Keeping Score

The Most Snake-Bitten Franchise In Sports? A Case For The New York Jets

This year's Mark Sanchez-Tim Tebow debacle is the latest sad chapter in Jets history

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Chris Szagola / Cal Sport Media /

Too much ink has already been spilled on the bumbling New York Jets this season. Starting in training camp, with the obsessive, nonsensical coverage of Tim Tebow that ESPN’s top exec has already admitted went too far, the nation has been spoon-fed a story that, if you live outside the New York, you might not give a hoot about.

So I apologize in advance for writing even more words about a 6-8 football team. But the Jets are just too amazing to ignore.

Amazing, in the following sense: since 1969, when the team won its only Super Bowl, as a considerable underdog, no less, every possible thing that can go wrong for the franchise, indeed, has gone wrong. It’s ¬†remarkable. From the 1982 AFC championship game, the infamous “Mud Bowl” in Miami when Jets quarterback Richard Todd threw three interceptions to Dolphins linebacker A.J. Duhe in a sloppy 14-0 loss; to the 1986 playoffs, when the Jets blew a ten-point fourth quarter lead to lose an overtime heartbreaker in Cleveland (the Jets started that season, by the way, 10-1, before dropping their last five regular season games); to the 1-15 season under coach Rich Kotite in 1996; to being up 10-0 against Denver in the 1998 AFC championship in the third quarter before losing; to being a Super Bowl favorite the following year, before quarterback Vinny Testaverde ruptured his Achilles in the opening game; to Bill Belichick quitting as head coach of the Jets in 2000, right before his introductory press conference; to the failed Brett Favre experiment of 2008; to the 2010 Jets making a run to their second straight conference championship game — and immediately falling behind to Pittsburgh 24-0 (the Jets would eventually turn up to play but still lose, of course, 24-19). Every time the Jets fan base gets its hopes up — every single time — the team gets crushed. (Judy Battista, in the New York Times, nicely sums up the franchise’s woes here while Jason Gay, of the Wall Street Journal, goes for the jugular, and funny bone, here).

And right now, the Jets are at the height of their buffoonery. A few weeks after starting quarterback Mark Sanchez fumbled after colliding with the rear-end of his offensive lineman in a humiliating 49-19 loss to the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving, Sanchez threw four interceptions in a 14-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans, a game which eliminated the team from playoff contention. The Jets would probably cut ties with Sanchez, who has been terrible the last two seasons, right away, if not for one tiny problem: New York signed him to a contract extension last off-season, and owe Sanchez $8.25 million in guaranteed money next season.

(MORE: Carnegie Deli Debuts “Jetbow” Sandwich for Tebow’s N.Y. Arrival)

Jets coach Rex Ryan announced that the Jets would bench Sanchez for this Sunday’s now meaningless home game against the San Diego Chargers (arguably another NFL side as inept as the Jets), in favor of former third stringer Greg McElroy. Yes, Greg McElroy, not Tim Tebow, a quarterback who led the Denver Broncos to the playoffs last season — and even won a playoff game — a quarterback whom the Jets acquired this off-season to supposedly run the “Wildcat” offense and mix-up their attack, will play instead. But instead of sparking the Jets, Tebow has languished on the sideline, creating confusion and distractions for himself, Sanchez, the team, and the team’s fans. It’s hard to think of a worse case of player mismanagement.

Think about it: just a year ago, Tim Tebow was the talk of the sports world. Sure, Tebow’s religious beliefs expanded his story beyond the sports pages. But despite the mechanical flaws in his game, he put together a special run on the field. Remember all those comebacks? Talk of how Tebow’s handling of all the pressure, all the doubters, inspired the rest of his teammates? Remember him, you know, winning?

Now, Tebow can’t getting a starting nod for his losing team, even after the old starter forget how to toss the ball to his own receivers. Tebow is sitting behind Greg McElroy, who has thrown seven passes in his two-year career. Heck, according to US Weekly, Tebow and his girlfriend, actress Camilla Belle, even just¬†reportedly broke up. Where did it all go wrong for Tim Tebow, a genuinely nice guy who has fascinating to watch, who was one of the best stories in the NFL in some time?

That one’s easy. He became a Jet.

MORE: Tim Tebow – Football’s Leap Of Faith