PITTSBURGH PA - JANUARY 23: Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets reacts during their 2011 AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on January 23 2011 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
I know; this one hurts. It's the kind of hurt that stings for a while, perhaps more than a football game should. While the rest of the country enjoys SBXLV, you will be staring at your beverage of choice, asking yourself, "what if?"
What if Ike Taylor arrives .02 seconds later so Sanchez throws an incomplete pass? What if LaDainian Tomlinson jumps over the pile on the goal line? What if Cromartie is not called for a PI on the first drive? What if the microphones actually work?
The questions we should be asking are what if Rex Ryan was hired by another team? What if the Rams take Sanchez over Jason Smith? What if Santonio Holmes didn't like marijuana? What if Matt Slauson played like his draft position? What if Nick Folk misses the kick at the end of Wild Card weekend?
The point is, the NFL is a very unforgiving league. There is no "best of 7". It's win or lose. That's why teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, for all their history, have won an NFL record grand total of 8 AFC title games. Over a forty five year period, that doesn't seem like a whole lot for that to be an NFL record, especially when you consider the Yankees have 27 titles in their history.
We could sit here and say the Jets are just a pass-rusher away, or just a ball-hawking safety away from a win. That kind of thinking just does not work. An NFL season is so unpredictable, and games come down to inches. Sure, as we enter the offseason we will discuss ways to improve the team, but that line of thinking does not work.
Today is a day for mourning, mourning a loss of a great season, specifically for guys like LaDainian Tomlinson and Jason Taylor and Rex Ryan. Rex, if you forgot, has now lost 3 AFC title games in a row. That's rough.
Nevertheless, this season has delivered spectacular moments that aren't supposed too happen so many times. Whether is was beating Houston with 12 seconds on the clock at home (something I personally will remember for the rest of my life, as I had the opportunity to attend that game), or slaying the dragon that was the New England juggernaut when few thought it was possible.
To ease the pain, let's list the silver lining is this, after the jump:
It starts with the front office. Mike Tannenbuam has assembled an all-star roster, complete with a good young QB. The league's top offensive line got younger without losing a step, found talent in UFA's like Mike DeVitio and Brandon Moore that deserve trips to Hawaii. Mike T identifies the players he wants and gets them. It's the reason we have Sanchez, David Harris, and that guy named Darrelle Revis. More on him later.
Coaching is second to none. You can tell me about Super Bowl rings and experience and yadda yadda, but there is no coach I would rather have than Rex Ryan. What Jets fans need to understand is that they have locked up the league's best defensive mind, who, by the way, has never allowed a defense to rank lower than 6th overall. Wanna know how many teams would kill for an average ranking of 10th?
Sanchez is the real deal. Let's make one thing clear: Mark is not a particularly gifted QB. He has NFL-level talent, sure, but he is no Ben Roethlisberger or Aaron Rodgers, who are purebred to play QB. But you can never question this kid's priorities or toughness. Oh, and by the way, he's only 24.
Darrelle Revis is a 25 year old legend. He is that good. And he is going to be here for a long time. Enjoy it.
One more note: For anyone who thinks Rex "sets the bar too high", well, pardon my French, but it's time to grow a pair. Anyone who thinks that is afraid of failure. How can you criticize this team for falling short, while at the same time, tries to lower expectations? Too many fans want to be the underdog that wins the Super Bowl every year. That kind of thinking is not only impossible, it's cowardly and not in this team's DNA. It's Super Bowl or bust, every year, the way it should be (for every team, in my opinion.) If your goal is to just win the division every year, you aren't going to EVER get the hardware. Count on it.
Trust me, this team isn't going anywhere for a LONG time, so enjoy the ride.