No Playoff, No Payoff for Jets in First Year of Bowles Era

I once asked a friend of mine, who’s been the quintessential “Diehard Jets Fan” since his departure from from the womb, to describe to me and summarize what the essence of existing as a Jets fan is really like.

For context, the conversation, which occurred through a series of text messages, took place shortly after the team’s loss to the Steelers in the 2011 AFC Conference Championship. His spirits were understandably shaken and his outlook was skewed definitively downward.

“It’s basically like you’re in this perpetual never-ending dream state where you’re standing there in a wide open field, staring at this large, imposing grassy hill-like hump in the distance. All your buddies are around you, and they’re all wearing jerseys of their favorite teams. You watch as they take turns triumphantly running over the hump, and you hear their cheers of celebration once they reach the other side, until eventually you’re left alone.

You start running towards the hump to join them on the other side but just before you get to the slope, you trip and break your legs.

So you’re left there, stuck, unable to move. All you can do is stare at the hump and listen to everyone else cheer on the other side and wonder what the promised land must be like.”

That conversation was truly an eye-opener for me. I probably haven’t viewed sports the same ever since.

As a writer and commentator covering the thing, I’ve always forced myself to be an impartial viewer and observer and take rooting interest out of the equation. So when someone so eloquently lays out the pain and suffering that’s caused by becoming so emotionally attached, involved and immersed in being a fan, it’s jarring.

Being a fan of a team that hasn’t won a championship since 1969, means being faced with agony, heartbreak, despair and a feeling of hopelessness on an annual basis.

There’s supposed to be a light at the end of the tunnel. There’s supposed to be a payoff for all this investment. There’s supposed to be that one magnificent moment of complete and pure euphoria that makes it all worth it.

For Jets fans, it’s only running, tripping and then staring at the hump.

They were reminded of that yet again when their beloved group of what could have beens came up just a step short of a playoff berth by losing to the Bills 22-17 on Sunday.

It’s the franchise’s latest case of enduring the “so close, yet so far” sensation.

The first season of the newly appointed brain trust of head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan won’t be topped off with a postseason run. Fortunately, though, it’s still a campaign that most definitely must be deemed a successful step forward.

It was a year when the Jets found some much-needed stability at the quarterback position, developed one of the league’s most dynamic receiving duos comprised of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker and played some overwhelmingly stout defensive football.

Unfortunately, it all came unraveled in Buffalo on a day when so much was on the line. The underwhelming final performance will be freshest in the minds of fans heading into a crucial offseason that will surely set the tone of the future direction of the franchise.

It was a dark day for the team as a whole, but no one had a darker cloud hanging over their head than the team’s brightest standout star: CB Darrelle Revis.

Watching Revis attempt to cover and keep pace with Bills WR Sammy Watkins was comparable to watching a nature documentary which focused on an aging, out-of-breath lion losing his pride as he fruitlessly chased around a young, spry zig-zagging zebra at the watering hole.

That happens eventually, though.

You can win a few friendly battles against Father Time, but he’ll always inevitably win the war. The physical gifts Mother Nature bestows upon a human body unfortunately come with an expiration date. Tendons and ligaments succumb to time, force and exertion. 

It still says 24 on Revis’ jersey but if there were numbers on his pants, they’d undoubtedly be 30 in bold digits. And that’s OK. Revis has done plenty for Gang Green. He’s a player who deserves tolerance in his twilight years.

The question is: Will those years be spent as being the humbled yet still hungry veteran defensive leader on a team that can contend for a title?

Judging from the many spurts of good we saw this year, it certainly seems possible.

Even though it floundered when the pressure was on, it’s a team that still showed plenty of signs of progress in a year that admittedly wasn’t greeted with high expectations at the onset anyways.

Back in August, if you had told the long-suffering Jets fan base that their team would win 10 games and be playing for a playoff spot in the final week of the season, they would have signed up for it in a heartbeat.

If the installation of a new regime is considered the beginning of a new journey, then the 2015 season has to be considered a strong start to that ride.

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