- Stephen A. Smith, ESPNNewYork.com columnist
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In a perfect world, the New York Jets would not have to bother playing another game this season. Why play another game when you've just scored 48 points -- after weeks of listening to folks wonder whether you'd ever score at all? Why bother, when questions about a quarterback controversy have literally evaporated, and you've apparently transformed from a team of mediocrity to one worthy of Super Bowl expectations?
This is what's going on, correct? One victory over a Buffalo Bills squad with questionable young cornerbacks, a star defensive end crying about being held in check by a right tackle one week removed from the practice squad, and a quarterback who spent Sunday afternoon reaffirming the possibility that there actually might be a passer worse than Tim Tebow -- and suddenly all is well with Gang Green.
Stop this nonsense, please!
The Jets are still mediocre until they show us otherwise. They're still a team devoid of a franchise quarterback until further notice. There's still the potential of a quarterback controversy as long as zealots are out there clamoring for Tim Tebow and his humility-on-Broadway persona.
Call me after the Jets play at the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. After they play the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans within the next month. Then we can talk. Until then, nobody should want to hear anything from the Jets because all the rhetoric is irrelevant.
"All I'm going to say is that I believe in our team," Jets coach Rex Ryan has said repeatedly. "We believe in each other. We know what we're capable of, and we plan on proving it week in and week out."
We'll learn a lot about the Jets over the next few weeks. No matter what we saw against the hapless Bills, we need more evidence before the Jets earn our confidence and faith.
Things are expected to get pretty difficult on Sunday because the Jets will visit a Steelers squad that got ramrodded by the NFL, which decided to send Pittsburgh on the road to face the Denver Broncos in Peyton Manning's debut. If the Jets show up and drop half as many points on Pittsburgh's defense and manage to force three interceptions and render Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown nonexistent, a little chatter will be deemed tolerable.
Maybe then we can at least start forgetting last season's 8-8 finish, featuring a three-game losing streak to end the year. Perhaps we'll all get a dose of selective amnesia.
But even if the Jets beat the Steelers, there's still a division to win -- something they haven't done in the Rex Ryan era. There's still a conference to win -- something they haven't done since 1968. There's still a Super Bowl to win -- something they haven't done since Broadway Joe Namath was their quarterback and the Colts represented Baltimore instead of Indianapolis.
Nothing changes that reality.
Ryan can go ahead and talk of how Stephen Hill is "above where most rookie receivers are [at this point]," and everyone can bloviate all day long about how legit the Jets' offense really is, but until further notice, they are still a team that passed for just 206.1 yards per game last season, finished 22nd in the league in third-down percentage and let go of the primary receiver (Plaxico Burress) who made them the second-most efficient red zone team in the league.
"I'm telling you, I believe in our guys," Ryan deadpanned.
He has no choice.
Mark Sanchez supported his coach with touchdown tosses to Jeremy Kerley (1) and Hill (2). So impressive was the starting quarterback that Jets fans booed Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano for inserting Tebow for a play with 3:07 left in the second quarter.
They didn't want to see Tebow. They wanted Sanchez to continue flowing, realizing the Jets were better off with him taking the snaps.
How much better they can be, exactly, we simply won't know until they're legitimately tested.
Those tests will occur in the weeks to come.
The Jets know this. Their fans know this. Anyone with sense knows this, so let's stop all the noise.
Unless, of course, Jets fans want to wallow in futility, as they're accustomed to doing. They convince themselves they're going places unforeseen at this moment in time. And then ...
"It's called managing ourselves, but also our expectations," Darrelle Revis told me weeks ago. "It's really about knowing who we are and what we can do first, then taking it from there ... day by day."
1hEric D. Williams
1dSharon Katz & Hank Gargiulo