What a difference six months makes. The Jets were heading into the 2008 season with a handful of offseason acquisitions that were brought here to improve on a disastrous 2007 season which say the team go 4-12. The Jets made the most noise in the off-season with the signings of Alan Faneca, Damien Woody, Calvin Pace, Bubba Franks, Tony Richardson and the trade for Kris Jenkins. Faneca and Woody were brought here to sure up the offensive line that already consisted of budding stars Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson, attempting to protect injury prone quarterback Chad Pennington. Jenkins was brought in to anchor a 3-4 defense that was missing a true nose tackle. Pace was brought in to establish a better pass rush. Coming into training camp in late July, things were looking better for the Jets and they were looking like a 8-8 or 9-7 team, much better than the 2007 season. Then on August 6th the whole landscape of the franchise changed.
On that day it was announced that the Jets had traded for future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre. Favre was brought in to try to revive a franchise that was only going so far on the shoulder of Pennington. Favre was coming off a solid season in Green Bay in which he threw 28 touchdowns, passed for over 4,000 yards and took the Packers to the NFC Championship game. So with Favre came bigger expectations for Gang Green. The Jets finally had a QB that could hang with Tom Brady and keep the team in the race for a division title. So Favre had about 4 weeks to learn a totally new offense and try to get the Jets into the playoffs.
Going into week 1 against the Dolphins, the Jets were looking like a possible 10-6 or 11-5 team with Favre and the new acquisitions leading the way and then Tom Brady got hurt. With Brady out for the season, everyone was saying the division was the Jets for the taking. So after the Jets win in week 1, the talk was now of the Jets possibly going 12-4 with their pretty weak schedule. The team must have believed the hype because Matt Cassell, playing in place of Brady and making his first career start in the NFL, came into the Meadowlands and beat the overconfident Jets. They then headed out west to play the 0-2 Chargers and got blown out. So with all the high expectations the Jets were at 1-2 at this point in the season.
They came home to a must win game against the Arizona Cardinals. The offense really took off in this game. Favre set a personal record high in throwing for 6 touchdowns in the game. The Jets put up 56 points, but their passing defense was really exposed in the game. They gave up over 400 yards passing to Kurt Warner with most of that coming in the second half of the game. The Jets then had their bye week early and welcomed in the Bengals in week 6. New York won the game but the offense was not on point as it was against Arizona. So the Jets were at 3-2 heading out to play the awful Oakland Raiders. The Jets struggled all day on offense and eventually lost the game in overtime to a Sebastian Janikowski 57 yard field goal.
So the 3-3 Jets came home to play one of the worst teams in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs. The Jets had a lead late in the 4th quarter until Favre threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown and gave the Chiefs a 24-21 lead. Favre then put together a drive, in the two minute offense, that led to a touchdown catch by Laveranues Coles and a Jets win. From this point, the team really started to take off. They followed up the game against the Chiefs with relatively easy wins over the Bills and Rams over the next two weeks. This set up a battle for first place in the AFC East against the Patriots. Both teams were sitting at 6-3 with the winner taking a one game lead in the division.
The Jets jumped out to a huge lead by the end of the first half, 24-6. The offense and defense both looked great and the team was rolling. Then came the second half. The huge lead was gone and Cassell hit Randy Moss in the end zone for a last second touchdown to tie the game. On the first drive of overtime, Favre led the Jets down the field to setup the game winning field goal by Jay Feely. The Jets took over first place and headed out to play the 10-0 Tennessee Titans in Tennessee. The Titans had a very good defense and had been getting solid play from QB Kerry Collins. Everyone figured this is where the Jets four game winning streak would end and the Titans would remain unbeaten. Well they were all wrong. The Jets went down there and totally dominated the Titans on offense and defense and came out of the game with a 34-13 win. New York found itself at 8-3, two games behind the Titans for the #1 seed in the AFC and tied with the Steelers for the #2 seed. The Jets looked like a force to be reckoned with in the NFL and the sky was the limit. Unfortunately, this was about as good as it would get for the 2008 Jets.
The Jets came home at 8-3 to face the 6-5 Denver Broncos. Again, the Jets must have really started to believe the hype that they were an elite team, because they played like the total opposite. They laid an egg against Denver and lost 34-17. No big deal right? They would get back on track in the next game against the 49ers right? Well that didn't happen either. They went out to San Francisco and could not get out of their own way. They let another team with an inexperienced quarterback get the best of them in a game that they should have won easily.
So they came home with a record of 8-5 to take on the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo ran all over the Jets and nearly pulled off the win, if not for the poor play calling by Buffalo. All they had to do was run out the clock with under two minutes remaining. Instead, J.P. Losman fumbled and Shaun Ellis returned it for a touchdown and the Jets won a must win game. With the win, the Jets controlled their own destiny at 9-5 to make the playoffs. Win their last two games and they were in. So they hit the road again to play the Seattle Seahawks who, at the time, held a record of 3-11. The snow was falling and so were the Jets. They were outplayed in snowy Seattle and lost 13-3. Not only did they lose the game, they no longer controlled their own destiny with the Dolphins and Patriots both winning that week.
Coming into the last week, the Jets would need to beat Chad Pennington and the Dolphins and hope for some help from other teams. If the Dolphins win, they win the division. You could not have written a better script for this game. A must win against a former teammate. The game was tight in the first half and the Jets were on the losing end at the time. But they took the lead in the beginning of the third quarter, 17-14. And it was all over after that. Pennington took apart the Jets with the dink and dunk passes and gave the Dolphins a lead they would keep. The Dolphins won 24-17 and won the AFC East in the process. The Jets finished the season at 9-7 and were officially eliminated from the playoffs with the loss.
Back in August, it looked like this may be a special season for the New York Jets and it turned out to be what all us Jets fans are used to, a big disappointment. The Jets loaded up in the offseason to try and right the ship from a forgettable 2007 season. When they were at 8-3 in late November, it looked as though all those moves were the right ones. But in the end it was not enough to get the Jets over the hump. For a team that was on such a roll, winning five straight games to get to 8-3, to lose four of their last five and not make the playoffs is very disappointing on so many levels. Now the Jets stand without a coach and a quarterback who will keep everyone in limbo on whether or not he will return in 2009. The team has a lot of questions to answer in the offseason, but it may only take a few key moves to get this team on the right track again next season. 2008 was filled with a lot of memorable moments and tons of hope. Unfortunately, it ended the way that it did. But we will stick by our Jets next season and beyond, and hope that one day this franchise will figure it out and get back to the Super Bowl.