AFC East: Richard Caster
I called a few notable former Jets from my Rolodex to get their opinions on this question:
Given all the splashy offseason acquisitions and brash talk from the Jets about winning it all, should their season be considered a failure because they didn't reach the Super Bowl?
Don Maynard, Jets receiver (1963-72), Super Bowl III champ and Pro Football Hall of Famer:
"Any time, to me, you get into the playoffs and they had the record they had, they certainly ought to call it a success. Any time you win more than you lose, I would think that would be a success for sure. You figure there's 32 teams, and you're playing all of them to some degree and finished ahead of 28 of 'em. I know they had me on the edge of my seat.
"When you think back years ago to the Minnesota Vikings and they went to the Super Bowl around four times and lost, a lot of people called it a failure. I said 'Well, to go to the Super Bowl and win second place, that's great.' It depends on who's commenting on the situation."
Richard Caster, Jets receiver and tight end (1970-77), three-time Pro Bowler and loser of back-to-back AFC Championship Games with the Houston Oilers in 1978 and '79 seasons:
"I look at it as a continued process that should be interpreted as successful. Any time a team can equal or do better than the previous year at this level, they've maintained what they had and got better in specific areas. It was a successful season that moved the team forward. If they hadn't gotten to the playoffs, it would have been a failure.
"The team can be a little disappointing at times. There were games in the year where you kind of look at them and think 'Oh, boy. Same old Jets.' In some situations where they should be really excelling, they didn't live up to it, particularly against Miami and Green Bay.
"But, overall, I can live with this as a fan. The team improved their record. There were only four teams still playing over the weekend. Of course, next year, you really have to get over the hump."
Mickey Shuler, Jets tight end (1978-89) and two-time Pro Bowler:
"Success is that you improved. You can't all win the Super Bowl, but if you keep getting closer and closer, you believe the odds are in your favor to make it all the way eventually. If you watch the teams that win consistently -- and I think the Jets are doing that -- you get more guys buying into the system and the concepts and winning. When that happens you keep moving forward, and you have guys playing for each other, and the pieces fit into the puzzle.
"If you're a player on [the current Jets roster], you'll be upset in two weeks when you watch the Super Bowl. You'll be upset at the first minicamp. It'll always be in the back of your mind until you play again.
"That's the only thing I regret about my career: I never had a chance to be in a Super Bowl. I can still remember when we lost the championship game to the Dolphins [1982 season]. That was, I don't know, 30 years ago. It's always going to be there. While you're playing you tend to think 'Let's not repeat that' as a mindset, but when you're done playing and you think about it, it makes you sick."
New York Daily News reporter Rich Cimini caught up with Namath at the legendary quarterback's annual March of Dimes golf event on Long Island. Namath, in his first published interview since preseason, was giddy over Favre.
"We know what Brett's going to do, for the most part," Namath said. "If the Jets are a good enough team, they'll be serious contenders. If the rest of the team can't own up, Brett's in for a long season."
The Jets went into their off week with a wild victory over the Arizona Cardinals. In that game, Favre threw six touchdown passes, tying Namath's franchise record. Namath said he turned the game off in the third quarter and read about Favre's stunning stat line in the newspaper.
"I'm optimistic. Who isn't?" Namath said. "This is the most exciting beginning of a season we've had in some time. This is a tremendous lift in terms of expectations and excitement."
Cimini also spoke with former Jets stars Richard Caster, Dave Herman and Larry Grantham, all of whom saw similarities between Namath and Favre.
"As a defensive player, when we got the ball back for Joe, we knew he was going to make something happen," said Grantham, who made the trip from Memphis despite his cancer battle. "It's the same with Brett. They have that ability."