When some people asked me, "which team are you siding with?", most part of my life their reaction went the way of "why are you supporting that loser team?"
That has been true for many different teams in various sports i support. But mainly that applies to one particular case. Don't get shocked it's a Soccer team. Its my home Team in Switzerland, Football Club Zurich. The following i'll tell you a story, how many similarities i found between the Jets and FC Zurich.
Story of siding with a losing team
Becoming a teenager i started following Swiss Soccer, it was no question i would side with FC Zurich, Zurich beeing my hometown, which is the biggest city in Switzerland as well as it's economical center and quite multicultural. To side with FC Zurich is not so obvious, as the city holds two professional Soccer Teams. Out of those, FC Zurich is the slightly younger team, but definitely the less successful one. The other team, i'll refer to it as the G-Team, was quite dominating and had most championships in the league (generally think of championships like playoff appearances, gives a good idea how the success rate and differences between the teams were). Another difference between the Zurich teams was it's image. Not having such thing as a salary cap, the G-Team was financially overwhelming and no team could match it's financial power (think about the Yankees). FC Zurich instead was always struggling. Therefore the G-team had a lot of Fans outside it's area and was supported by the elite. FC Zurich, at least back then, was known as being the "workers club". The G-Team was the clear number one team in the city
Last winning season of FC Zurich resulting in a championship, was when i was 5 years old, and back then i couldn't care less about Soccer. Since then the team was struggling, having horrible coaches and changing them often. Many trades were useless and since there isn't such thing a drafting, team was regularly playing at the bottom of the league. It's president was quite a good guy, but was interfering a lot with the coaches and who should play and what to do.
So for nearly twenty years, there was just about nothing to enjoy. Fans would find themselves in the stadium, hoping for better times watching often some gruesome games. It was standard as usual. Team would try and sometimes even play well, but still lose and walk away with nothing. Some players wouldn't wait long to ask for a transfer, so to join better teams, sometimes going to the city rival, which was unheard of.
During this period, another team from another city was struggling in a similar way. Lets call this team the B-Team. Between FC Zurich and the B-Team, there always has been a big rivalry. Each fanbase mocking each other about their dialects or accents, each of them having quite a fanbase, mainly based on the working class people.
The Rival starting a new Era
Then in the mid 90s, the B-Team gets a new president and some new financial sponsor. They get a new headcoach who will lead the team for the next 11 years. It's the beginning of an Era in which the B-Team takes over and wins a lot of Championships (still think of playoff appearances) and would be dominating in the league, setting even some records.
Useless to say as a Fan of FC Zurich, there was about nothing to look forward. The city rival is still the better team and the biggest rival is dominating. You just couldn't stand it. As a fan the biggest satisfaction would be, the very seldom cases where you'd beat either the G- or the B-Team. Instead very often you'd get beat down by the B-Team.
Sometimes FC Zurich would be praised for it's trades, which could turnaround the franchise. But that never came true. In fact whenever a praised player would be traded to FC Zurich, that player could never play up to the expectations or his usual performance. Actually whenever some underperforming player was traded away, quite some of them managed to start a career.
Thinking about winning a championship was surreal.
The new headcoach, the worst loss and the turning point
In 2003 FC Zurich gets a new headcoach, a student of the game who had some decent success with teams in smaller leagues. It is his first job with a main team as a headcoach. This Coach would change the team basically completely over the next 3 years, sometimes earning quite some criticism. But he's taking his shots and makes a name as a Coach who manages to develop players. The president by now is getting older and wiser and let the GM and Coach do their job.
In his second year the headcoach is about to get fired, since things were looking a lot worse then the year before. Cherry on top was a Cup-Semifinal (a side competition in playoff format) between FC Zurich and the G-Team. To give an idea i apply some Football terms: Your team is leading 35-11, with 5 minutes to go in the forth quarter. As a Fan your in ecstasy, this is something you've been waiting for a long time. Well, all to early, the G-Team will tie that game in regulation and will win it in overtime. As a Fan, your crying by now. This is it. You know the very next day, everyone will stick it in your face, there's no way around that and it will be remembered forever. Just shame. You support a team which has "Loser" written all over it.
That next day, i still feel destroyed, but i still know i belong to my team. I go to work with a scarf of my team around my neck (something i've never done before or after that), showing no matter what, this is me and this is my team. Looks like my team got the same reaction. Somehow from that moment on, the team was tired of giving it away all the time. It would be the turning point.
The long awaited sucess
The very next season, FC Zurich is playing very well and seems that it could contend for the title. They were still behind the B-Team, but it was close. Approaching the end of the season my team gets to close the gap (mind in soccer there's no playoffs, but only regular season games). Unthinkable happens, the very last game of the season is at the B-Team, and with a win against them, FC Zurich would become champion. As a Fan this is the opportunity you've waited all these years. Chances are still slim, but they are real and it's not a dream.
The game starts, and within the first half, FC Zurich needs to exchange two players because of injuries. Still FC Zurich takes the lead and everyone at B-City is shocked. The B-team eventually manages to tie the game, and a tie is all they need to become champions again. After the tie, you seem to get back all those ghosts. Your team is not getting it done, they seem all shaken up. Injury Time is on. Somehow everything looks like a Hail Mary by now. Referee is consulting the clock, it may be the last play. I'm in the stadium and being a slave of to funny angle i have, you see the players of my team raising their arms in joy. What happened? They scored in the very last seconds of the game. There won't be any other play. Game is over, season is over and your team finally made it. After all those years. In their stadium. The experience of a lifetime.
FC Zurich would win another 2 championships in following years. And establish them as a contender going forward.
The Way to success
Looking back getting a team to be succesful it goes without saying, starts from the front office and continues with the headcoach. While it's hard for me to evaluate the front office or the headcoach from afar, it looks that the Jets made quite some progress in recent years. Give them some time to work it out. Looks like since Woody Johnson got the Jets, their regularly having winning records and made it to the playoffs 6 out of 12 seasons.
In the US professional sports, a lot comes down to drafting and developing players. The Pats showed in the past how that is done and how you build a generation of success. Next thing is your whole playing system. Copying from other teams often doesn't work out for a long time, but innovation matched with right players for it is key. Then all falls down to leadership and the locker room.
Yet i see some issues with the Jets. But i like when i hear Cro saying the Pats are "Americas Team". I hear "i'm having enough of them and the media praising them, i want to be in their spot". At this point and time, he's backing it up with his play. This is the attitude you want in a franchise.
For this season i'm looking ahead and won't start panicking if after the next six games were 6-6, the final schedule might work in favor of the Jets. This time i'd like to face the Pats in the Conference Final.