I don't know if it's some vast Boston-based and Mike Francesa-coordinated conspiracy. But it makes really not much sense to me.
Josh: Ha. Right. BRAD SMITH! How could you hate a team that has Brad Smith?
John: Brad. Smith.
Josh: Or Tony Richardson.
John: Tony Richardson!
Josh: Well, so, could we talk about the coverage for a second?
Josh: Can you please explain to me the percentage in fronting the foot-fetish story over and over again? The Post in particular. Do they think they're catching up by continuing to go big with it? I love Mark Cannizzaro as a columnist and all, so much so that I find it hard to blame him for anything of this, but did you see the paper this week that wooded a write-up of a Rex press conference because he mentioned the word "foot"?
My brother and I used to crack up when someone said "duty," but we were like 6 and 4 at the time. This was about that level.
John: Yeah, it's a little sad. I'm guessing the Post isn't figuring it's a game of catch-up, but a race to who can make the funniest foot joke possible! It's so rich in potential, right? Not really.
I guess that's the biggest problem. It's really not funny. Not because it's some Very Important and Private matter. The jokes are just bad? And boring. So it'll always hover around Rex, but it is interesting how the world (and seemingly) Rex have moved on from that. I don't know, I suppose I only find it annoying because instead of reading an article about what happened to Shonn Greene this year, I have to read a column about the Florham Park Zoo. I did forget to mention the tripping incident, which, yeah, that's legitimate and is almost obviously a cover-up. But that's actually the ONLY issue I would be interested in reading more about in any long-form piece, or book. Everything else? Meh.
Josh: It sort of makes me wonder whether there's some evidence of massive demand among consumers of print newspaper for stories about the Jets by football reporters that are not about football. Otherwise I'm a little bit at a loss to explain it all.
John: It is really confusing, which leads me to this: Even the loudmouth-Rex storyline seems overblown to me at this point. The guy doesn't come out and guarantee a Super Bowl victory this year. It is always qualified with "I think," "This is what I believe," "These are my guys." And, you know, Jason Gay made a great point in a column in the Journal this week that the New York media kills someone for being like Eric Mangini and then they get someone like Rex, praise him, and then for some reason or another, get prissy and decide he's a loudmouth. And you can't say it's because he's lost because until this season is over, he hasn't—the guy is 20-12 in the regular season, 2-1 in the playoffs.
Josh: Remember the story about Davey Johnson telling his his bunch of maniacs in 1986 that they didn't have to worry about what anyone said about their behavior as long as they won?
Josh: This is getting to be that kind of proposition. I mean, of course Jason's right. But that's how it is. The storyline is going to be about Rex's mouth, and maybe his wife's feet, until they win.
John: It's disappointing because I actually like Rex. My reservations toward him have nothing to do with his mouth. I'm concerned about how he uses timeouts, how he makes some pretty dumb moves sometimes (trying to kick that FG in the NE game comes to mind) but I think he's one of the best things that's ever happened to the franchise.
Speaking of Rex, though, the other big story in town—the football story—is the one about how this Jets defense isn't the same as last year's.
Josh: Well, they're missing Jenkins and now Leonhard. Everyone has injuries, so that's not an excuse. And they were missing Jenkins before for most of the time, too. But it's one explanation. They obviously don't have any one monster pass-rusher, but again, everyone wants one of those. It's kind of a scarce commodity. They're a bit of a mess at the back, which is where Leonhard getting injured was a killer.
John: Yeah, well, the Leonhard injury has obviously been awful but I'm going to go ahead and risk sounding like even more of a homer and say that this defense isn't bad. This defense is very good! They had a couple disasters with New England and Chicago, but I thought the Bears actually did a really good job in that game? And the Jets weren't that bad? It was just one of those weird shoot-out games and guess what? Their D is great and the Jets' offense is erratic and the Jets put 34 points on the board.
I also think people slightly overrate the defense from last year. Everyone likes to talk about how they give up 3rd-and-longs now and allowed a couple late 4th-quarter drives. The defense collapsed in the 4th quarter against Miami, Atlanta and Jacksonville last year. The defense (and this is quoting Rex) after Week 15 last year wasn't "a dominant defense." They turned it on in the Bengals games and the Chargers game and for a half in the Colts game. Schotty, who was also awful all of last year, called his best games in the final five weeks of the season. So I don't know, maybe wishful thinking. But maybe this team (this is horrible that I'm saying this) is built for the playoffs.
Josh: Now you're talking!
John: One last thing on the defense? No one throws to Revis anymore. They don't even try. They did try last year and that made the defense better. Also, as you said, other teams figured out the blitz. The DL and LBs are a year older and slower. But I honestly think that's it.
John: Jets 28 Colts 20. And yours?
Josh: 21-20. But I like yours better.