I've thrown out a challenge to the followers of every other NFL out there: tell us why your team will be better than the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007. And plenty of eager writers are lined up to tell you exactly why they will be superior to the Black and Gold. In the coming weeks, be prepared to get a gauge on exactly where the rest of the country ranks us in the NFL hierarchy this season.
Our latest essay comes to us from Patricia Beninato (a.k.a. "Laser Rocket Arm"), Jets fan and longtime Mondesi's House reader. I think this was a tough essay. Let's face it, it's hard to be a Jets fan. Your biggest media cheerleader is Mike Greenberg. The ultimate face of your franchise will be remembered for generations to come as the drunk guy who hit on Suzy Kolber, not the legendary Super Bowl III-winning QB. You employed Rich Kotite. And you stole Neil O'Donnell from us. Whenever you need the floor, be my guest. You've suffered enough.
Why the New York Jets Will Be Better Than the Steelers in 2007
by Patricia Beninato
Okay, so I wear a shirt that reads DRINK LIKE A ROETHLISBERGER TODAY in my icon and my screen name is taken from a Peyton Manning commercial. However, I have been a New York Jets fan since childhood. I grew up in central New Jersey which is almost exclusively Giants country but my dad and brother, rulers of the TV during the autumn, always watched the Jets since their main team was the Eagles and if you’re an Eagles fan you automatically hate the Giants. It’s funny how things have changed-when I was a kid the Jets were the glamorous New York football team thanks to the enduring legend of Joe Namath, the only man ever to wear pantyhose publicly and not have his sexuality questioned. Now the Giants and their various dramas fill the back pages of the New York tabloids … you know, kind of like how a certain team from western Pennsylvania dominates their local media. Meanwhile the Jets toil in relative obscurity on Long Island, maybe getting some attention if they do something the Giants don’t do, like, I don’t know, make the playoffs.
But this isn’t about why the Jets are better than the Giants-that’s a given. This is about why Gang Green trumps the Steel Curtain.
First, there’s Eric Mangini. He looks like he’d be more at home in a corporate cube eating blueberry danishes and studying profit/loss margin spreadsheets, but in his first year he took a team that no one expected to do anything more than circle the bowl (otherwise known as "having a rebuilding year") to the playoffs. The Jets damn near beat Indianapolis, DID beat New England at Foxboro-the sight of Tom Brady pouting in the mud was one of the highlights of the season for me-and gave the hated Pats a run for their money in the wild card game. Mangini got a 10-6 season out of a team even the most optimistic scribe had going under .500. Respect the Penguin.
Then there’s Chad Pennington. People whine and complain about Ben Roethlisberger getting short shrift from the media, but Chadwick (as his mom and Shannon Sharpe call him) consistently gets crap about his supposed "weak arm" and the back-to-back shoulder surgeries. Last year he had to endure the humiliation of having his salary slashed down to just about nothing AND having to compete for his job with the likes of Patrick Ramsey and Brooks Bollinger. Did he pull a Faneca and whine to reporters about the unfairness of it all? No. He rehabbed, seized control of the team and never looked back until the 2006 Comeback Player of the Year Award was firmly in his grasp. If I had to choose between a stud that throws bombs or a guy who can finesse and think two steps ahead of everyone, I’d pick the latter. If you have a decent pair of receivers-and Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery are a good-bordering-on-great pair-you don’t have to fling the ball forty yards every time. Chad proves that. He’s a genuinely nice guy and does not give Jets’ staff or fans heart attacks by crashing his motorcycle or dating golfers or minor actresses. And four out of my five girlfriends think Chad is much hotter than Ben. The other one has a crush on Marc Bulger. Don’t ask.
And there is Thomas Jones. Curtis Martin is gone until five years from now in Canton, but there’s a new beast in the Jets’ backfield. I would tell you how excited this makes me, but Raul said keep it clean and so I shall. Outside of the disgruntled Pete Kendall, the Jets have a solid young o-line and the defense, particularly the run, is improving. You’ll never find the Jets’ kicker Mike Nugent taking pictures of himself with his junk exposed or shirtless with hedgehog hair hanging on Jersey club girls, and punter Ben Graham is a 6’4" Australian monster that could boot your butt seventy yards without breaking a sweat. Take THAT, Daniel Sepulveda.
Then there are Jets fans. Despite our New Jersey/New York backgrounds we’re not nearly as obnoxious as other teams’ fandoms. We don the emerald and white and follow Fireman Ed’s lead as he leads us in cheers. We don’t have to wave specially branded towels that our quarterback refuses to sign. When we meet up with each other in public places, a knowing grin and a holler of "J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS!" mark our acknowledgement (although I’ll admit that the chant will get you weird looks in supermarkets). We do, however, actively loathe the Patriots. Then again, who doesn’t?
The Steelers are coming to the Jets’ house on November 18th. There they will learn about a true people’s team, a class act that stays off the back of tabloids, works hard and gives their fans something to cheer about every Sunday. And if Ben’s eye should be caught by a redhead who looks as stunning in a Chad Pennington jersey as she does in a black t-shirt maligning his drinking habits … well, hey, he’s human.