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Mike Cardillo: With the season lost, Jets couldn't lose quietly

Published 1:00 am, Sunday, January 6, 2013
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At some point during the last century, we as sports fans (or sportswriters) fell in love with the term "lovable losers." The Chicago Cubs, who last won a World Series in 1908, have carried this banner with pride for over a century.

What's the big deal if the Cubbies consistently underperform? We're too busy having fun laughing about the team's foibles and drinking beers in the Wrigley Field bleachers.

Maybe it's a societal thing. Teams that win all the time -- take the Yankees, the Patriots, the Lakers, etc. -- while loved by many, are loathed by even more. However, teams that stink up the joint are accepted and embraced, perhaps since it's relatable to see that our best and brightest athletes are fallible like everybody else.

Somewhere out of this lovable loser spectrum were the 2012 New York Jets.

Losers, indeed.

Lovable, hardly.

The way the NFL works, every year, five or six teams are going to finish with a 6-10 record like the Jets did this season. They're quickly forgotten, if they were even thought about in the first place.

But no ... not these Jets.

The Jets, under the stewardship of owner Woody Johnson and coach Rex Ryan, don't even have the common dignity to stink up the joint quietly.

Instead, the Jets were a week-in, week-out laughingstock, which wouldn't be so infuriating if it weren't self-inflicted, mainly due to the media frenzy surrounding back-up (and sometimes third-string) quarterback Tim Tebow and the dwindling credibility it lumped on the organization each week as the season progressed.

Sure, trading for Tebow drew headlines for the Jets and even got ESPN to swarm their training camp in Cortland, N.Y., over the summer, but all that quickly went sour. That's saying nothing of the utter failure of Ryan and hand-picked offensive coordinator Tony Sparano to implement Tebow into the offense. All adding Tebow to the roster accomplished was shattering the confidence of already fragile quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Is Tebow the reason Sanchez devolved into a frightened kitten on the field who threw 18 interceptions and fumbled 14 times? No, but it certainly didn't help.

Nor did it help that the Jets roster lost offensive talent every successive season since the team's trip to the AFC championship game in the 2010-11 season.

It turns out the team's one offensive touchdown in the preseason was a harbinger of the awful times to come. Yet even that, in no way, prepared fans for the embarrassment the season became, highlighted by the now infamous Sanchez "butt fumble" in the Thanksgiving night debacle loss to the Patriots on national television when New England scored 21 straight points in the blink of an eye thanks to Jets' ineptitude.

In a lost season, what's most off-putting by the Jets is the total lack of direction and leadership the franchise seems to have. The Bruce Coslet-Rich Kotite-Pete Carroll span in the mid-90s bottomed out the Jets and made them a joke. Bill Parcells and subsequent coaches turned the team into a consistent winner, with the playoffs a reasonable expectation.

Now, the team seems like a daily punch line.

More than that, where do the Jets go, especially after alienating so many of their fans with this disgraceful season, which rotted from the head down?

Chopping general manager Mike Tannenbaum -- partially, but not fully responsible for an offense devoid of talent -- is a start, but the Jets even found a way to botch this with Ryan retreating with his wife to a Caribbean vacation before addressing reporters about the lost season.

At the very minimum, whoever the Jets hire as their next GM, restoring some level of baseline pride in the organization is a must.

Of course, pride and the Jets rarely occupy the same sentence.

mcardillo@ctpost.com; @CTPostCardillo

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