Commentary

Jets' Top 5 stories of 2011

A playoff meltdown -- and a miracle -- lead our end-of-year Gang Green best list

Updated: December 21, 2011, 12:53 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

We asked ESPNNewYork.com's beat writers to rank their five top stories of 2011. Next up: Rich Cimini, who shares his Jets picks. Let us know what you think in the comments section.

1. Championship meltdown

For the second straight year, the Jets came within 60 minutes of the Super Bowl -- and they forgot to show up in Pittsburgh. Inexplicably, they came out flat in the first half and fell behind 24-3 in the AFC Championship Game.

Cromartie
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesAfter stunning the Pats, the Jets couldn't carry their momentum into the AFC title game.

The Jets pulled themselves together and made a furious run in the second half but came up short, 24-19. The signature moment came in the final minute, when the Steelers iced it with a third-and-long conversion. An angry Rex Ryan removed his headset and fired it to the ground, two years of frustration coming out in one, telling gesture.

2. Miracle in Foxborough

A heavy underdog, the Jets delivered possibly their biggest victory since Super Bowl III in 1969, stunning the Patriots in the AFC divisional playoffs 28-21.

This was storybook, right down to Dennis Byrd's emotional speech to the team on the eve of the game. For the coin toss, the Jets' captains brought out the jersey that Byrd wore on that fateful day in 1993 when he broke his neck. They proceeded to play a near flawless game only six weeks after they had been embarrassed by the Patriots 45-3 on the same field.

3. Rex's mouth

At the NFL scouting combine in February, Rex Ryan made an ultra-bold statement, even by his standards. Addressing a room of reporters, he guaranteed a Super Bowl, the ultimate moment in braggadocio. A month later, Ryan, at the league meetings, compared himself to Babe Ruth, saying he felt like the Bambino because of his "called shot" -- the Super Bowl guarantee.

Ryan's mouth got him into trouble during the season, when he cursed a fan at a home game and was fined $75,000 by the league.

In recent weeks, the coach has toned it down, perhaps realizing that talk is cheap -- unless you have to pay a fine.

4. Plaxico's "homecoming"

On the eve of training camp, the Jets stunned the league by signing former Giants Super Bowl hero Plaxico Burress to a one-year, $3 million contract -- less than three months following his release from prison after serving a sentence on a gun-possession charge.

The Giants and 49ers were interested in signing him, but the Jets jumped in at the 11th hour, landing a replacement for Braylon Edwards. Despite missing two seasons, Burress has proved he still can play, having made several clutch catches for the Jets.

5. Trouble in paradise

One of the most hyped teams at the start of the 2011 season, the Jets nearly imploded with a three-game losing streak that dropped them to 2-3. The low point was an embarrassing prime-time loss to the Ravens, 34-17, in which the Ravens scored three defensive touchdowns.

There was turmoil in the locker room, and it looked as though Ryan was losing control of the team. The Jets started the cleanup by dumping troublemaker Derrick Mason, and eventually they got back to their winning ways.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

MORE NEW YORK HEADLINES