The saving grace of the Jets' AFC Championship Game loss to the Colts was supposed to be that they were perceived to be a team on the rise, rather than one ready to actually challenge for the Lombardi Trophy. There's ample reason to believe that's true -- Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene, David Harris and the general belief that Rex Ryan's defense is one that will be good every year -- but it would be far easier to believe if we didn't have so much data to support the other side of the argument.
The worst mistake any team can make is believing that they're really good because of the way the previous season ended. For an example of how damaging this thinking can be, we need look no further than the 2005 offseason after the Jets lost to the Steelers in the second round of the playoffs. They had a good young quarterback, a strong running game and a good defense, just like the current Jets, but wound up 4-12 and in need of a new head coach when 2006 came around.
What happened? The Jets acted like a team that had achieved something far beyond what they actually accomplished. They traded their first-round pick for tight end Doug Jolley, who had a whopping 27 catches the year before and was no one's idea of a game changer on offense. They used their second round pick on a kicker, Mike Nugent, because Doug Brien's missed field goals cost them that game in Pittsburgh. Nugent turned out to be pretty average, but he'd have to have been the greatest kicker of all time to justify that kind of move.
They let backup running back Lamont Jordan and defensive tackle Jason Ferguson leave in cost cutting measures, moves that were understandable but left the team shorthanded when Curtis Martin got hurt and Dewayne Robertson fulfilled his status as a massive draft bust. There were some decent moves, signing Ty Law and trading for Laveranues Coles, but the session was a net loss because the Jets acted like they were a couple of players away and forgot about the overall strength of the team.
There are some worrisome signs that these Jets may be heading down a similar path. They signed Nick Folk on Wednesday, a move that may wind up forcing Jay Feely to do his kicking and Twittering in another town. Folk got cut by Dallas because he couldn't consistently make field goals, never a good sign for a kicker. Feely is no great shakes, but don't make a change unless it's a clear upgrade. Folk isn't that.
Marques Douglas appears to be headed out the door as a free agent. He may not have Ferguson's bona fides as a high-level starter, but Douglas was the most consistent lineman on last year's squad, something that shouldn't be sneezed at simply because letting him leave will allow the Jets, under the somewhat confusing rules in this year without a salary cap, to sign an unrestricted free agent.
There's also the question of whether or not the team will keep Thomas Jones around for the 2010 season because of a salary that's disproportionate to his contributions. This is where believing your hype comes in more than any other spot. Jones is overpaid, but the team is going to need someone to share the load with Greene and can't count on Leon Washington. Losing Jordan in 2005 was a question of the cap, but in 2010 it is only a question of money. There are probably other options out there, but the devil you know is better than the uncertainty of what another discarded veteran can bring to the table.
All of this doesn't add up to much yet, just a feeling of deja vu that permeates all the signals the Jets are sending about their offseason plans. We'll leave you with one last thought that's all too familiar.
In 2005, Chad Pennington had surgery on his shoulder that wasn't thought to be any more serious than the operation Sanchez had on his knee. As it turns out, that wasn't the case and, well, you already know the rest of that particular story.