With things going so poorly for the Jets, I recently was thinking about the last successful era of Jets football.
That came a decade ago in the early Rex Ryan years. There were many memorable parts of that team. You had Rex’s bravado. There was young Mark Sanchez coming through in the clutch. There was a dominant defense led by peak Darrelle Revis.
There was also a dominant offensive line. The unit was supplemented by free agent signings such as Alan Faneca and Damien Woody, but the foundation was laid in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft.
While many thought the quarterback-needy Jets would draft USC star Matt Leinart, the Jets took a left tackle, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, out of Virginia.
Later in the first round with a pick they acquired by trading John Abraham, the Jets picked Ohio State center Nick Mangold.
Thus began a partnership that brought stability to the Jets offensive line for a decade. Both were Day 1 starters, and neither played a single snap with any other team. They combined to make 10 Pro Bowls.
Helping the Jets to control the trenches, they were the unheralded heroes who led the team within a game of the Super Bowl for two straight years in 2009 and 2010.
The team subsequently became less successful, but Mangold and Ferguson continued to do their jobs well.
Their durability was remarkable for a spot on the field where injuries are commonplace. Ferguson missed one single snap in his 10-year career. It happened on the final play of the 2008 season. Trailing the Miami Dolphins, the Jets pulled him simply to get as many athletes as possible on the field on a play that was designed to have multiple laterals.
Mangold was also strikingly reliable. In his first 10 seasons in the NFL, he only missed four starts.
Even though the team wasn’t as successful after 2010, you never saw the Jets fall to the depths they have hit in 2020. I have always thought a lot of that was due to the stability Ferguson and Mangold brought to the offensive line. A solid offensive line might not guarantee a team success in the NFL, but it is difficult to be the worst team in the league if you have quality players in the trenches.
Ferguson retired after the 2015 season. Mangold’s retirement came a year later. The Jets haven’t played so much as a meaningful December game since. I don’t think that’s an accident.
Neither Ferguson nor Mangold was particularly flashy, but players like them are part of the foundation of successful teams.
The Jets certainly hope Mekhi Becton can be part of a group that turns this franchise around. Adding a homegrown partner on the offensive line would be a positive step. Maybe he will find the Mangold to his Ferguson.