Tuesday, October 18, 2005

So Close, Yet So Far
By Ben Valentine

Honestly, when all is said and done with this Jets season I think the ultimate irony will be this really was the perfect opportunity for Gang Green to make the Super Bowl. Of course, being they are the Jets, it makes what’s happened this season just all the more typical of this star crossed franchise.

I mean, the Patriots are a solid, but certainly unspectacular team. It isn’t a surprise since even when “dominant” they played loads of close games. Now devastated by injuries and losses on the coaching staff, some of those close wins are turning into close losses. Two or three of those in a season sends you from 12-4 to 9-7. That’s why it’s so hard to repeat in the NFL. Small sample sizes and such emphasis on home field in the post season makes everything that much more important.

As for the rest of the division, I give Nick Saban credit for having the Dolphins play hard, but they’re still not as good a team as the Jets are. The Bills probably aren’t either. Their defense is worse while their offense is slightly better. So where does that leave the Jets exactly?

In the no mans land between 5-11 and 7-9. Of course as I said a few weeks ago, that’s the worst possible place to be. Out of the playoffs, but out of reach of one of those two impact players sitting at one and two. Hint on who I’m talking about: They both play for the same school, they both are current Heisman candidates and they both played instrumental roles in their team’s incredible win last second win Saturday.

Anyway, dealing with the here and now, it appears Kevin Mawae is done for the year. What else is new? The Jets have lost two QBs and now a center and a running back. C-Mart, I’d start counting down. You might be next. Of course if the Jets have any luck, they’ll lose Vinny to injury so Brooks Bollinger can go in.

However, my stance has changed somewhat from a few weeks back. I saw Bollinger as a good experiment because if he stunk, the Jets would finish poorly and if he was decent, the Jets might make the playoffs. Vinny I felt would lead the Jets to mediocrity. Now I see I was wrong.

At this point in time, Brooks Bollinger probably gives the Jets a WORSE shot at finishing poorly than Vinny does, albeit not much worse.

I mean it. I really believe Bollinger, given the opportunity could easily outperform Vinny. The age-ful non wonder has played poorly in two starts. Yes, Jet fans he was poor against the Bucs, win aside. I didn’t get a chance to post because I was sick, but had I done so, you would have seen this review of Vinny’s performance, here in summarized form:

"Vinny Testaverde was overall unimpressive in the Jets win. He didn’t do anything Brooks Bollinger couldn’t have done given the opportunity and as usual, threw one terrible INT. The line protected him better than it did Bollinger, which didn’t surprise me, because they weren’t on the road. The Bucs also played a steady cover 2, which lays off the blitzing, thus giving Vinny the greatest possible chance to succeed. Despite all of that, the Jets didn’t move the ball much better than they did against Baltimore. The difference; C-Mart punched it in on 1st and goal from the one this week, opposed to getting stopped last week. Oh and there weren’t the multitude of drops by Jets players in this one."

This week Vinny played even more like the Vinny I expected. The line O-line play was awful, hurt of course by Mawae’s injury and playing in a tough road situation. Testaverde was on the “run” for most of the first half and was his old “throw first, ask questions later,” mode in the second half. The two INTs he threw cost the Jets the game. They were simply inexcusable since they thrown into double coverage both times. Plus, Jets for the first time all year were dominating with the run Thus, even with Mawae hurt, Vinny was ultimately given the best situation for any Jets’ QB this year, Chad Pennington included. They had BALANCE on offense. And that wasn’t because Vinny was in; it was because the Bills run defense is so bad I could probably rush for 100 yards through it. I’m fully confident that Brooks Bollinger could have led the Jets to a win Sunday. And his mobility would have helped against Buffalo’s only defensive weapon, the blitz.

The sad thing was, as I commented to both my parents who were visiting me while the game was on, was that Vinny could throw an INT every play and Herm wouldn’t pull him. Such is this love affair with Testaverde and distrust of Bollinger. Enough with the arm, or the experience. It’s over. Vinny’s bad. The arm doesn’t scare teams enough, the head is as stupid as ever and experience doesn’t make you move any faster. I hate to sound like a broken record, so I’ll just say I told you so.

Go with Bollinger. The odds are good this team is going to fall apart anyway given the injuries. As I’ve said before, you might as well find out what you’ve got. Unless Brooks is the second coming, I doubt he’s going to get the Jets much better than 5-11. But he you can still find out if he can play at all. That way should the Jets manage to find themselves sitting with a top two pick on draft day, they might have a better idea of whether the right answer is Matt Leinart or Reggie Bush.

Though after watching Mr. Bush rip through Notre Dame’s defense Saturday, I salivate at the thought of seeing him in a Jets jersey next September. Just a thought… or maybe a dream.

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