I know, I get it, I understand. You want to be mad. You are a Jets fan; you have earned the right to be angry. It is a just fury, borne out of decades of deplorable despair.
It is fostered by living in the same city with a team that has won four times as many Super Bowls as you (with three different quarterbacks) and residing in a division with one bitter rival that has won six Lombardi trophies (with a coach who didn’t want to work for your team), featuring another, in Buffalo, which about 15 minutes ago was so chronically hapless and pathetic that you could at least feel good about that, the way the existence of Mississippi always makes Arkansas feels better about itself.
And now the Bills have emerged as the most exciting football team this side of Patrick City, so you no longer even have that consolation prize.
Yours is the franchise of “Heidi” and Herm, of fake spikes and Buttfumbles, of Lou Holtz fight songs and Rex Ryan foot fetishes. Yours is the playoff home of Mark Gastineau’s late hit and Doug Brien’s wayward leg, yours is the historical archive where IK Enemkpali is breaking Geno Smith’s jaw over $600, where one Hall of Fame quarterback offers to kiss an established broadcaster on TV and another uses his text messages to pass along to an aspiring one his own personal photographic interpretation of the Empire State Building.
So, yes, anger: If you aren’t the Michael Douglas character in “Falling Down” after being a Jets fan for more than a couple of seasons, then you’re either Gandhi or Sir Thomas More.
And now the Jets have done the worst thing they could possibly have done:
After all the losing, all the slapstick, all the banana peels, they went to Los Angeles and they beat the Rams on Sunday afternoon, 23-20. They teased you against New England. They toyed with you against the Raiders. But this time it really happened. And 0-13 became 1-13.
And Trevor Lawrence just might have become a Jacksonville Jaguar.
So, no, I won’t try to minimize your anger. But I will provide a few morsels of food for thought here. My intent is to offer them as fine banana splits, not wax beans. But, then, this is the Jets. You never know.
Let’s start with a little fact that, at first, will probably do exactly zero to mollify your ire: Since the NFL expanded to a 16-team schedule in 1978, there have been 10 teams that have finished 1-15. Every one of them has earned the No. 1 pick (excepting the 1989 Cowboys, who forfeited their main-draft pick by taking Steve Walsh in the supplemental draft the year before). No other 1-15 has ever had company in the dungeon.
Naturally, the Jets do.
But there is this to consider: Of the remaining nine — the 1980 Saints, ’90 Pats, ’91 Colts, ’96 Jets, 2000 Chargers, ’01 Panthers, ’07 Dolphins, ’09 Rams and ’16 Browns — none parlayed the fruits of that 1-15 season into a Super Bowl win. No parades or duck flotilla or city-square gatherings to show for all the misery (though the Browns still have time).
Let’s take this back to 1957, since that’s when Paul Hornung was the No. 1-overall pick and there were plenty of players in the draft that would still be going strong at the dawn of the Super Bowl Era. Since ’57, there have been 29 quarterbacks who have gone first overall in the NFL draft. Would you like to know how many of those QBs led the team that drafted them to a Super Bowl win?
That would be three: Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman, Peyton Manning.
(Hornung doesn’t count. He was switched to halfback by the time the Packers started winning big).
A few (Jim Plunkett, John Elway, Eli Manning) won for teams they were traded to. A few (Drew Bledsoe, Jared Goff, Cam Newton) came close, losing Super Bowls.
But that’s it: Three out of 29, or 10.3 percent — which is actually less than the 14 percent chance the Knicks had at drafting Zion Williamson in 2019, a feckless and fruitless pursuit that all but put to bed the notion that tanking is a good idea in the NBA.
(And let us not forget the consensus razor-thin difference most held in 1998 between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf, which would’ve surely made that trio a duo.)
This one might be the hardest to swallow, and harder still to digest but here goes:
Sam Darnold is still only 23 years old. He was a third-overall pick that many believed was good enough to go first. There are still moments — fewer this year, yes, but they are there — where he shows flashes of what everyone saw back at USC.
History tells us this is tricky. Late-blooming QBs generally blossom after a change of scenery (see Plunkett, Vinny Testaverde, Ryan Tannehill). Some busts are just busts: JaMarcus Russell, Tim Couch, Sam Bradford, many others.
But what if you could replicate Alex Smith, who was a lost cause in San Francisco until a coach who understood how to maximize his talents, Jim Harbaugh, arrived before his seventh — and age 27 — season?
Maybe you don’t trust GM Joe Douglas to identify and hire the right coach to do that, and to make the most of the No. 2 pick — still a platinum asset, which could also yield a fruitful bounty. But what if you can? What if you could? What then?