With OTAs and mini camp over, we football fans now find ourselves in the wind tunnel, stuck between those dreaded months of the offseason where we try to get the bitter taste of the playoffs (or lack thereof) out of our mouths and wait for people to stop talking about the fails of the previous season, and when the hopes and anticipation or the coming year of redemption, pursuit and excitement start to take shape.
It begins with the draft and from there it builds slowly, like a drum solo, until it’s April and players are reporting for non-mandatory strength training, classes and informal practices. We get snippets from interviews done at the practice facilities, players begin making appearances for events and charity causes and give sound bytes leading us to believe what we already know deep down – these guys are hungry and they’re ready.
Then come the glimpses of how the guys look via pictures from practices, pressers at lockers, quick videos given to news outlets to get the public aware that they’re on the field and ready to go. Then Mini Camp comes and we get a true look at things. The guys know more about the playbook, the coaches are digging into them for missteps and praising them loudly on the sidelines for all to hear when they do something right. People hang on stats that mean nothing because it gives them their first taste, their first idea of what’s to come and as fans that is all we have to keep us going until the end of July when the real deal begins.
This year the Jets will return to Cortland and get back to basics and business. Chemistry building is a huge factor for a team to be on the same page and that was stripped from them last season. Not everyone believes it made a difference, but how can one not?
However, that’s not what I’m here to write about today. It’s been a long time since I have sat down and written a piece for this site because on the whole, on top of just being busy with life, I haven’t had much I’ve been inspired to write about. In the world of the Jets everything seems to center, or be forced to center even when it’s not at all close to the topic, on the controversy that isn’t. Now we have other things to look at. We have been teased, our salivating mouths have had their first taste of the season and if I may say so, I think I speak for all of us as a collective fanbase that we are liking what we see, hear and taste. Have all issues been addressed? No. But the foundation is there. The hunger is growing. They appear to have learned from mistakes committed both individually and as a team and they haven’t lost sight of all of the things that made them work before and will likely help them to work again.
What was old can be new once more. A few of the pieces are different but there is a sense of familiarity when reading, hearing about and for some of us lucky to have attended the practices open to the public, seeing what this team is looking like as they start to come together. Now it’s the break, the time where the guys on the team have to take matters into their own hands to continue to learn, fight to remain disciplined and for the guys on the offensive line invited out to Jets West, get their asses out there and take advantage of the fact that you have a starting quarterback who arranges things like this so that you’re that much closer to being the team you need to be on that side of the ball when training camp comes because on the whole, the offense is going to be behind the defense.
Why? Numerous reasons. As I’ve said before, the offense is essentially going through the first days of elementary school compared to the defense that is coming in like a group of high schoolers save for a few new guys in town. The offense has a new system to learn, there’s (yet again) a mostly new receiving corps. And then there’s that “wrinkle” in the system, the special plan of attack in the form of the guy labeled as a backup quarterback. In short, the O has some work to do.
But here’s why I think them returning to Cortland is going to do more than just bring back the bonding and chemistry that I think was lost last season. Think about it. They got squirreled away from family and friends and it’s all work work work with a little bit of play mixed in, but regardless of what they’re doing they’re doing it together. One of my fondest memories of Hard Knocks was watching something that may seem really insignificant to some but to me it really stands out and it’s a big part of what I think the Jets lost last year. They have thrived on being the underdogs, being the ones counted out and used what was written about them to fuel fires and fan flames. Until the 2011 season most of it wasn’t valid, and if it was, they worked together to eliminate it. I remember seeing Rex Ryan printing out page after page and walking into the dorm room LaDainian Tomlinson was to call home for the duration of training camp. Tomlinson was a new acquisition to the team that year and what his head coach handed him was a stack of papers, a compilation of every negative story written about the team in recent months. Here, he wasn’t adding fuel to a fire or fanning flames, he was lighting a fire. And it worked. That’s the thing I think the Jets as a team lost last year. The stories didn’t become the gasoline to make the engine go, they became what paved a broken road, what created the road blocks and detours.
So, long story short, it may be premature to say so and maybe it’s based more off of hope and wishful thinking than anything I’ve read or seen, but I believe we’ll see a team very similar to what we saw in 2010. I believe that at the end of July they are going to be sitting in their dorms at Cortland with the heavy words written against them, whether in hand or using what’s been burned into their brain, and those words will light the match and let those fires really start to burn. Individually. As a team. I think the 2012 Jets are going to be hungry, they’re going to be out to prove people wrong, to erase the 2011 season that they have moved on from in so many ways but won’t want to forget entirely because it’s going to push them to be bigger, better and most importantly, to win. What they need to do is let the negativity of the public fuel them rather than burn them. And this girl thinks they can and will.
Sydney Kira is a regular contributor to The Green Room. You can follow her on Twitter @SydneyKira1.