The New York Jets were once again defeated by the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. This 23-30 defeat really stings. Jets nation hoped and sensed that a victory was possible, that leading the division was around the corner and not a chimera. Alas, the team failed; and as cultural critic Grail Marcus has explained: "No Failure in America ... is ever simple; it is always a kind of betrayal, of a mass of shadowy, shared hopes." But it is precisely at this low point that we should count our blessings and realize that after four long years, a playoff berth is eminently achievable, even likely. This is why:
1. In Bowles We Trust.
The Jets are blessed to be coached by a man of the caliber of Todd Bowles. The contrast with beloved Rex Ryan (who is bombing up in Buffalo) is instructive. For Bowles, playing against the Patriots was merely Game 6. For Rex, it was akin to a battle where the future of western civilization was at stake, if not that of the Galaxy. Rex buried game balls, gave impassionate speeches and invariably lost leading to a concomitant loss of team morale. Bowles's demeanor hardly changes, rain or shine, win or lose. His remarkable self-control and down-to-earth approach will pay dividends down the road. A loss should never be experienced as a calamitous catastrophe; and let us also not forget that Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan had a great draft and are offering the kind of mature leadership that was sorely lacking for too long.
2. A Monster Defense.
Sure, it was not perfect on Sunday. Something certainly went wrong during the play that led to the Patriots' winning touchdown. But let us be realistic. In Darrelle Revis we have the best cornerback in the NFL. Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Damon Harrison and Leonard Williams could just be the best front four in the business. They spread fear and could be historic in their effectiveness this year. Perhaps as good or even better than the Sack Exchange. This will not change because the Jets went down to a one possession loss away from home against a team vying for the title of GOAT and a QB who may well be.
3. Ryan Fitzpatrick.
I sense the reactions and counter-arguments right away. Didn't Fitz fumble at the very beginning against the Pats costing us three precious points? Is he not a journeyman quarterback who never was and never will be elite? Is he not old and prone to throw an interception too many? The answer to all of the above is yes but these criticisms are one-sided. Unlike Geno Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick is well liked by his teammates and has the intangible but crucial asset of leadership. He can rush if need be and his arm is actually strong enough. In Sunday's game he made checks and adjustments at the line of scrimmage, distributed the ball to a great cast (Jeremy Kerley, Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall and even Chris Ivory), rushed and managed the game well enough. Leadership and management is all we can ask of Fitz and this he can deliver; it may well be enough to take the team all the way to the playoffs.
4. Jets Nation.
This is a loyal fan base. Sure, there are some disagreements about Geno but the bottom line is simple: Jets Nation is not comprised by casual, fair weather only sunshine fans. We stick with our team, no matter what (and it is usually not pleasant or celebratory). This is a fan base that will come out to support the team for the rest of the season with passion and commitment. This is not a rebuilding year. This is a year where the NY Jets are not pretenders but real contenders for a playoff berth. It is way too early to give up on the dream.