Chad Pennington threw 22 touchdowns and only six interceptions. Curtis Martin started at running back, Laveranues Coles and Wayne Chrebet at wide receiver. Herman Edwards delivered his famous “You play to win the game” press conference speech. Two Jets, Kevin Mawae and John Abraham, made the Pro Bowl. Bryan Thomas was drafted. The year was 2002– eight seasons ago. It is the last time the New York Jets won the AFC East title.
Now, Bryan Thomas is the longest-tenured Jet– the only Jet player who remains from that 2002 team. It has been eight years of hoping for the Wild Card for Jets fans, playing in a division dominated by the New England Patriots. But the winds of change are blowing through the AFC East (is that even really a saying– “winds of change”?).
The Patriots had their chance. They went 14-2. They got the #1 seed and were the clear-cut Super Bowl favorites. But they lost their first playoff game to the Jets, a team who has advanced further than the Patriots the past two seasons. The Jets outdoing the Pats in the regular season is only a matter of time– and that time is finally here.
The truth of the matter is, the Jets have a better team than the Patriots. Not a better quarterback, but a better team overall. They have a better defense, a better running game, and superior receivers. And despite how much Rex Ryan praises Bill Bellichick and says he’s the superior coach, Rex has beaten him three out of five games. This year, the rest of the league will learn from what Rex has done to beat the Pats. Just take a look at the Patriots most recent preseason game against the Lions (sure it’s only preseason, but all the starters played). The Lions throttled the Patriots on both sides of the ball. The Pats are headed down. The Jets are flying upward (pun!)
Mark Sanchez will throw for over 20 touchdowns and fewer than ten interceptions. Shonn Greene will start at running back, Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress at wide receiver. Rex Ryan will deliver many quotable speeches. Nick Mangold and several Jet defenders (and D’Brickashaw Ferguson) will make the Pro Bowl. Muhammad Wilkerson was drafted. The year is 2011. It will be the first time in eight seasons that the New York Jets will come in first in the AFC East.