"We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in."
If you’ve called yourself a Jets fan at any point in the past 49 years, you can count yourself among the broken and abused. Old or young, long-suffering or newly initiated, we Jets fans have been mentally battered, beaten, and bludgeoned by the cruel and unwavering right fist of institutional ineptitude. We have watched our hopes and dreams be crushed to dust in front of our very eyes. We have watched division rivals go on multiple dynasty runs. We have played little brother to our cross-town rivals since our inception. We have taught ourselves to become numb to the reality that no matter what happens, the let-down is coming. The Same Old Jets with rear their ugly head at the first hint of optimism. The worst part is that so often, this curse adept at playing the long game. We’re not the Browns, where we never even get our hopes up. We’re the Jets, where we’ll show signs of progress just long enough to get us emotionally invested, and then the powers that be punch us in the nose, daze us, and rip our hearts out right in front of our very eyes. We, the seasoned, jaded, Jets fans have gotten very good at not getting our hopes up. We see the signs, we can tell when nothing has really changed, and we can at least brace for impact as our Jet plane falls out of the sky.
With that said, I can’t help but give into this temptation of hope. For the first time in a long, long time, I feel true excitement for what the future holds. Not cautious optimism like in 2012 and 2013, not nervously reserved like in 2014 and 2015, and not indifference like in 2016 and 2017. This year feels… different. The broken man inside of me is screaming at me not to get sucked in, not fall for fool’s gold, not to let them do this to us again, but I just can’t help it. I looked for answers as to why I was able to actually let myself feel this way all preseason and I couldn’t put my finger on it, or maybe I just wasn’t ready to believe in what I already knew- Sam Darnold is different.
The Jets and their "saviors" at QB have never, ever panned out in my lifetime. Chad’s arm was dead by year 6, Kellen Clemons never should have been drafted in round 2, Mark Sanchez never had the "aha" moment where it clicked, Geno struggled to put it altogether, and Petty experience was barely an attempt, and Hackenberg was the football equivalent of the Hindenburg. So why should Sam be any different? As human beings, we are conditioned to think certain ways based on what we experience. So why on Earth would I ever be hopeful for a rookie Jets QB? After all, I’m not insane- and the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.
I was skeptical all camp long, I was waiting for the, "He’s a rookie, give it time" excuse every sucker Jets fan gives when the rookie QB looks awful practice. But to my surprise, it never came. By all reports, Darnold actually played… good in practice. Never had I heard that before from a Jets rookie QB. That was the first sign that something felt different. Then I watched him in preseason, and that’s where it started to click that this kid might not be like the others. He was doing things, very little things, that I never saw Sanchez, or Geno, or any other "savior" do. He was aware of the pocket around him, so basic yet so different. He made post-snap reads, again basic, but nothing I had seen before. I had a feeling inside of me, it made me very uncomfortable and confused, it was optimism.
Now, though I had this new found optimism inside of me, it still had not bloomed into true excitement. I was not ready to abandon the creeping doubt that seems ingrained within me for all Jets-related matters. Then Monday night happened. And guys (and gals #2018), I don’t know what to do with myself. The game started exactly how my inner broken man knew it would, pick 6. And when I say "knew", I mean "KNEW". As soon as I saw it was play action, and not a run, I said out loud, "oh no", before he even threw the ball. I wasn’t mad, I wasn’t upset, I just let the numbness take over. Then drive two happened, and things felt a little better, but I h still had that heart-skipping feeling I would get every time the ball used to leave Mark Sanchez’s hand. Then he converted that 3rd down conversion to Enunwa in the Red Zone and I felt back to neutral- BUT something else happened. The Jets became the beneficiary of a questionable review call. This may sound stupid, but when they let that call stand, I got butterflies, because THAT is different. THAT does not happen to the Same Old Jets. Something was up.
The rest of the half plays out and Sam looks solid, the touchdown is nice, but isn’t a special play in my head. Then the Lions come out and score to open the 2nd half, all my good energy was zapped and I actually texted a friend that that was it, ball game over, Jets lose (I know, I’m that kind of Jets fan). I fully expected Sam to throw a pick on the ensuing drive and for the game to getaway at that point. But then Sam drives down the field and throws a TD to Enunwa’s and OH MY GOD that is not supposed to happen to the Same Old Jets. In a little bit of shock still, I watch the next drive and OH MY GOD WE JUST RETURNED A PUNT FOR A TD. The Jets had not scored on special teams for 6 years; this was not the Same Old Jets. I keep watching AND OH MY F*****G GOD DARRON LEE PICK SIX. Darron Lee, of all people, breaks the Jets 5 year defensive TD draught and this REALLY is not the Same Old Jets. Now the Jets have ball and H%^(*&^@# IKGIUW%$&^!!!!!!!!!!! Crowell goes 60 yards for a TD. ALL IN THE SAME QUARTER.
These are NOT things that the Jets do. They are NOT. I don’t know if 49 is some weird biblical number, but 49 years later, whatever curse that was on the Jets seems to be lifted and I am telling you, my fellow Jets fans, my commiserators, let the light shine through the cracks of your broken psyche, these New York Jets are not your Sam(e) (Darn)old Jets!