Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas
Well, there’s seeming euphoria for Giants fans and seeming disaster for Jets fans in the wake of the Giants OT home win against Carolina and the Jets disastrous 13-3 loss to Seattle on the road. While the Jets have engaged in a Met-like collapse (maybe worse, if that’s possible), the Giants certainly aren’t the shoo-in Super Bowl winner they were viewed to be just a few weeks ago.
LET’S START WITH THE GOOD
The Giants used a stunning running game (Derrick Ward, 215 yards, and Brandon Jacobs’ punishing runs to put the team over 300 yards rushing) to squeak by a better-late-than-never Panthers team. But the Giants barely avoided a Jet-like collapse (although at a higher level – they still had already clinched the division win or lose) and are now the number one seed with home advantage throughout the playoffs, a key factor for this year’s playoffs.
It’s interesting to note that, for decades, it’s always been thought that the offensive line makes the running back and not the other way around. While that’s still true, you have to wonder, with the presence of (a still not 100%, it says here) Brandon Jacobs, whether that made the line better or the defense weaker or Derrick Ward better or all of the above. Jacobs and his health are clearly the difference-maker for this team (watch the Dallas Game if you disagree) although, maybe, the health of the offensive line also was better against Carolina.
Despite the bouquets being thrown at the Giants, don’t forget that they were a 50-yard field goal (virtually impossible at the Meadowlands on a swirling December day) away from a terrible defeat. Carolina has a lot of weapons and they have one that the Giants don’t have – a top-shelf receiver. Carolina has their own excellent running game and, although their defense is just good, not excellent, they showed that they could play with the Giants.
I just don’t think that was true when the Giants had Plaxico Burress.
Does it always come back to Plaxico? Well, no, but clearly the Giants have come back to the pack when you project to the upcoming playoffs. Will the Giants run the ball? Of course they will. Will the Giants be successful running the ball? Well, probably. But what the Giants don’t have now, that they had last year in that miraculous playoff run, is that wide-out who can destroy a corner one-on-one (see the Packer game last year). They don’t have that wide-out who draws a double-team on virtually every play (do you think that helps the running game when Burress is there?). They don’t have that 6’5” wide receiver who, in a jam, Eli Manning can throw it up for grabs to or throw it into the corner of the end zone to knowing the Giants have the advantage on that play.
And that’s, potentially, a huge problem.
LET’S MOVE TO THE BAD
After getting one of the greatest gifts in an NFL game from Dick Jauron (and J.P. Losman) since Joe Pisarcik (or was it Larry Csonka?) fumbled the ball into Herm Edwards’ hands at a time long ago, the Jets laid yet another egg against a better-playing-than-you-think Seattle team on the West Coast in terrible weather. Seattle really has been playing well of late – they had the Patriots beat very late in that game and they came back to beat the lowly Rams last week. And despite the terrible criticism of Seneca Wallace by those who don’t watch, he’s been VERY good of late (20-28, 212 yards, 3 TDs v. Patriots, 15-25, 226 yards v. Rams, 9 TDs v. 1 INT. for the season and he’s mobile).
But this wasn’t about the Jets inability to get to the quarterback who was protected by a line that, for all we know, could have been in the witness protection program until this past Sunday (cause they certainly weren’t starting in NFL games). After all, Seattle only scored ten points.
This was about the Jets inability to make much happen on offense. While Thomas Jones continues to have a Pro Bowl year, the lack of allowing Leon Washington to carry the ball on offense has hurt the Jets tremendously. Why? Well, just look at the Giants on Sunday. That cross-up from the pounding Jacobs to Derrick Ward was a key to the Giants beating Carolina for the #1 seed in the NFC. While the contrast isn’t as great between Jones and Washington, it is still there and that ability to change-up is something the Jets should have used in past weeks and should have at least tried (despite the weather) Sunday in Seattle.
LET’S MOVE TO THE UGLY
Well, there’s lots of ugly to go around for the Jets. Brett Favre has seemed disconnected from the team for weeks. He’s almost in a daze during these post-game press conferences and many would say he’s in a daze during the games as well. Are you shocked that Favre leads the league in interceptions? Are you shocked that Favre continues to underthrow receivers (in good weather and bad)? Come on. This guy’s at the end of the line and, whatever you think of MVP candidate Chad Pennington (he brought a lot more than excellent QB play to a team that lost 15 games a year ago – that’s what MVPs do), you have to believe that he would have done as well or better if he were the QB of the NYJ.
The coaching staff? Well, Eric Mangini has fallen a long way from a guest shot on the Sopranos to this. It’s hard to believe these stunning losses (and remember, the Patriots were an OT coin flip away from giving them a terrible loss before the roof caved in). It has to be laid at the feet of the coaching staff.
Can they make the playoffs? Well, the Jets have as much chance to make the playoffs as they had to win the Bills game – before Dick Jauron called that pass play. I guess Jet fans can hope for lightning to strike twice – and that’s what they are hoping for (with Dick Jauron playing the part of lightning against the Patriots).
But ugliest of all, for the knowledgeable Jet fan, is the fact that the Jets small window is quickly coming to a close. The Patriots, who might be 11-5 and fail to make the playoffs, would have had a win or two more if they hadn’t lost their best running back (Maroney), their best defensive back (Harrison) and their best linebacker (Thomas) for the season. They’ve worked minor miracles in New England this year (did I forget to mention they lost their quarterback as well?) and still might be on the outside looking in.
The point for the Jets, of course, is if most, or all, of these guys come back next season, the battle will be for second place (and the wild card) in the AFC East. And the Patriots won’t forget these guys next year (I thought they were trying to send the NFL a message by pounding the division winning Cardinals into submission – the Cardinals might be 8-8 and still make the playoffs).
WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?
So, to recap, the Giants had a huge win but clearly have come back to the pack. They no longer have that separation from themselves to the rest of the league. They also don’t have that key receiver who, if he didn’t always get separation (and many times he did), could always outleap virtually every DB in the league.
The Jets are on the cusp of completing a gigantic collapse. They no longer control what happens to them. All they can do is go out and play hard and beat a Dolphin team that has their ex-QB and less talent than they do. But, even with a win, it will probably be too little, too late. And then the vultures will start circling.
© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.