October 26, 2005

Losing Games Might Be the Jets' Best Cure

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If New York Jets general manager Terry Bradway is reading this right now, pay very close attention. The Jets’ season is over. There is nothing else you can do. It’s over. After Monday night’s pounding in Atlanta, the team would have to finish its last nine games with a minimum of an 8-1 record to even have a chance at a playoff spot. Mind you, that this streak would have to be engineered by the soon-to-be 42-year old arm of Vinny Testaverde. It’s more likely that Joe Namath comes out of retirement and predicts victory in Super Bowl XL. Not likely.

However, somehow, this feels just right. Preseason championship hopes magically transformed into a torn rotator cuff and yet another year of disappointment – if that doesn’t sound like the Jets to you, then what does?

The good news is that I have some experience with losing football teams and know exactly what to do: root against the Jets. It sounds crazy, but here’s the thing: the season’s OVER. I can’t say it too many times. The only thing that can allow me to view 2005 as a success is if they drop every single one of their remaining games – because in the NFL, there is absolutely no reward for mediocrity.

However, there is a reward for failure. And his name is Reggie Bush. The USC tailback is about as good as it gets in college football. At six-feet, 200 pounds, Bush will be the most dangerous player in next year’s draft class, because he has the ability to take it to the house on every single play – and a lot times, he does.

Take last week for example. In a tied game in the second quarter, Bush returned a punt 84-yards against Washington, after escaping a pack of Huskies and racing down the left sideline.

Simply put, this guy can do it all – running, receiving, kick and punt returns. He is the definition of an all-purpose back and is the closest thing coming out of college to LaDainian Tomlinson, the clear cut best player in the NFL.

The Jets, coincidentally, are in desperate need of a running back. You really cannot say enough about Curtis Martin’s eight years in New York, but his career is nearing the end. Bush could arrive next year, split carries with Martin, and the duo would instantly become one of the better tandems in the league. Martin would be more effective as a part-time player, and Bush would not only improve the running game, but also the special teams.

The Jets need to mirror what the Rams have done with Marshall Faulk, and what the Chiefs are doing with Priest Holmes. Faulk has become a part-time back, giving way to Stephen Jackson little by little. Holmes has also started to split time with Larry Johnson, who will become the starter in Kansas City when Holmes loses the ability to shoulder the majority of the load.

The question is: why shoot for Bush and not USC quarterback Matt Leinart? Simple: the Jets cannot make a quarterback decision before knowing Pennington’s future. They have too much money invested in Chad to just give up on him now. The thought of allotting more salary cap room on a high first-round draft pick is unrealistic.

If the Jets find out that Pennington’s career is indeed over, then a decision has to be made at that time. Right now, however, you have to bank on the belief that he will be back. The only reasonable solution that can be made in April’s draft is to select a quarterback in the middle rounds as insurance.

The only concern with Bush coming out of college is his ability to run between the tackles. At USC, 235-pound bruiser LenDale White handles most of the short-yardage responsibilities, due to Bush’s relatively lighter frame. Despite White’s presence, Bush has proven to be a tough inside runner, with the speed to bounce it outside and turn the corner. He needs to add about 15 pounds of bulk after this season, which is common for a running back entering the combine.

Bush will be highly sought after by a handful of NFL teams and should be a top-5 pick in the 2006 draft – meaning that acquiring him is going to require a lot of losing. Taking a look at the NFL standings, there are 12 teams that remain in contention for the No. 1 pick. However, only Cleveland, Tennessee, Minnesota, Green Bay, Arizona, San Francisco, and the Jets would consider taking Bush in the first round.

As you probably know, these teams are absolutely terrible (especially San Francisco, they’re unwatchable). So, the Jets need to stay focused, keep their eye on the prize, and continue to do something that they should be fairly accustomed to – lose football games.

I know it is difficult to wish for something this terrible, but I have the team’s best interest in mind. Watching the Jets on Monday night was a very painful and uncomfortable three hours. It is very conflicting rooting against your favorite team (especially when they are embarrassing themselves in front of a national audience), even though it is best for the future of the franchise.

I just do not need them to prove to me that they can battle through the injuries and pull off an 8-8 season. I know the kind of team we have. With a healthy Pennington, the Jets have a strong enough defense to be a serious contender. But, I do not need the validation with a miraculous run at the playoffs – it would impress me a lot more if they can actually pull off tanking the rest of their schedule.

Bryan Pepper is a Sun Assistant Sports Editor. Raising the Apple will appear every other Wednesday this semester.

Archived article by Bryan Pepper