There is so much baggage to unpack now with the Jets, almost all of it water-logged and already mildewing after what we witnessed on Thursday night, the worst night the Jets have had like this in a big national game since Mark Sanchez butt-fumbled. You really have to start with the aftermath of it all, when you couldn’t tell from the coverage whether or not Zach Wilson had played another stinker of a game, or gone around East Rutherford stealing Amazon boxes with Christmas presents inside.
Oh sure. We might as well start there, with Wilson, who likely punched his ticket out of town, or at least to career backup-ville with the Jets, after another performance, in a big game for his team, in which he literally seemed to be underwater. And if that is where we’re going to start, it is worth reminding everybody, whether they wear green on gameday or not, that Wilson didn’t draft himself.
No, Joe Douglas drafted Wilson to be the new Joe Namath the way Mike Maccagnan drafted Sam Darnold to be the new Namath, the way Mike Tannenbaum drafted Mark Sanchez to be the new Namath. Tannenbaum fell in love with Sanchez the way Rex Ryan did at the time, and the way Woody Johnson, that lightweight, fell in love with the kid who immediately was nicknamed “The Sanchize.” Then Maccagnan and Woody went back to USC and fell in love with Darnold. Before Douglas fell in love with Wilson two years later.
You know what the real Curse of Broadway Joe is? It’s Jets general managers and coaches and owners being still obsessed with finding the next Broadway Joe Namath, the only quarterback to ever win the Jets a Super Bowl, what feels like 150 years ago and not 50 and change. At some point they talk themselves into believing that the sky will fall in Florham Park if they don’t find that guy, and right now. Then they panic, the way Douglas panicked. And so it came to pass that the Jets drafted a quarterback No. 2 in the draft two years after they had drafted Darnold No. 3.
Now it looks as if Wilson’s Jets future isn’t going to survive him being the wrong guy for the Jets, again. And with all the good work that Douglas has done, particularly with this defense, he’s no sure thing to survive what is clearly a train wreck of a pick, either. Guys who are this wrong about quarterbacks rarely do. You know why Al Davis survived being as wrong as the Raiders were about JaMarcus Russell 15 years ago? Because Al owned the team, that’s why.
So one Jets GM after another has doomed themselves with the Jets by being sucked into the vortex of believe he just had to find the next Namath. And what they have done is ignore how the Jets got close to the Super Bowl a handful of times.
Understand something: The Jets were way wrong about Sanchez in the end. But he did take them to two AFC championship games, back when the Jets were built around Ryan’s defense the way this team was until the sky did fall on them after 7-4. Sanchez managed to do that, despite never being the glamorous, talk-of-the-big-town star the Jets were sure he was going to be when they moved up and drafted him No. 5.
You know how many games Sanchez played in the NFL after that second championship game, against the Steelers in Heinz Field? He played 42 and was basically washed up within five years, even if he did hang on after that. Richard Todd took the Jets to that Mud Bowl AFC championship game with the Dolphins once. Todd threw more than 20 touchdown passes once in his career. But he threw 30 interceptions one year and 26 another. And still had the Jets to within a game of another Super Bowl.
You want to know who the best quarterback, at least for one year, the Jets have had since Namath? Thirty-five-year-old Vinny Testaverde, who had bounced around before finally ending up with Bill Parcells. Parcells’ Jets went to an AFC championship game after the ‘98 season, against John Elway and the Broncos in Denver, and still looked like the better team at halftime.
It was a long time after Vinny from Elmont had been treated like a wonder kid coming out of Miami. But he threw 29 passes for Parcells that year against just seven interceptions, and was as much an MVP as anybody else in the league.
You know who thought Vinny, after all the stops he’d made in the pros, was the next Namath when the Jets got him? Nobody, that’s who. You know the most TD passes Sanchez threw on his way to those two title games? Seventeen. The Jets didn’t need the new Namath then, and they don’t need one now. We’ve now reached the place in the story where it’s worth pointing out that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
“It starts with me,” Zach Wilson said after Thursday night’s game, when he could only get the Jets three points against the Jaguars and brought back the old nightmare of the Jets winning two meaningless late-season games under Adam Gase when the prize for losing them would have been Trevor Lawrence, to whom the Jets lost gloriously on Thursday night and who is going to be a star in the league for the next 15 years.
Maybe the Jets can stop looking for the next Namath once and for all, before another general manager and another coach lose their jobs because of that.
Wilson is an easy target, an even easier target than Darnold was. That’s because it really did look, because of this defense, as if the Jets could make it back to the playoffs for the first time since Jan. 23, 2011 in Heinz Field, when they scared the Steelers half to death, deep into the fourth quarter, even with Sanchez under center.
Here is what has really happened to the Jets this season, because Douglas was the latest one to fall into a honey of a Namath trap: They got a lot worse at quarterback while the rest of the team got a lot better, and not just because of Quinnen Williams and the special Sauce in the defensive backfield.
And by the way? It’s not just Douglas, or Woody, the way it wasn’t just Maccagnan and Woody, and Tannenbaum and Woody. The ones most obsessed about the next Namath are Jets fans themselves, even the ones who weren’t born yet when Namath was guaranteeing, and then winning, Super Bowl III.
The Jets need to wake up once and for all, because of all the talent they do have right now. They don’t need the new Namath. They need the new Vinny.
BOOM OR BUST FOR COHEN’S METS, MESSI WINS IT ALL IN BEST FINAL EVER & MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL …
My thinking is that if James Dolan wants to keep the Garden safer with facial recognition, he should think about using it on himself.
We know where the bar is set now for the 2023 Mets, because of the way Uncle Steve has spent and spent and spent since the 2022 Mets finished playing.
This is either going to be the best summer Uncle Steve and Billy Eppler and Buck Showalter could ever have imagined.
Or it’s going to be the worst.
With nothing in between.
Brian Cashman said the other day that Josh Donaldson is going to be his third baseman next season, and Yankee fans immediately wondered what the good news was.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when the Patriots tried to beat the Raiders on the last play of the game with the same exact one we tried in the Lupica Boys Turkey Bowl touch football game last month.
Barry Stanton says that the only reason the Jets went with the CFL quarterback they did on Thursday night was because no one knew how to reach Doug Flutie.
I’ll have whatever Jacque Vaughn is having.
I am waiting to see who is going to raise a hand on Trevor Bauer.
Sometimes things in sports work out the way they’re supposed to, and so it was last Sunday in Qatar when Lionel Messi finally won a World Cup for Argentina, in the greatest damn finals match the sport had ever seen.
I still think Alabama should have made the Final Four.
The Giants might get better next season and end up with a worse record.
How do the guys on that officiating crew for Giants vs. Commanders last Sunday night get anywhere near a postseason assignment?
And who still thinks it’s a good idea to play the national semifinals of the college football tournament on New Year’s Eve?
Legalized gambling now runs through sports in this country like a different strain of virus.
You know what I do when another one of those Draft Kings commercials comes on during the game I’m watching?
I dive for the remote.
Merry Christmas to everyone today who continues to honor me, after all the years, by coming to this place in the New York Daily News on Sundays.
Merry Christmas to all the men and women who put this paper together, who don’t quit and work as hard as any staff the Daily News has ever had.
Merry Christmas to all the writers and editors with whom I have been privileged to work over the years, past and present, the ones who propped up our paper and propped me up in the process.
Merry Christmas especially to Kyle Wagner, and Andy Clayton, who do the same for me every single week.
To them I still say what the great Jimmy Breslin used to say, this time on Christmas Day, and from the heart:
Thanks for the use of the hall.
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