New York Jets: Don’t Blame Fans Hoping for the Tank

David Aitken on New York Jets fans opinions about tanking…

The Jets enter this year with arguably the least talented roster they’ve had in the past 20 years. Organizationally they are clearly prioritizing evaluating the youth of the roster over winning. The widely held expectation both in and out of the fan base is the Jets aren’t winning many games this year. How does a fan get enjoyment out of this?

Some fans are still going to treat it like every other year and root for the team to win every game, coming away disappointed if they do not. Others aren’t going to get their hopes up. The lighthearted if cynical approach is embracing the “tank” – trying to find actual enjoyment in the poor performances. To others still it’s more than a joke, they’re actively hoping the losses pile up if that’s what it takes to bring change and lead to the highest possible draft pick. Enjoy the team however you want to enjoy it. But let’s avoid the super fandom – dictating how a real fan is supposed to behave in certain situations.

I get the disgust for fans rooting for tanking on the surface – if you support a team, root for them to win. Personally I find it difficult even when the Jets are bad to be actively rooting for defeats – the losses just hurt a lot less than when there’s any expectations. But I get the feeling of those that would prefer the Jets are as bad as possible if they’re not going to be competing for a playoff spot.  The #JetsTank crowd is not rooting for the Jets to fail in 2017 because they want the team to be bad, they’re doing so because they want the team to be good.

As we look toward this upcoming season I think most fans would agree there’s a difference between a “good” 5-11 record and a “bad” one. If the Jets win five games on the back of Christian Hackenberg, a young core of receivers and an improving youthful defense, it’s a season that has generated a real cause for optimism going forward. But should five wins be scraped by through Matt Forte turning back the years and Josh McCown starting the majority of the season, the Jets are not reaping any long-term benefit and are no closer to a franchise signal caller.

Indeed the Jets have been spurned twice recently by irrelevant late wins in the past being a decisive factor in missing out on top quarterback prospects. The 2007 season ended with a meaningless, abominable overtime victory versus Kansas City that was the difference between being in the Matt Ryan zone and not. In 2014 the draft had two clear-cut franchise changers and the Jets entered Week 15 in control of their own destiny to land them. They won two of their last three. Instead of an MVP quarterback or a potential future one, we’ve got Josh McCown.

At the end of the day, what all fans want to see is their team compete consistently. And whether it feels “right” to root for it or not, often the first step to building a consistent contender is to start by being the biggest loser.

If you really are appalled by the tanking talk, your problem should not be with other fans who would sooner see a 1 win season than a 5 win year if it means a franchise quarterback. Your problem should be with a system that incentivizes poor performance with a potential golden ticket to a franchise changer. So long as this is a league built around the haves and have not’s at quarterback, the have not’s are going to put themselves in as best a position as possible to change their fortunes. The alternative, outside of the rare hit outside the top of the draft, is perpetual purgatory.

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