4:00pm: I’m seriously conflicted.
I’ve been a NY Jets fan forever, since way back in the days of Mattel’s crack-like handheld Football, when I pretended the little glowing dashes were Richard Todd, Wesley Walker and Bruce Harper. Unlike the Mets, to whom I converted in the early 80s after my favorite Yankees moved on, my allegiance to the Jets has never wavered, even during the darkest days of Rich Kotite and Rick Mirer.
As much as I’ve loved some individual players (Wayne Chrebet is the prototypical Jet, IMO) and loathed others (Neil O’Donnell, I’m looking at you) I’ve always been a JETS fan, no matter what, but when they cut Chad Pennington — the best, most loyal QB they’ve ever had — in the pre-season in favor of the unretiring Brett Favre, I was personally insulted. It was a move as much about PR and attempting to smooth over the exorbitant cost of Personal Seat Licenses next season, as it was about putting the best team on the field after a terrible 2007 season, a team I said back then was looking at a 10-6 season no matter whom the QB was.
When Pennington landed in Miami, the one team I’ve hated much longer and with more reason than the Patriots, I was torn down the middle, especially with Bill Parcells running their ship and cleaning house, and immediately marked today on the calendar as a must-see game. Back then, I expected this game might have the Jets on the verge of a playoff spot with a victory and Pennington looking at playing spoiler. That it’s turned into so much more, is amazing.
I actually had a last-minute chance to go to the game in person, but couldn’t adjust my schedule to take advantage of it. Part of me is glad to not be there as I imagine I’ll be a bit schizophrenic throughout the game, simultaneously cheering Pennington and the Dolphins on to victory, but also wanting to see Leon Washington have a big game.
And so it begins…
4:15pm: If Favre’s lame hurrah speech in the pre-game huddle is any sign, he’s already mentally fishing down in Mississippi.
4:25pm: Pennington apparently got a nice welcome from the crowd, but CBS missed it. Nice.
4:32pm: INTERCEPTION #1!!! Everybody take a shot!
4:45pm: RICKY!!! HOW DO YOU DROP THAT DAMN BALL?!?! That was a beautifully set up and perfectly executed play. I hope to see it again in the second half.
4:49pm: These Burger King “Whopper Virgin” commercials are stupid. Why does anyone care what people who’ve never had a hamburger think about hamburgers? What’s their frame of reference? I’d rather see the King pushing Fire Meets Desire.
4:57pm: I’m a little concerned by the number of penalties the Dolphins are getting, but the Jets haven’t been able to take advantage yet. Of anything, really. They’re surprisingly flat. Pennington needs to get the Dolphins on the board quick before Washington sparks the Jets’ pilot light and wakes the crowd up. The sooner they start booing Favre, the sooner this game is over.
5:02pm: Phew! Tipped interception negated by Ty Law penalty. Thanks, Ty!
5:05pm: Fumble at mid-field. Grrr… Defense needs to hold.
5:07pm: Ran downstairs to get the laundry. Did I really miss the Jets attempt a Wildcat play?
5:13pm: Coles, TD! (6 points for the YAC, not the throw.) Botched extra point! Difference-maker? 6-0, Jets.
5:22pm: Would Phil Simms question such an obvious intentional grounding play if it were anyone other than Favre? I think he’d have even called that one on his own son. (Where is Chris Simms these days anyway?)
5:27pm: Wayne Chrebet just got name-checked in connection with Davone Bess.
5:28pm: Pennington to Ginn, TD!!! THAT’S a real TD pass, baby! (Career #100 for Pennington.) And a successful extra point. 7-6, Dolphins.
5:31pm: INTERECPTION, FAVRE!!! Run (ambled?) back for a TD!!!! XP good. 14-6, Dolphins.
5:34pm: “14 points in 15 seconds.” Sweet! Favre looks like he hurt his arm trying to make the tackle after the interception, and Clemens is warming up on the sideline. Clemens vs. Pennington with the season on the line would be pretty ironic, and unless the kids pulls off a miracle, it should officially mark the end of Mangini’s reign of error. Is Tannenbaum or Johnson itching to give Bill Cowher a call?
5:36pm: Favre’s back in without missing a play, but with 2 minutes left, he hands off to Washington for a 3-yard run. Second down, zips a short one to Keller for the first down and medium one to Coles for another, so he’s clearly going to fight through the pain. No one’s ever questioned Favre’s heart; at least not during the season.
5:40pm: Favre is driving and the Dolphins D seems to be backing off a little. They need to tighten up and maintain the cushion for — Fuck! Another pass, down to the 10 yard line. 3rd and 2… Favre gets one to Keller in the end zone, but it goes right through his hands! Feely for the field goal; halftime: 14-9, Dolphins.
5:48pm: Halftime Report: I’d rather see the Ravens make the playoffs and the Patriots left sitting at home with the Jets, even though the Ravens would likely end the Dolphins improbable playoff run in the Wild Card and would have a good shot at winning out. In the NFC, I’m glad the Vikings made it in over the Bears, but I’m loving the Panthers and Falcons, and am expecting the former to represent in the Super Bowl.
5:51pm: WOW! The Lions really went out with a bang, huh? Yikes! No fan of any other NFL team has room to complain too much in comparison.
5:52PM: I love the NFL.com Fantasy Football “Bad Day” commercials. I still can’t believe this is the first season in nearly 10 years since I played in at least one fantasy league. Goddamn Favre really screwed up this season for me across the board. Except, possibly, for today!
5:59pm: I’m curious how/if Madden 2010 will incorporate the Wildcat offense for the Dolphins next year. I wish they’d include it with a roster update for the 2009 editon, but that’s doubtful.
6:01pm: WTF? Another busted snap, this time for the Dolphins, on a punt. Jets ball on Miami’s 28. Oof!
6:04pm: Washington, TD run! Going for 2 points. Favre to Cotchery! 17-14, Jets.
6:11pm: First down, flea flicker, Pennington to Ginn, 41 yards, all in the air! Nice!
6:12pm: UPDATE: Cowboys down 34-3 to the Eagles with a playoff spot on the line? Seriously? WTF, Romo?
6:14pm: Pennington to Fasano, TD!!!!! Beautiful throw; extra point is good. 21-17, Dolphins.
6:20pm: Favre is currently 10-25, 140 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict two more INTs for him before the game is over, and the only way the Jets pull this out is if they put the ball in Washington’s hands at every possible opportunity.
6:35pm: The 4th quarter begins with the Jets at 2nd & 8, driving slowly with a balanced offensive plan that feells like they’ve decided to lean on Washington. Simms just noted that he thinks Favre is done after this season, the first time his future has been mentioned during the game. Sidekick demurs a little, pinning his call on their making their playoffs. I refresh my bourbon, Eagle Rare, sipping along throughout the game, not content to wait for the inevitable INT(s).
6:41pm: Blocked punt, Miami! They get the ball on the Jets 49. There’s a small but audible contigent in the crowd chanting “Let’s go Dolphins!”
6:44pm: Pennington is starting to get a little love from the CBS announcers, crediting him as the final piece of the puzzle that led to Miami’s miracle turnaround season. Interestingly, there’s an undertone that suggests they think the Jets have already lost the game.
6:46pm: Carpenter, 48-yard FG. 24-17, Miami! 9 minutes remaining…
6:49pm: Announcers just noted that the crowd is starting to thin out. That’s lame. It’s a 7-point game and plenty of time remaining. As much as I want the Jets to lose this one, the weather is fine; there’s no reason to bail yet.
6:52pm: Oh, come on! Now the CBS guys are down-playing QB Ratings! (Beer chaser…) Debatable as they are, there’s no question that, as a relative measure, they’re as valid as any other and Pennington is clearly outplaying Favre by a mile.
6:55pm: It’s pretty much official. The Jets have no shot at the playoffs because the Ravens are pounding the Jaguars, and even if they manage to beat the Dolphins, it means the Patriots win the division and get into the playoffs. Somehow, I suspect Belichick would rather the Jets lose before he’d ever cheer for them winning a game, any game, no matter the ultimate benefit to his team. He has too much pride to do that, whereas I could see the spineless Mangini doing the opposite.
6:59pm: YES!!!!! Favre INT #3!!!!!!!!!!
7:01pm: The Jets D looks disheartened. The off-the-record comments should be interesting this week.
7:06pm: PSA: Subway’s new “$5 Foot-longs” commercials are stupid. There is clearly a dearth of talent and too much money in the television advertising business. Some of that money should be pushed to print.
7:08PM: A very telling tidbit during the impromptu Favre Memorial on CBS: His very first pass completion was to himself. ‘Nuff said. Buh-bye, Brett!
7:11pm: Beautiful. Miami punts, ball dies on the 1 yard line. Jets’ season has 17 seconds remaining.
7:14pm: Wow! That’s weak. Favre’s on the sidelines for the Jets’ final snap… Hold on, he’s out there now, but they’re reviewing something, the punt presumably. Not clear why, though… Pointless review; no change. Favre’s taking the snap from the 1 yard line…
7:17pm: Bwah-ha-ha! Pass to Washington, who laterals it to Favre, who gets nailed while passing it forward, illegally. 7 seconds left; one more play.
7:18pm: And now Favre is done. Brad Smith is in at QB. All kinds of lateraling going on, and a couple of times it looks like they might get something, but it’s ultimately a fumble and game over!!!!! Pennington getting much love from Jets players, not Mangini or Favre, though. Would love to know what he said to Clemens. Wait, did Favre really just run straight to the showers without shaking anyone’s hands?
7:34pm: It will be interesting to see the papers tomorrow and hear what sports radio has to say about the Jets’ collapse. Favre was an undeniable bust by any measure — sorry, 9-7 and home for the Winter was within their reach with Kellen Clemens — while Pennington took a disgraceful 1-15 Dolphins team, stepped in as their leader with just as much prep time as Favre had with the Jets, and not only made the playoffs, but won the AFC East in the process! MVP? Hell motherfucking, yeah!
7:40pm: Just switched over to SNY and caught the tail-end of what appeared to be a Ray Lucas rant, telling someone to “get on the bus and get the hell out of here!” It was noted that when he played for the Jets, they would run through a wall for Parcells, the implication being that it’s not the same for Mangini. Returning from commercial break, they’re giving Mangini a 50:50 shot to return.
7:45pm: I love Ray Lucas! He’s a no BS talking head and was a grossly underrated QB for the Jets. Oh, wait, Favre’s press conference…
7:46pm: Favre’s final line: 20-40, 233 yds, TD, 3 INT. On his shoulder: “It’s been better.” On retirement before the Pro Bowl: “I don’t know. I’ll talk with Mike, and Eric, and Woody about it.” On Mangini: “I had a lot of fun… He’s fair.” Etc.: “I love to compete; I would hope that every guy in that locker room, if you talk to them, would say that they enjoyed playing with me.” (Ironically, implies that stats don’t tell the whole story, effectively endorsing Pennington over himself, IMO.) (Comes really close to saying that expectations were too high this season.) (Repeats several times that he’s “glad I came here”, almost like he’s convincing himself; there’s also something very rebound relationship about it as he refers to “feeling wanted” again.) (Notably, isn’t using his health as an excuse. Acknowledges he underperformed towards the end, but won’t chalk it up to not being healthy.) (Makes a passing reference to possibly pushing too hard to meet expectations, implying that there was a short timeframe to get it done.) (Denies any friction with Mangini. Mostly convincingly, at first, but the longer he talked, the less so it seemed.) “Yes, I feel like there’s unfinished business with this team… There’s a lot of potential with this team.” (He’s really hedging on the question of whether or not there’s something wrong with his shoulder. He’s setting it up nicely, though, not using it as an excuse, but clearly leaving the probability that it was a factor hanging out there. In the end, he’ll be the warrior who fought through the pain, and did everything he could to help the team. In other words, not his fault.)
8:05pm: I’ll give Favre credit for a lengthy press conference, though he wasn’t exactly hammered with difficult questions. I think he’s done, though, and hope he makes a quick decision for everyone’s good.
8:07pm: Woody Johnson speaks on Mangini: “We’re going to look at it; we’re going to make these decisions in a rational way… We’ll hopefully get everything done this week.” The no comment isn’t exactly a vote of confidence for the fallen Mangenius. At best, he’s on notice. Adam Schein is saying Mangini is out. I agree.
8:17pm: Lavernues Coles — in full Christmas regalia? — is gracious in defeat, not blaming Favre for the collapse. Credits his teammates for playing hard, says he didn’t get to talk to [his best friend] Chad yet, says he has no say in any forthcoming changes to the team, and that Mangini shouldn’t shoulder all the blame for this season’s failures, though he doesn’t explicitly call for his return, either. No mention of Favre at all.
8:24pm: Parcells isn’t coming back to the Jets, and I’d be surprised is he leaves Miami at all, unless the new owner is a complete moron. Lucas and Shein are being pretty hard on Mangini, overtly and subtly, and I suspect sports radio is going to be even harsher. They’re focusing heavily on their lack of offensive identity, noting Thomas Jones and Leon Washington’s gifts and their lack of use down the stretch
8:28pm: Leon Washington plays it coy with a Mangini question; like Coles, be offers no overt support, though makes an interesting reference to “whether Eric, Brett or myself are here next year.” Shades of Willie Randolph’s final days, no?
8:33pm: Chad Pennington is all class. (Man crush alert!) Kudos to Schein for giving him his props.
8:44pm: I’m fully expecting the Dolphins to fall to the Ravens next week — and predicting Ravens vs. Panthers in the Super Bowl, with the Panthers winning 24-13 — but it’s pretty much all gravy for them the rest of the way, no matter what happens. Of course, assuming Favre is done — please, dude; it’s over — next season I’m back 100% with the Jets, while the Dolphins replace the Bills as my awkward #2 favorite team thanks to Pennington. I’m intrigued by Brett Ratliffe, though I hope Tannenbaum and the new coach (Bill Cowher? Jim Fassel? Rob Ryan? Mike Heimerdinger? Pete Carroll?) snag a sleeper QB in the draft, and it would be nice if they could sign T.J. Houshmandzadeh to team up with Coles, Cotchery and Keller. A little help on defense would be a good idea, too.
11:14pm: God love Joey Porter:
“(Pennington) was our savior,” Miami linebacker Joey Porter said. “They talk about everybody else getting MVP and they just overlooked him. He totally outplayed Brett Favre and he did it all year.”
“(Pennington) is not the one who will brag about it, but I’m going to brag for him today,” Porter said. “I’m going to brag for him because he’s not going to say anything. He’s just a humble old country boy, but I’m going to brag for him.”
That humble old country boy remains the best QB the Jets ever had, and they were stupid to let him go. Karma may be a bitch, but it’s arguably a fair-minded one.