With the fate of their head coach uncertain and having very little success on the road all season, it could’ve been easy for the New York Jets to overlook the playoff-bound Miami Dolphins… a team that dominated them at Metlife Stadium a few weeks ago. It was impressive to see a team galvanized by the rumors of impending change, and fortified by their affection for Rex Ryan and his coaching style. If the Dolphins thought they were going to flex their muscles and have the Jets cower, they had another thing coming.
It’s funny sometimes… what motivates. All Miami needed to do was win the game, and with a little help, their season would continue. All the Jets needed to do was play sixty minutes, and the 2013 campaign would finally be behind them. As the game wore on, it became hard to distinguish which was the team playing out the string, and which was the team playing for a chance at the playoffs. The secondary, a unit I’ve been critical of, showed up big with three interceptions. Dee Milliner, a player many have been critical of, collected 2INTs while Ed Reed capped off his season in green and white with his third INT since joining the club.
Sheldon Richardson added to his growing legend as the next two-way sensation by lining up a couple times in the offensive backfield, and scoring his second TD of the season. After the game, he thanked fellow rookie, FB Tommy Bohanon, acknowledging that those could easily be his runs, and that he appreciated the opportunity. Even though Mo Wilkerson didn’t make the Pro Bowl as many anticipated, he may get his chance to play in the game as one of the first alternates. The defense has been the teeth of this team all year, and it didn’t disappoint in their final chance to show it.
Geno Smith, playing in the city he grew up in for the first time as a professional athlete, played one of his best games of the season. He passed the ball well (17 of 27 for 190 yards), he ran the ball even better (10 carries for 44 yards and 1TD), and with the help of a gutsy offense and that ball-hawking defense, he sent the Dolphins home for the holidays… as well as for the rest of the season with a 20-7 victory. The Jets finished 8-8, and with the right win over the right team, could’ve been in the hunt for a playoff spot the way things worked out in the AFC.
After the game, a jubilant locker room full of Jets players could be heard cheering as team owner Woody Johnson shared the news that their coach would be returning for the 2014 campaign. Moments later, Mr. Johnson shared with us all that “we’re gonna keep Rex Ryan… he’s gonna be our coach next year.” Mr. Johnson didn’t want to talk contract or extension, and neither did GM John Idzik, who took the podium shortly after, but both seemed genuinely enthusiastic that Rex would be returning to coach his sixth season for Gang Green. Rex has said many times that he “loves being the head coach of the New York Jets,” and his players seem to love playing for him.
As we’ve all become Rexoholics, drunk with joy over the coach and his locker room full of players ready to lay it on the line for him, we cannot forget that this team has a lot of work to do in the offseason. Improvements to the offensive line, wide receiving core, and acquiring skill-position players that scare opposing defenses will be a priority. Do they have the answer at QB with Geno Smith? Questions remain for this football team, but one thing is clear: GM Idzik… you are now on the clock.
It’s been another wonderful year covering the Jets for you, the fans!! Thank you for all your support. Have a happy and safe New Year!! See you in 2014!!
-Joseph Haas Editor, HCoftheNYJ.com