Commentary

New York Jets season starts now

The preseason is a lousy way to gauge a football team, and especially Gang Green

Updated: August 31, 2012, 1:34 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

PHILADELPHIA -- If the New York Jets' objective in the preseason was to lower expectations, they were wildly successful. They lost all four games, going winless for the first time since 1993, the days of Boomer Esiason and Bruce Coslet.

They're getting beat up pretty bad by an impatient fan base, which probably still is spooked by last season's bitter finish, but here's a word of advice: Relax. To paraphrase Yogi, it ain't over before it starts.

There are some concerns, to be sure, but the preseason is a lousy way to gauge a football team, especially the Jets.

They're a mystery team, still grasping a new offense, still waiting to unveil their Wildcat package, still working their top receivers into shape after injuries. It's hard to evaluate a run-oriented offense in the preseason. It's a four-quarters offense, not a one-half-and-take-a-seat-on-the-bench offense.

"You can't judge them because of the way they're built and what they're trying to do," CBS analyst Phil Simms, whose son Matt is a Jets backup QB, said on the eve of the Jets' final preseason game -- a 28-10 loss Thursday night to the Philadelphia Eagles. "It's impossible to see who they are."

Simms remembers watching the San Francisco 49ers last preseason, thinking new coach Jim Harbaugh and quarterback Alex Smith didn't have a chance in the NFC -- and they came within a field goal of making the Super Bowl.

A winless preseason isn't a death sentence. The Atlanta Falcons went 0-4 last preseason and still made the playoffs. Since 1995, seven teams have reached the postseason after winless preseasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That includes the 2000 New York Giants, who got as far as the Super Bowl.

"We're not looking at it like we have to panic in here," guard Matt Slauson said in the locker room after the Jets' backups lost to the Eagles' backups in an ugly affair.

Rex Ryan approached it with gallows humor. When he arrived at his postgame news conference, he deadpanned, "Well, we scored -- so that was good."

Terrance Ganaway and Austin Howard
AP Photo/Matt RourkeThe Jets will have many chances to celebrate once the regular season begins.

Indeed, the Jets ended a three-game touchdown drought, scoring on their second possession -- a 6-yard touchdown pass from Greg McElroy to rookie running back Terrance Ganaway. It only took 37 possessions and 201 minutes, 5 seconds of elapsed time.

And that was pretty much the end of the night for the offense.

"I think this team is a lot better than others," Ryan said. "We get to prove it on the field. I know where my bet will be. I believe in this team, and I believe in this coaching staff."

Something remarkable has occurred this summer. Because of their struggles on offense, the Jets have actually lowered expectations -- and that has to be killing owner Woody Johnson, who loves the buzz.

He got plenty of buzz from the Tim Tebow trade, and it lasted into training camp, when the football-watching nation got an inside look at the Jets. It was a mini-version of "Hard Knocks," courtesy of ESPN.

But the games started, and Tebow started misfiring all over the place and the offensive line got pushed around by the New York Giants, and soon right tackle Wayne Hunter was sent packing to the Island of Misfit Scapegoats. He went to St. Louis, where he was reunited with Brian Schottenheimer.

The Jets usually win the offseason and the preseason, but now they're going into the season from a different direction. This can't be good for business. The expectations haven't been this low since 2006, when the unknown Eric Mangini took over. They ended up making the playoffs.

The fans are over-reacting, of course, tearing down GM Mike Tannenbaum before his team has had the chance to play a real game. Let's see what unfolds, starting in nine days against the Buffalo Bills, before we start firing people.

The Jets have a strong defense, a plan on offense and a quarterback, Mark Sanchez, who looks "stronger, more decisive and more confident than I've ever seen him," Simms said.

That could be a mirage, too. It's all a mirage in the preseason, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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