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NFL - Charlie Brown and the New York Jets

By Piet Van Leer
Sunday, October 21st, 2001

We must be masochists. We must enjoy pain on some sort of level. That's the only way to justify our love. There is no other way to explain it, except that we are the biggest suckers this side of Charlie Brown. No matter what they do, no matter whom they draft, no matter whom they may hire, they're always the same old Jets. There are only two things the Jets guarantee their fans: they will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and they will always find a more creative way to do it again.

One incident that supposedly typifies the Jets' ineptitude is the Dan Marino fake spike for a touchdown that completed a comeback in the Meadowlands in '94. What people don't understand is that Marino would've beaten us anyway. It's not like the secondary was going to stop the inevitable touchdown from happening. Marino could have thrown the pass into a crowd of three defenders and they would have simultaneously knocked each other down going for the ball only to wind up in the hands of a smiling Dolphin receiver. That particular game pales in comparison to some of the other Jet fiascoes.

Last year, the Jets out-gained the eventual Super Bowl champs by 382 yards, and still lost. By two touchdowns. The Ravens were outplayed, out-coached, and still wound up laughing at us. Leon Johnson threw a halfback option pass for an interception late in the fourth quarter in the last game of the '97 season to throw away the Jets playoff chances, as well. Mark Gastineau got a roughing the passer penalty on a 2nd and 29 on what should have been the Browns last drive in the '86 playoffs. With that penalty, the Browns came back from a ten-point deficit with four minutes remaining to send the Jets home from the playoffs.

This year, a lineman/fullback ran into Testaverde jarring the ball loose, resulting in the most disgraceful 99-yard footrace that eventually wound up as a defensive touchdown for the Colts.

And when it wasn't the ridiculous ways the Jets would succumb to defeat, it was the injuries. For instance, Neil O'Donnell, straining his calf in warm ups, which cost him the last four games of the season. Or Testaverde in '99, tearing his Achilles by tripping over his own feet. When the '98 Jets finished in spectacular Jet-like form, blowing a ten-point halftime lead to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game, we thought '99 was our year. Then Vinny went down, with no viable backup or alternate plan. It was another year lost in the first week.

Now every team has lost some games and had some injuries. I concede that, but the Jet curse goes much further than that. Blair Thomas, selected second overall in the '90 draft, ahead of such players as Emmitt Smith and Thurman Thomas, actually had a breakout game on Monday Night Football when he rushed for 125 yards against the Bears. The Jets had a touchdown lead, the ball on the 35 with two minutes to go, and the Bears were out of timeouts. All they had to do was not turn the ball over.

Enter Blair Thomas, who picked that moment to fumble for the first time in 182 chances. The Bears would of course wind up winning the game with a touchdown in the last play of regulation and another one with less than a minute to go in overtime, after Pat Leahy missed a 28-yard field goal in OT. Blair Thomas never recovered from that game, always to be remembered as part of the Jet mystique (F.Y.I. - Jet mystique is a negative thing).

The draft of '91 also falls under the curse. The Jets first pick was 34th overall, and Ron Wolf was the Jets' director of player personnel. He liked a quarterback from Southern Miss. named Favre. So did the Falcons, who picked 33rd, and they took him. The Jets took Browning Nagle with the 34th pick. Ron Wolf left for the Packers the following year, traded for Favre, and the rest is history. The thing is, if we had gotten Favre, Nagle probably would have wound up leading the Pack to the Super Bowl, and Favre would have been struck by lightning in a dome.

Whenever a team has a history of bad drafts, the first people to blame are management. Good point, as well, being the Jets have had a history some of the greatest coaches in the game. Joe Walton never saw a 3rd and 15 that couldn't be solved with a draw play. When he was axed, Bruce Coslet came in. Coslet was an offensive genius in Cincinnati, but he fit the mold of prior Jet coaches rather quickly. When he was ousted, Pete Carroll took over for a year before he was fired. They all had their periods of mediocrity and lows, but nothing could prepare us for what was next.

Coaches who lose the last seven games of the regular season generally aren't rewarded at the end of the year. Philadelphia used this criterion when they decided to let Rich Kotite go. The Jets immediately jumped at this opportunity, determining what could be a better match than a coach who was renowned for his ineptitude with a team that was renowned for its futility?

Rich Kotite worked just as expected, winning four games in two years (which works out to two games a year for all the arithmetic majors). When he was let go, the savior was brought in, or so we thought. Bill Parcells was just the man to lead the Jets from the doldrums into respectability. Except after the incidents during his three-year tenure (Leon Johnson, the blown lead in the AFC Championship, Vinny's heel), Parcells decided not even he could turn around the curse of the Jets.

Bill Belichick knew it. That's why he claimed to have an allergic reaction to the Jets in deciding there was no way he was going to coach this team. It took Al Groh a year to figure it out. Now, Herm Edwards has been thrown to the wolves. I feel sorry for him; he seems like a nice man. Then Week 1 happened, and there was the fumble return, Marvin Jones fumbling without contact and Terrence Wilkins returning a punt on the last play of the half to make him see this is a franchise beyond help.

The Jets are like a contagious fungus. Even after you leave, it still grows on you. Bruce Coslet had to quit in Cincinnati because he was so ineffective. Pete Carroll, after being fired in New England, is now losing regularly in the last minute out in Southern California. And I hear Joe Walton is selling Amway.

My earliest memories date back to '86, when the Jets were 10-1 and Paul Maguire came on national television and predicted the Jets would lose the last five games of the season. The Jets proved the soothsayer right, and my cynicism hasn't stopped since. In '99, Keyshawn Johnson almost ripped apart a press conference room when Vinny went down for the year. I remember thinking that's exactly how I feel at the end of almost every game. Keyshawn soon got out, determining he wasn't getting dragged down with the rest of us.

Every year, we fill ourselves full of optimism, deciding this is our time. We always forget that these are the Jets though, a team that has been knocked out of the playoffs by the Lions twice in the last four years. The Lions aren't in our division; they're not even in our conference! Yet we hear things like West Coast offense and Cover Two defense, and we fall in love with the Jets all over again. Only problem is Herman Edwards didn't bring Joe Montana or the Tampa Bay defense along with his coaching schemes to right this ship.

Bills fan like to point out that at least we won one. Yeah, six years before I was conceived. It serves me no comfort that the Jets were partly responsible for merging the two leagues many years before my birth. It's always a new coach, new philosophy, new lease on life. Except it the same old Jets. As long as they are playing in a stadium named for their cross town rivals and donning the green and white, I will always feel like Charlie Brown, wondering if I will ever make contact with that stupid ball.

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