What is it like to go into a Week 3 game thinking your team has a chance to contend and know a day later your team is going to have a top ten pick in the Draft? That was the feeling I had after a 2005 loss to the Jaguars.
Expectations were high for the Jets entering 2005. They were coming off a successful season in which they were a missed field goal away from going to the AFC Championship Game. They made splashy offseason additions Ty Law and Laveranues Coles. They had a franchise quarterback, albeit one coming off a torn rotator cuff, in Chad Pennington. This was a team that seemed like it could be playing late in January.
The first two weeks were uneven. The Jets were routed in their opener in Kansas City and then registered an unconvincing win over Miami a week later. Pennington was not looking healthy. Surely he would improve, and the Jets would hit their stride, though.
The Jets' offense continued to struggle as the Jaguars jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first half. It was 10-7 at halftime. In the third quarter, Pennington had to leave the game after consecutive sacks. He had torn his rotator cuff again. Backup quarterback Jay Fiedler promptly hit two of his first three passes, infusing some life into the Jets' offense for perhaps the first time all season, but he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Pennington incredibly returned to the game with Fielder out, but he was ineffective the rest of the way.
The game ended up going into overtime where the Jaguars won on a 36 yard touchdown pass from Byron Leftwich to Jimmy Smith.
A day later the Jets found out both their starting quarterback and their backup were out for the year. The Jets signed 41 year old Vinny Testaverde. He and Brooks Bollinger started the remainder of the games. Current Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury even got some work in mopup duty. It was a five quarterback year for the Jets. Those are seldom good, and Gang Green finished 4-12. By the end of the regular season, roughly half of the starting lineup was on injured reserve. Fan favorites Curtis Martin and Wayne Chrebet both suffered career-ending injuries. This game launched a season from hell. If there is a silver lining, they got the fourth overall pick which was used to take Virginia tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson.
Some might be surprised to see this one on the list, but it was very bitter for me. It took me like four years and the early success of Rex Ryan to get over this one. I really thought the Jets were going to go far in 2005. In hindsight, maybe I was a little ambitious. Their lines were not as strong as they were the year before after failing to adequately replace Jason Ferguson and Kareem McKenzie. I would have loved to have found out, though.
This game also is where any dreams of Pennington being a franchise quarterback died. A second rotator cuff tear left his arm in shambles. He never had spectacular arm strength, but he had enough to be a top tier quarterback, which he was in his first three years starting. While he did have astonishing subsequent success relative to the toll the injuries took, he was never the kind of player who could carry a team after that, even if he did finish second in the MVP voting with the Dolphins in 2008.