By signing a 5 year, $50M contract with $28M in guarantees before training camp opens N.Y. Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez may have removed the final hurdle that could have prevented him from being the Jets starting QB when he and his new teammates open their 2009 season in Houston on September 13. No longer concerned with missing valuable practice time Sanchez has given himself the best possible chance of beating out the incumbent QB Kellen Clemens to become the Jets new starting QB.
New Jets head coach Rex Ryan saw first hand what a rookie QB was capable of doing in the right situation and with the right personnel surrounding him when rookie QB Joe Flacco, supported by a strong defense and a ground and pound running game, led the Ravens to the AFC Championship game against the eventual SB Champion Steelers last season.
This Jet team was built to become that same kind of team, and while it can take a long time to get from the design table to the finished product Ryan & Tannenbaum appear to be wasting no time or money in their efforts to get the Jets to the finished product stage as quickly as possible. On paper the Jets have built a solid running game, a good OL, a punishing defense and excellent special team units. This Jet team still has it's flaws, no established WR's other than WR Jeremy Cottchery, no one to blow up the QB and the obvious question marks that go along with starting a rookie QB but none one of those possible negatives seem to be daunting the rookie head coach and his charges, in fact they seem to be reveling in a newly found confidence that has come before so much as a single snap has been taken.
While it's way too early to project how successful these Jets will be one thing is certain, they will not be boring. After watching last years team fizzle down the stretch for many reasons, chief among them playing dispirited, flat lousy football the first time their opponents hit them in the nose, this years team seems to be going out of it's way to replace last seasons paranoia with confidence from the moment they began building the 2009 version of the Jets.
While their are many reasons for a team to fall short of their expectations in the long odyssey of the NFL season this Jets team seems unlikely to come up short of their expectations because of any of what happened here last year. This Jet team looks like it will have boundless energy, starting at the top with Rex Ryan, who seems intent on providing a season worth of bulletin board material before training camp even begins.
Boundless energy won't turn Chansi Stuckey into a #1 WR or Vernon Gholston into a QB killer but it should help the Jets avoid the flat, emotionless finish to such a promising '08 season when at 8-3 the Jets were being mentioned as one of the elite teams in the NFL. My guess is that if late in the '09 season this team once again finds itself being mentioned with the elite teams in the NFL they will remain in that conversation and avoid another late season collapse simply because they'll be having fun. Sometimes we forget that despite all the complications of the NFL game it is just that, a game, and games are supposed to be fun.
Football under Eric Mangini was rarely fun, that's a change Rex Ryan seemed intent on making from day one. Football under Rex Ryan will be fun. It's'been a long time since the NY Jets were a fun team to watch. Too long.