Friday, January 22, 2010 at 2:35PM
By Andrew R. Tripaldi, TheSportsHatch.com writer
An efficient defense. A dominating running game. A glandular, boisterous, verbose head coach with a defensive background. A Democrat in the White House. The Jets in the AFC Championship game, on the road, against a heavily-favored opponent whose nucleus has already won a Super Bowl.
Obviously, I am referring to Sunday’s game between the Jets and Colts, right? WRONG. I am referring to the AFC Championship game played 11 years ago, played on January 17, 1999, between the Jets and the Broncos, which resulted in a painful, disappointed, heart-wrenching 23-10 loss for New York.
But there were no worries. I mean, Jets Head Coach Bill Parcells, during the post-game press conference, declared he was coming back, defensive as always (no pun intended). Denver quarterback John Elway, by all published media reports, was going to retire. That off-season, New York signed free agent reinforcements Tom Tupa (punter), Eric Green (tight end), and Roman Phifer (linebacker). Getting back to that spot, the AFC title game, and winning the Super Bowl the following season would be no problem, right. WRONG.
My, oh, my how quickly the last 11 years have gone.
What is the lesson to be learned by all of this? Take nothing for granted. Jets Fans – don’t get complacent that you will definitely be back to this point next year and in the immediate years to come with a rookie quarterback named Mark Sanchez and several young, emerging players, such has cornerback Darrelle Revis, Shonn Greene, Dustin Keller, Nick Mangold, and David Harris. If you are the Jets, you need seize this moment, something that did not occur 11 years ago in the Mid-West Arctic chill.
Defeating the Colts on Sunday will be a tall order. And just like the Chargers were not the Bengals, the Colts are not the Chargers. The Colts, with Robert Mathis and Dwight Feeney, will put pressure on Sanchez that he has not seen before, whether it be this season, his time at USC, or on the lush, delicious, Southern California beaches.
But just like Vinny Testaverde’s (the Jets’s quarterback at the time) ruptured his ACL at the beginning of the second quarter in the 1999 season opener in a loss to, who else, the Patriots, ruptured the Jets Super Bowl quest that season, a devastating injury to Revis, Greene, or Mangold could send and set the Jets back to 6-10 territory next season. That is how life is in the NFL these days. Just ask the Steelers and Giants, the last two Super Bowl winners who have been watching the playoffs on television this month.
So here we are with the Jets. A defense. A coach. A hot streak. Destiny? Will it be a repeat of 11 years ago - a deflating loss and a horrific reversal of fortune only 8 months later? Or will Gang Green continue to be disease free and will cure their ills of post-season yester-year? We will know Sunday.
And, hey, worse comes to worse, even if they lose, maybe the Jets will be back in the AFC title game the next time there is a Democrat in the White House. That would be a celebration worth having a tea party for.