Rex Ryan said at the start of training camp that the Jets had one goal for the 2010 season: Win the Super Bowl.
If that alone is the grading scale, the season would be considered a failure. The confetti falling in Arlington on Feb. 6 won't be green and white, and there won't be a parade in a few weeks ending at New Meadowlands Stadium. The Jets fell two victories short, losing on Sunday night in the AFC championship game to the Steelers by a score of 24-19. Sluggish play in the first half, which had been a problem all season long, wound up costing the team dearly, as the Steelers jumped out to a 24-point lead from which the Jets couldn't recover. For the second season in a row, Ryan's team was so close to accomplishing what it set out to do.
"Our goal for next year, I got news for you: It won't change. And it'll never change," Ryan said following the loss. "We're gonna chase that Super Bowl. We're gonna chase it until we get it, and then we'll chase it after that again."
The PFW Spin
Talent-wise, the Jets had what it took to beat the Steelers, then top the Packers in two weeks and accomplish their goal. On offense, the team had two skilled running backs, a group of playmaking pass catchers, an elite line and a QB with a knack for coming through in the clutch. On "D," New York trotted out the league's best tandem of corners, a surplus of linebackers that can play the run or the pass, and a scheme that is difficult to game-plan for.
But it was the little things, the stuff that talent can't always overcome, that cost the Jets. Distractions followed this team like a shadow all year long and it seemed like every time the team was ready to move on from one, another would come takes its place. The poor starts were a constant problem, with the team scoring just 36 first-quarter points in its 19 combined regular-season and playoff games. Questionable play-calling on offense had been an issue since Week One, something that came back to haunt the team again on Sunday.
Yet with all of that, it's still unfair to call the Jets failures, in my opinion. No, they didn't live up to Ryan's preseason goal despite their immense talent, and their fans should be upset about that. In comparison to 29 other NFL teams, however, the team's season was quite successful and has them in position to continue to succeed in the coming years.
QB Mark Sanchez has quieted many doubters with his improvement over the course of the season; in just his second season he already has four road playoff wins. Finding a franchise quarterback is the top priority for any team looking to win a Super Bowl — just look at both the Steelers and Packers for proof of that — and Sanchez has shown in his up-and-down career that he has the talent to develop into an elite player.
The team's defense, anchored by MLB David Harris and CB Darrelle Revis, should be good for years to come, especially if the team can add a young pass rusher to the lineup. Ryan, for all his bravado and off-field transgressions, is an incredible defensive coach, exemplified by the back-to-back victories over Peyton Manning and Tom Brady which involved complex game plans focused on confusing the Canton-bound QBs. The combination of those two — the loaded roster and the intelligent leader — means the Jets will be intimidating opposing offenses for the foreseeable future.
Had the Jets spoiled their 9-2 start and missed the playoffs, which they were at risk of doing, then 2010 would have been a failure. If they'd lost to a banged-up Colts squad in the first round of the playoffs, that would have been a failure. Had they been blown out for a second time in two months by the arch-rival Patriots in the divisiaonal round … you guessed it, failure.
But none of that happened. New York overcame countless obsticles and did enough to make the playoffs, rallied to top Indianapolis, played its best game of the season to shock the Patriots, then just had too little left in the tank to make up for a poor first 30 minutes vs. the Steelers.
Ryan and Co. might not have accomplished their goal, but the 2010 season was a step in the right direction for the Jets.