A Jets Fan Speaks Out!

I find myself moved to set serious matters aside for a moment and talk about what’s really bothering me. Fate. I have never quoted Andrew Malraux before, but I have to go along with him on this one: ‘Art is a revolt against fate.’

Sports on the other hand, is the tool of fate. Sports indoctrinates us in fate. Sports and Homer. (I mean Homer Homer not Homer Simpson, but I guess he’s relevant too.) Practically the only time we ever heard the word destiny these days it seems to be attached to some sports team—team of destiny. Which may be a clue as to why athletes are so superstitious and religious. They believe in fate, destiny, luck, omens. Athletes are an old school bunch and they often think that God is interested in the Las Vegas line.
The greatest thing I ever heard yelled out at Madison Square Garden was the Jewish attorney who had Knicks season tickets in the row in front of mine screaming at point guard Chalie Ward, “Stop praying and start playing!” All of these jocks pointing at the sky, like heaven had something to do with the strikeout or the touchdown, they really get on my nerves. And not just Tim Tebow. But I have to admit I got a kick out of players Tebowing.

In Greek myth the Fates were three sisters, the daughters of Zeus and Themis, called the Moirae, the apportioners. Their Roman equivalent was the Parcae or “the sparing ones.” The apportioners delineated one’s portion in life, one’s share in destiny. Clotho was the spinner of the thread of life, Lachasis was the allotter (or drawer of lots, ie. Chance) and Atro was the “the inevitable”, the cutter of the thread.
Although I have been well schooled in the idea of Free Will and I firmly believe “il futuro non e scritto,” the future is not written, and I consider those who believe we are powerless to make the future bend to our wills are dupes of religion, I do start entertaining ideas of fate and destiny around football season. I seem fated to be a Jets fan. The Jets keep giving the appearance of being destined to fail. Spectacularly.

I admit that since the days of Broadway Joe I have tried to change my allegiance. I didn’t like sitting in the freezing cold Shea Stadium watching Richard Todd hurl the ball into oblivion. I have tried over and over to like the Giants, and while I have admired many of their players (Phil Simms is my favorite football talking head) I have been stopped by one thing or another (Bill Parcells or Tom Coughlin for example.) The Giants win Super Bowls, they are more New York (as apposed to say New Jersey), and they are owned by the family of Rooney Mara who is the American version of the girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Hot! But it doesn’t work. I’m a Jet all the way.

Why am I stuck with the Jets? Does it begin back in the primordial slime of the American Football League, the upstarts who rose to challenge the dominance of the once inexorable NFL and beat them at their own game. Is it the legend of Broadway Joe? I don’t know. But it would be easier to give up football than give up the Jets.

I have hated Jets coach after Jets coach—Joe Walton, Bruce Coslet (26 wins, 38 losses,) Rich Kotite (4 wins 28 losses, perhaps the worst coach in NFL history), the annoying Herman Edwards, the smug Eric Mangini. Finally, in Rex Ryan, the Jets have a coach I can get behind (I was behind Pete Carroll too for all the good it did him.) They have a great group of players that are fun to watch—the legendary LaDainian, the super-gutsy Jim Leonhard, the peerless Darelle Revis, the gladiatorial Nick Mangold, the resilient Plaxico Burress, the all-out Dustin Keller, the fierce David Harris, the intense Antonio Cromartie, the ferocious Bart Scott, the electric Joe McKnight just to name a few. They play great defense. Their offense seems to show moments of brilliance. There’s only one thing really wrong.

The Sanchise. As much as I find him handsome, charming, inoffensive and comparatively good-humored, Mark Sanchez is not a quarterback you win Super Bowls with. He is so bland. I don’t mind that he went to a Justin Bieber concert. I don’t mind that the New York Post reported he was smoking a cigarette in a club in Alabama. I don’t mind him eating a hot dog on the bench. (Well, I do actually.) I don’t mind him riding a stationery bike on the sidelines. (Maybe he needs to get his mind off the game.) But even a fan like me can see that there’s something wrong here and it’s not getting better. With Sanchez the Jets are fated to fail. Doomed to self-destruct. As Homer said, “Thus have the gods spun the thread for wretched mortals: that they live in grief while they themselves are without cares; for two jars stand on the floor of Zeus of the gifts which he gives, one of evils and another of blessings. And as Homer said, “Doh!”

Sure Sanchez made a lot of rookie mistakes, but he’s still making rookie mistakes. And when he comes out of the game after the fumble or the interception he goes to the bench, puts on his dunce baseball cap and mopes. He’s a total moper. A complete pouter. A Manning, any Manning, would be on his feet, pacing the sidelines, looking at photos from the booth, talking the coaches. Sanchez sits. Moping. Like the teacher made him sit in the corner.

Dude gets split out in the wildcat and and the 6 foot, 193 pound Drayton Florence, the Bills’ cornerback makes a moves like’s he’s going to put a hit on the Jets 6’2” 225 pound QB and he flinches, like “please don’t hurt me! He then wraps Florence up in a hold, maybe so as not to be blocked too hard, drawing a penalty. Is Sanchez tough enough?

Well he did tell GQ that he wanted to fight Coach Ryan last year.
Sanchez has a big, strong arm, but what good is a big arm without a big heart and a big brain. Maybe his strong arm is why he throws over and past his receivers so often. He’s not accurate. Hit him a couple of times and he forces throws into coverage. He’s flustered. NFL quarterbacks don’t get flustered. As for decision making, how about what Rex Ryan called the “Stupidest thing in NFL history,” Sanchez’s timeout call with 17 seconds on the play clock on the Patriots two yard line, that gave Tom Brady time to come back and score in the first half. Post-game Ryan commented on Brady, “You see the difference a great quarterback makes in this league.”
Of course the Jets gave Sanchez $28 million guaranteed, and they have plenty of incentive to try to make this marriage work, but let me go back to destiny. Fate. Doom. Who still believes that Sanchez, in his third season, has what it takes to be great.
On Inside the NFL between Phil Simms, Cris Collingsworth and Phil Simms al, agreed that the Indianapolis Colts, who are 0-10 this season would be 6-4 if only they had their quarterback Peyton Manning back. It seems that they think that one guy could make the difference between the worst team in the league and a team with a better record than the Jets.

The answer is sitting right under Rex Ryan’s nose (or gut) in the person of Greg McElroy, the Alabama quarterback the Jets took in the fifth round of the last draft. McElroy has won a national championship. He through 56 touchdown passes in high school. He scored a 43 on the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability test, second only to Harvard alum Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Buffalo Bills. (Eli Manning scored a respectable 39). Sanchez scored 28. But that’s just a test. The real test is in the games and that’s where McElroy has proved himself to be savvy, poised and cool under fire, with a 24-3 record and a 66.3 completion percentage, the best in school history. He In his senior year he threw for 39 touchdowns. He finished the year with 116 throws without an interception. McElroy is a winner. He earned his bachelor’s degree in three years with a 3.86GPI, then earned a masters with a perfect 4.0, and was a finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship. It’s called WINNING!

I’m not rattling this stuff off saying he should start for the Jets because of what he did in college, even if it was winning a national championship. I got excited by watching the guy play for the Jets. Against Houston, behind a leaky line that was missing Nick Mangold and Brandon Marshall, he threw 23 for 39 for 208 yards and a touchdown. (He was sacked twice behind Vladimir Ducasse who can’t block anybody.) Against the Bengals McElroy was 6 for 9 for 59 yards with no turnovers. Against the Eagles he dislocated his thumb. He had surgery and finally the cast off his thumb.

Tom Brady was a sixth round pick. If you recall Brady started out as the fourth string quarterback for the Patriots, behind Drew Bledsoe and two others we seem to have forgotten. As a rookie he moved up to second string and went 1 for 3 for 6 yards. In the second game of the 2001 season the Jets’ Mo Lewis knocked Drew Bledsoe out of the game with a ferocious hit. Bledsoe suffered internal bleeding and Brady took over as starter. He won 11 of the 14 games he started and led the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXVI, which they won with Brady being named MVP.

Greg McElroy was a fifth round pick. Maybe’s he’s one hit away from leading the Jets out of the ground-and-pound mess they’re in. We don’t need a franchise, we need a guy who plays smart, with heart. Alabama to Jets. It’s a natural!


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