New York Jets Koolaid Stand

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

What's next for the 2013 NY Jets? Maybe past is prelude.

The head coach has never coached on the offensive side of the ball.  He appears to mostly be interested in the defense and largely neglects the offense.  His quarterback and his offense languish under the neglect. He is a larger than life figure with ties to the 1968 Super Bowl team.   He gets in bizarre verbal battles that seem wildly inappropriate.  After starting his career as a head coach with a remarkable improvement in the team's results and receiving rave reviews from the fans, he presided over an epic collapse the prior year and is now under severe pressure, widely viewed as on the firing block unless he pulls off a minor miracle and makes the playoffs.

The quarterback is the product of a legendary college program.  He was drafted high in the first round, drafted to replace a legendary Hall of Fame quarterback.  It is a heavy burden.  The quarterback starts slowly, turning the ball over too much.  He sometimes throws a very pretty ball and can have games where he looks like the real deal, but it never lasts.  He makes slow, incremental progress for nearly three years, then the roof caves in.  After 4+ years of starting in the NFL, he leads the league in turnovers over the last two years, his passer rating has plunged, his confidence is shot, and fans are calling for his replacement.  It appears there is no hope that this guy will ever become a decent, let alone good, NFL quarterback.

The lead running back is supremely talented but has trouble staying on the field.  He is supplemented by a group of no name backs who put fear in no opponent, including one of the league's best kick returners, an electric presence in the backfield who has trouble getting playing time.

The receivers are led by a 2nd round draft pick Pro Bowl talent with elite speed on one side, who unfortunately was a major disappointment the prior year, a year which was injury shortened but was a disappointment even when he saw the field.  On the other side is a guy who is probably the league's fastest wide receiver but is extremely raw and has yet to make his mark in the league.  The tight end is a 30+ year old who was once a Pro Bowl player but who was invisible the prior year and now is considered pretty much done by most observers.

The offensive line is considered one of the strengths of an underwhelming team, led by Pro Bowl players at center and left tackle.

On defense, the team has an underwhelming group of linebackers, led by an aging but hard hitting veteran who once was pretty good and a 2nd year 3rd round draft pick who has yet to prove he is a starting caliber player.  Behind those two guys there's a whole lot of ifs and prayers.   The safety positions are manned by a hard hitting, solid but unspectacular veteran and a young, talented former second round pick.

The biggest strength of the team is the defensive line, on which the Jets have spent multiple recent high draft picks.  It is a unit that is extremely talented, led by bookend young defensive ends, but it has yet to prove it can be a dominant unit in this league.

In an effort to turn around the team's fortunes the Jets have hired an offensive guru away from the NFC East.  Known for his system which spreads the ball around to numerous receivers, the Jets hope the new offensive coordinator can somehow light a fire under their golden boy quarterback and turn around a moribund offense.  So what happens next?

Easy, right?  This is the 2013 Jets, and we are in for a world of pain, right?  Wrong.  This article isn't about the 2013 Jets.  This article is about the 1981 Jets.  Those Jets were coming off a 4-12 disaster in 1980, and were widely predicted to be one of the worst teams in the NFL in 1981.  And then... magic.  The defensive line suddenly found its footing and gelled.  The result: the legendary New York Sack Exchange.  The offense under new offensive coordinator Joe Walton suddenly took flight.   The embattled quarterback Richard Todd, after failing to achieve a passer rating over 67 in any of his prior 5 seasons and leading the NFL with an incredible 30 interceptions the year before, suddenly transformed himself into a borderline Pro Bowl talent.  He ranked 5th and 6th in TDs in the NFL over the next two years.  He ranked 8th and 6th in passer rating, and most incredibly of all, he suddenly stopped turning the ball over, ranking 4th in the NFL in INT % in 1981 and 1982.  It was a stunning turnaround after 5 years of misery.

The final outcome of all this: the Jets made the playoffs in back to back years for the first time since the legendary 1968 team.  The 1982 Jets came within a drenching rainstorm of reaching the Super Bowl.  Walt Michaels and Richard Todd's jobs were saved, at least for a little while.  This all happened in the most unlikely of fashions more than 30 years ago, on a team with uncanny similarities to the 2013 Jets.

None of this of course means anything in regards to the 2013 Jets' prospects.  That was then, this is now.  But still, this is the preseason, when all things are possible.  So for those of you who want to take another long draft of Koolaid before the real games begin, you might start with that 1981 team of yore, when all appeared lost going into the season.  If you were there, that team produced the most electrifying and terrifying moment I have ever witnessed as a Jets fan.   As the Jets were qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in  more than a decade, the fans were going absolutely nuts in the stands.  The celebration got so raucous, the concrete stands were actually rocking up and down, like it was an earthquake.  A memory anyone who was there will never forget.  Who knows, maybe, despite all odds, this Jets team, so uncannily similar to that one so many years ago, will produce memories of its own that a new generation of Jets fans will never forget.  What the heck, may as well believe now, in the preseason, when all things are possible, and Koolaid is King.

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