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Why Our Games Matter--- Good article by Randy Lange

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Yes, games still count for Jets

Wednesday, November 23, 2005



The Jets' Sunday prime-time matchup against the Saints is shaping up as a really big game.

Maybe fans weighing whether to attend the game don't think so. Maybe ESPN is groaning at the matchup of 2-8 teams, one on a five-game losing streak, the other on a six-game skid.

But there really is as much at stake in this game as a playoff berth or ratings points. This one is for corporate image.

Consider all that the ambitious Jets are doing these days. They have agreed with the Giants to build a new stadium and are schmoozing local politicians and newspaper editorial boards as they narrow down the locations for their new training facility.

They have entered into partnership with new cable outlet SportsNet New York and are already in discussions with SNY on programming, perhaps beginning as soon as March.

They have been doing great work in the community with their Jets Academy, charitable efforts and High School Coach of the Week program (although they seem to forget that North Jersey is home to some of the finest coaches and teams in the metropolitan area).

Yet the product on the field drives all these efforts. And this season, for well-documented reasons, Jets football has been tough to watch.

Could this Gang-Green-ous year negatively affect all the corporation's other enterprises?

The Jets say no.

"I just think it is what it is. It's a season," coach Herm Edwards said this week. "It's not the way we operate, not the way we have operated."

"Absolutely not," a team spokesman said. "This is just one of those dark-cloud years, and you just hope everything that can go wrong does go wrong now and we move on from here."

They are right, in a sense. Wherever these Jets wind up, the franchise will go on and improve. Yet what corporate leader wouldn't worry that one area of his business was possibly dragging down other areas, even just for the short term?

That's what makes owner Woody Johnson's Sunday showing at Denver so puzzling. At first toward the end of the Jets' 27-0 loss, he declined to talk to beat writers who had been asking for weeks to meet with him about the state of his team. That would have been his right, no matter what the reporters thought.

But Johnson changed his mind. Then, having agreed to an interview, he proceeded to stride from locker room door to bus door without pause, offering bland support of his team and answering no questions - then dismissing the writers.

Had he just stood for a second and sized up the incoming pitch, he could have swatted at least a double off the wall - impressing the Jets' new TV neighbors, the Mets - with a heartfelt response about the prospects in the new year for all his various teams, on the field and off.

Of course, Johnson will have more opportunities to talk up all his projects. But now the burden is on the players this game. The Jets are in danger of going from being merely a bad team, along with a number of other contenders, to being a truly bad team, one that spans decades.

They can be remembered as a 2-14 team that couldn't overcome incredible adversity, but also couldn't protect four quarterbacks and went a month and a half or longer without getting a lead on an opponent.

Or they can be remembered as a 6-10 club that rivaled the 1999 Jets for heroic play and fortitude in the face of similar odds.

The former scenario may or may not lead to drafting Reggie Bush, the Southern Cal superback. The latter scenario is really better for business. Everybody's business.

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