A cursory glance at the AFC passing leaders for the 2012 season yields a surprising opportunity for the Jets to become legitimate contenders sooner rather than later. The reason is simple. While the NFL is definitely in the midst of a changing of the guard at the QB position, and the young guns are rapidly taking over the league, it is interesting to note that nearly all those young guns currently reside in the NFC. The AFC QBs for the 2012 season were as follows, with their respective ages listed as of the end of the 2014 season. They are listed in descending order of passer rating.
Tom Brady 37
Matt Schaub 33
Joe Flacco 30
Andy Dalton 27
Andrew Luck 25
Jake Locker 26
Chad Henne 29
Mark Sanchez 28
Matt Cassell 32
Look at that list. Every name on that list past Andy Dalton was a below average QB this year. By the end of the 2014 season, 2 of the three HOF QBs will be on their last legs. Only Big Ben will still have a few good years left in him, and given the beating he takes every year, it is possible he will be well into decline by then. Schaub, Rivers and Palmer will also be in decline by then. Of the remaining names on that list, Luck is headed for stardom, but does any other QB scare you? Is any other QB even a shoo in to be consistently above average? Tannehill, Locker and Dalton have talent, but are far from sure things. The rest are mediocrities.
This means a rare opportunity for the Jets. If they can make just one great decision, just one, and find themselves a franchise QB in the next 2 years, then they are set up for a swift and decisive move back up the contenders list. I'm not talking about an all time great QB -- that's too much to ask. Just a top 10 QB will be plenty good enough, as by then Manning and Brady won't be much better than that, and there is little reason to believe anyone else on that list other than Big Ben and Luck will be either. There's every reason to believe the Jets will have a better defense than the Colts and the Pats, and the Steelers and Raven defenses have gotten old and may not be the powerhouses they once were over the next few years.
Given this state of affairs, if things fall right and the Jets manage to find a better QB than any of the other AFC teams that will be looking for QBs, then with 2 good drafts and some wise FA moves in 2014, the Jets just might be contenders very, very quickly.
Sure, it would be nice if the Jets had an opportunity because of how awesome they are likely to be in 2 years. But given the current state of affairs for this team, I'll take contention by default. Opportunity is knocking, loud and clear, for the 2014 AFC playoffs. Some unlikely teams are going to grab it and run with it, possibly all the way to the 2014-15 Super Bowl. If the Jets can get just one decision right, then maybe, just maybe, they have a legitimate chance to be that team.