Commentary

For the Jets, it's 2009 all over again

Can Gang Green go from being 4-6 to making the playoffs? It's certainly possible

Updated: November 20, 2012, 11:03 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- For the second time in Rex Ryan's four seasons, the New York Jets are 4-6. That's not a good thing, but they don't mind looking back to 2009, the year they defied the odds -- and their own coach -- to make the playoffs.

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
Jeff Curry-US PresswireIn Mark Sanchez's rookie year, the Jets miraculously made the playoffs after being 4-6. They hope to do the same this year.

They were the first postseason team in history to overcome two three-game losing streaks, becoming the poster team for improbable comebacks. Things were so bleak after a December loss that Ryan infamously pronounced them eliminated from playoff contention. The math said otherwise; so did the team's heart.

So here they are again, trying to turn 4-6 into something special.

"It gives you more confidence, knowing it's been done before," tight end Dustin Keller said.

Publicly, Ryan hasn't made a big deal out of the parallel, but he doesn't deny it could be a source of motivation.

"We got better as the season went on, and I think that's clearly what we have to do now," he said. "If the players can draw from it, that's great."

There are some weird similarities between then and now.

In 2009, the Jets lost a key defensive player (Kris Jenkins) and a key offensive player (Leon Washington) to season-ending injuries in back-to-back weeks early in the year.

This season, they lost cornerback Darrelle Revis and wide receiver Santonio Holmes in back-to-back weeks.

In 2009, the Jets fell to the Miami Dolphins before the bye week because of a pitiful performance on special teams.

This season, same deal.

In 2009, Ryan got so verklempt from the losing that he broke down in tears in a late-season team meeting.

This season, he cried in the postgame locker room in Seattle, where they dropped to 3-6.

Weird, right?

So let's cut to the obvious question: Can the Jets do it again?

It's highly unlikely. They're two games behind the two wild-card leaders, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts, and the home stretch begins Thursday night against the New England Patriots.

There are easier ways to start the home stretch. In 2009, they got it rolling against the mediocre Carolina Panthers and they caught every conceivable break along the way, including the then-undefeated Colts pulling Peyton Manning so he could rest for the playoffs. Anybody remember Curtis Painter?

"I think we were a better team back then, there's no disputing that," former Jets tackle Damien Woody said in a phone interview this week. "(Mark) Sanchez was a lot younger, but we had something to hang our hat on -- a great defense and a great running game. I don't know if the current team has an identity, something that can carry them."

Woody is right, this team isn't nearly as talented as the '09 group. Sanchez has improved, but not by enough to compensate for the slippage in other areas. That said, Woody isn't ready to pronounce them dead, not with the look of the standings.

The Steelers are down to their third quarterback. The Colts are young and can't win on the road. The Cincinnati Bengals (5-5) always finish 8-8, don't they?

"I guarantee you, inside the facility in Florham Park, they're preaching, 'Anything can happen,'" said Woody, who believes the Jets can crash the party if they can get to 9-7.

Safety LaRon Landry expressed a greater sense of urgency.

"We definitely have to win out," he said.

After the Patriots, the Jets' remaining opponents have losing records. From a distance, it looks like the ideal set up, assuming ... like, they can go on a 5-1 run. That's a lot of winning for a team that has yet to win two straight.

Think about that: The Jets have yet to win two in a row.

But they have 14 holdovers from '09, so they've seen it done. Unfortunately for them, none of the holdovers are named Woody or Thomas Jones or Alan Faneca or Shaun Ellis.

And, unfortunately for the Jets, Bill Belichick isn't going to rest Tom Brady. But you never know, maybe he'll make him a blocker on the PAT unit.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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