If God Is My Quarterback
As a college baseball playing freshman, I was once given the honor of presenting the lineup card at home plate for a neutral site game between my UCONN Huskies and Fordham down in southern Florida. A familiar early season solution for Northeast teams whose schedules start in late February. Weeks prior to any chance of playable outdoor conditions back home, the Rams assistant who met me that day by the umpires I knew well thanks to his attempts at recruiting me to be a Ram a year prior. When I was a high school senior. He proceeded to shake my hand, before delivering the truth in his typical and lovable Joe Pesci “My Cousin Vinny” style delivery. He said ” you know why we’re da home team and you’se guys are da visitors? Your coach did a coin toss over the phone wit me and says ” tails, you win.” Now I’m saying to myself, wait a second here, I win? Not for nuttin,but if I do a coin toss over the phone, I don’t lose. Get what I’m sayin?”
I couldn’t help but have flashbacks of that personal ballfield moment as Eric Decker did the Met Life leap. One green human flight into the crowd that meant the Jets had not only escaped their eternal nemesis the Patriots. It meant they had also regained a right they relinquished carelessly back in Houston six weeks ago: Control of their own playoff destiny. In the spirit of that Fordham coach, my old buddy, If I’m Bill Belichick and God is my quarterback, there’s no way in hell I win the toss and kick off. You got me?
I can surmise what was going through the great HC’s mind at the time before he sent out his troops for the overtime ceremonies. We all can. His offensive line was ravished. The Jets defense had been shutting most everything down all day. Ryan Fitzpatrick was due for a bad throw. Surely the Jets offense who couldn’t get a first down when they needed one to close out, could be held to three points at worst. All of which may have been true at the time. It’s just when weighing all of that against both the mighty game winning essence of Tom Brady and the Jets historical penchant for turning simple mundane downs into game ending, runway explosions, there’s no way I would’ve taken the risk to NOT give the Greatest of All Time first crack at it.
It’s certainly easy to see, or say from here in our Monday Morning seats but some things are absolute. Like winning coin tosses held over the phone. You got Brady, you take the ball. That’s just me talking while thinking of that day as a freshman….And me thanking the powers that be that somehow Tom Brady watched the Pats win the toss but never stepped foot off of the sidelines until it was too late.
Playing With Fire and Living To Tell The Tale
Are the Jets crazy? Twice on the Patriots agonizing game tying drive late in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady and co. faced fourth down. Or in other words, game on the line. Twice the Jets defense opted to cover Rob Gronkowski with someone other than Darrelle Revis. That’s nuts. I’m sorry.
Aside from some injury to 24 that I didn’t get the memo about, I don’t even want to hear justification as to why Brady didn’t have to stare down the line at Gronk and see Revis across from him. To at least create some uncertainty about any pass being a sure thing. What, you say Gronk would’ve hauled in the fourth and one if not the fourth and nine even on 24 anyway? Well let it play out that way then. You don’t let your best player attempt to make a play or create some intimidation mentally.
Marcus Williams has done great work this season. Calvin Pryor too (including some pass coverage on Gronk at times). So have many others. There is a time and a place for schemes over individuals, or who’s hot and who’s not. Not then. Not with Gronk. Not when shutting down the great tight end would have forced a no name Pats receiver to become clutch instantly. Make THAT guy beat you.
Isn’t It Ironic..
That the Jets have tried to force feed starting rookie quarterbacks into franchise quarterbacks here since 2009 but the one guy who appears to fit the part was a ten year journeyman. A scrap heap guy with a beard who somehow fell into the role thanks to a mindless punch thrown by an ex-Jet in training camp? Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t sharp downfield early yesterday. If he was, the epic theatrics that went down later in the day may never have taken place. Yet every time the Pats came creeping Fitzmagic answered. In his patented manner: calm, cool, clearheaded, and collected.
In overtime, the Pats clearly bet against the notion of the Jets going the distance. Yet there was Fitzmagic again. First finding Quincy Enunwa. Then Brandon Marshall. Then finally Eric Decker for the KO. It’s safe to say finally, isn’t it? Fitz is the quarterback now and for the the near future.
Near meaning he’s not a bright eyed college kid. He’s got some tread on him but you know what, that’s a good thing. Let’s enjoy a signal caller’s wise veteran years. We’ve all lived through enough youthful growing pains between Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith. Lock the guy up, Jets. Two to three year deal. Smart move.
In Fitz the Jets finally have a field leader. One who genuinely rallies the team. He did it against the Giants. He did it in Dallas. He did it yesterday. All of it December football mind you. I hope Mike Macagnan is crossing off starting QB as a need for 2016 and even 2017. After all it was Bill Parcells who once said “I don’t like celebrity quarterbacks. We don’t need those. We need battlefield commanders.” Agreed. One hundred percent.
Rex’s Super Bowl
This week we will probably hear it all out of Buffalo. How week 17 will be the Bills Super Bowl. How Rex will give it all he’s got to beat his former team again. Whatever. The Jets need to go up to Orchard Park and show who’s boss from the word go. Play confidently and aggressively. Attack. Smash em and thrash em. That’s what 10-5 teams do.
Get after Tyrod Taylor. Hit Buffalo’s defense from all directions the way Chan Gailey brilliantly attacked New England Sunday with a balanced spread approach. Make Buffalo play too aggressively. Angry. Help to pile those Sexy Rexy penalty yards up.
Okay, the Bills certainly have big play guys and have lost some of those key pieces at times but that aside, the Jets have played better for longer stretches this year than the Bills have. They’ve done it on both sides of the ball. They’ve shut their mouths, played disciplined football, and have been a better overall product than the one Ryan has put out there, at least this season.
The Jets are not. as Ryan said after he beat them the first time, “the ex girlfriend who wants back.” They are a team that’s moved on from him. They are Todd Bowles’ team now. No drama. One game at a time mindset. Keep a low profile. Play hard, play with respect.
The time for “thanks for the memories Rex” is long gone. Don’t even get into it this week if you’re a Jet. Stay focused. Let Buffalo run their mouths if they choose to. Now’s the time to lay low in the grass. Study. Get ready to lock and load. Never mind who is coaching the other team on the other sideline. Take what’s yours. A playoff berth awaits. It’s Rex’s Super Bowl but if you’re the Jets, its a real opportunity. Not a symbolic or fictitious one.
– Stars like Fitzpatrick, Marshall, Decker, Wilkerson, Richardson, Revis keep elevating but how about the role players? Their roles keep growing thanks to their playmaking. Powell, Mauldin, Enunwa, Thompkins. Rontez Miles too. Now entering the role players club, Stevan Ridley. It takes all 53. We know that.
– Keeping in mind the Pats O line was banged up and without Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, the Jets defense nonetheless stifled the Pats on third down all day. Preventing lesser players from hurting them. One of the keys to three and outs were minimizing gains on first downs when the Pats threw to running backs on short catch and runs. Those 2nd and 6’s became hell for New England to convert.
– Pay Mo Wilkerson please. I want him locked up in Florham for a long time.
– Randy Bullock: Made big kicks late against the Giants, was clutch in Dallas, perfect against the Patriots. I know. It’s hard to be completely comfortable with any kicker aside from our now tried and tested Nick Folk, but give the guy credit. He’s come in here and made some big pressure kicks.
– A key for the Jets Sunday was not allowing any big plays on special teams. Ryan Quigley had no shanks either. You laugh, but imagine one mishap. Just one. It could’ve meant game over. Even season over.
– Damn you Patriots, even after the big Jets win! I know the Jets strength of schedule has been poor, but 10-5 doesn’t even guarantee a playoff spot when you’re in the AFC East! 10-5 in half of the other divisions would mean still being in the race for division winner.
Photo Credit; NewYorkJets.com