The Bright Future of the Jets

Jim Rosen

“The Sanchize” and the 2009 New York Jets were eliminated from the playoffs after their Week 15 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Or so everyone thought, including Head Coach Rex Ryan. After a series of miraculous events throughout the last two weeks of the season, the Jets made the playoffs and have been on a tear, bringing back memories of the 2007 New York Giants.

Just a few short weeks ago, the Indianapolis Colts were 14-0 and seemed to have a perfect regular season all but wrapped up. That was until Head Coach Jim Caldwell decided to rest Peyton Manning and other notable starters halfway through the third quarter of their game against the Jets. The green fleet from New York took advantage, won the game and now have the opportunity to knock the Colts out of the playoffs in the AFC Championship Game.

Rex Ryan has stated that he would be shocked if the Jets fail to win this week, a statement accompanied by the playoff schedule he made for his team which included a Super Bowl victory parade through Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes. This swagger, however, is nothing new for the 2009 Jets. From the minute he stepped into office, Ryan has been brimming with confidence, predicting that the Jets would be meeting President Obama in the near future.

If the Jets can beat the Colts this week, Ryan’s swagger should have Jets fans cheering for years to come. He and General Manager Mike Tannenbaum have set up the Jets franchise in a way that has never been seen in Jets history. One of the keys to the Jets’ success this year has been team chemistry. Ryan’s hubris and trash talk has certainly help breed this chemistry, along with team gatherings at linebacker Bart Scott’s house to watch Monday Night Football. These New York Jets are a confident, close group that truly believes in itself. And this confidence will only grow in the next couple of years. The majority of the team is set to return next year and their numerous productive, young players lead one to believe that the Jets have an incredibly bright future.

These 2009 New York Jets led the league in rushing, pass defense and overall defense. Going into the playoffs, many said that with a legitimate quarterback the Jets would be favorites to win the Super Bowl. Even with a rookie quarterback, the Jets are only two games from winning the championship. Next season, however, with a full year under his belt, Mark Sanchez is sure to play a more significant role in the offense. Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will loosen the reins and Sanchez will likely reduce his number of turnovers. Sanchez, however, isn’t the only reason the Jets are set for the future.

Cornerback Darrelle Revis has already become the top shut-down cornerback in the National Football League and had a legitimate case for winning the Defensive Player of the Year over Charles Woodson. What does matter is that Revis shuts down opponents’ top receivers and open up the pass rush. More players are able to focus on stopping the run as Revis works to shut down the passing game. With a player like Revis – who is under contract through the 2013 season – the Jets, complemented by a solid linebacking crew, will remain a top defense in the league. It also does not hurt that they are coached by defensive maven Rex Ryan, whose blitz packages continue to confuse even the top quarterbacks in the NFL. While the defense will remain a top group for years to come, the offense must be able to score in the high-scoring NFL.

The Jets offense should continue to grow in the next few years. Sanchez is rapidly maturing and will undoubtedly become more productive with and protective of the football. The strong point of the Jets offense, however, is their running game. It will be interesting to see what team executives decide to do with Leon Washington, who is a restricted free agent after this season. It would be extremely surprising to see them let Washington, who is one of the most explosive players in the league, go off in free agency. Regardless, rookie Shonn Greene will allow the running game to burn up yards in the next couple years. As he has shown with back-to-back 100-yard games in this year’s playoffs, Greene is a strong back with breakaway speed. Add a powerful offensive line to the mix, three Pro Bowlers this year, and the Jets will be bowling teams over in 2010 and beyond. 

The Colts will surely be ready to go against the Jets this weekend. They will not want to be defeated by a team that they could have knocked out of the playoffs back in Week 16. Ryan and his Jets, however, will bring their swagger and A-game as well, just as they have the past two weeks. Whether the Jets are playing in Miami in a couple weeks or get blown out by the Colts this week, the Jets are set for the future. They will be back in 2010 with even more confidence, with even more outlandish claims by their head coach and with an even stronger team.

Contact Jim Rosen at [email protected]