2005 was not a good year for the Jets. The team entered the season with Super Bowl hopes. Why wouldn't they? A year earlier the team came within a hair of making the AFC Championship Game, and the offseason brought flashy additions such as Laveranues Coles and Ty Law.
The season proved to be a disaster for numerous reasons. The wreckage of a 4-12 season brought a coaching change and the one of the few positives to come from such an awful campaign, the fourth pick in the Draft.
Many, myself included, badly wanted the Jets to take one of the stars from USC. Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart had both won the Heisman Trophy and became household names playing on some of the greatest college football teams ever. Fortunately, the Jets ignored so many of us and addressed the offensive line with their fourth pick. It certainly fit a need. The line had crumbled, and the Jets had lost two starting tackles, Kareem McKenzie and Jason Fabini, in two years.
Left tackle is one of the most important positions in the league. When your team has a lousy one, you know it. You see it destroy seasons. Quarterbacks become jittery knowing they cannot trust their protection. A hit from the blind side could be coming at any time.
At D'Brickashaw Ferguson's peak, he was a Pro Bowl caliber player, among the best in the game. At his worst, he was still a functional starter at an important position. For the last decade, the Jets never had to worry about that. There were times when it was easy to miss his importance and take his play for granted. That's the thing about left tackles. You notice when you have a bad one. It's easy to miss it when you have a good one. The announcer seldom points out a pass blocker unless he is beaten.
When I was thinking of D'Brickashaw's career over the last few days, one memory stuck out over others. It was on a Tuesday morning in the autumn of 2010. I was driving on my commute and was listening to Boomer Esiason's radio show. Just hours before, the Jets had beaten the Vikings on Monday Night Football. Boomer had announced the game on the radio. When recalling the game, he noted that with around five minutes left in the fourth quarter he realized he hadn't mentioned star pass rusher Jared Allen's name once. That's great left tackle play in a nutshell. You don't even really notice it.
The Jets had peace of mind at this important position for a decade. D'Brickashaw didn't miss a game. He didn't even miss a snap outside of a desperation play against the Dolphins in 2008. It was one of those multi-lateral plays at the end of the game, and the Jets wanted to get as many athletes as possible onto the field. That was the one play D'Brickashaw sat out in his entire career. Think about the physicality of the offensive line. Nobody has that kind of durability.
Brick was the first in a series of picks that helped propel the Jets on deep Playoff runs in 2009 and 2010. Nick Mangold was from the same Draft class. Darrelle Revis and David Harris came a year later. As these runs were happening, it felt like they would become regular occurrences. Guys like Mark Sanchez, Dustin Keller, and Shonn Greene were supposed to raise their games and join this list of homegrown stars. They were going to be one of those teams always in the mix and ultimately win a championship or two.
It didn't work out that way. With the start of the Todd Bowles Era and the reacquisition of Revis, I like many was hoping this group would have one last chance to make some noise. Up until last week, it seemed like they would have another chance or two, maybe three.
That wasn't to be, but it doesn't diminish a great career at all.
Thanks for everything, D'Brickashaw. Next Stop The Ring of Honor