The Jets’ bye week schedule could have gone either way. You could’ve seen head coach Eric Mangini going double sessions from now to Pittsburgh or giving them this week off to rest the players’ weary brows.
Mangini took the road that passes closer to the R&R approach than to boot camp.
"We’ll work here tomorrow and the next day with the players," Mangini said at this afternoon’s news conference, "and go through the different phases over those two days, then they’ll be off after that."
Those regular work days are today, Tuesday and Wednesday. The players will get Thursday through Sunday to recharge their mental batteries, maintain their physical condition, then return Monday to begin preparation for Pittsburgh the following Sunday.
This is sure to alarm half of you who think the Jets need more work rather than less to fix all that ails them. But this is Mangini’s schedule and it really does make sense based, as he said, on last year’s success coming out of their Week 9. Yes, it’s a different season, yes, last year’s schedule wasn’t as taxing, but there was a definite improvement from 2006’s first eight games to the last eight.
Here’s a chart of their Jets’ NFL rankings in four key defensive categories last season and this season:
|2006 First 9 Weeks||31st||30th||22nd||25th|
|2006 Full Season||20th||24th||14th||6th|
|2007 First 9 Weeks||30th||29th||23rd||27th|
"The first part of the season here, you lose five games by seven points or less, that’s a tough situation," he said. "But it’s encouraging in the sense that those games are close, and if we can improve, if we can make some strides like we did last year during the bye, then some of those will turn in our favor."
I am not going to offer a defense that close losses are like victories. I remember a few times when Bill Parcells was asked, probably in 1999, if he felt as if his team was really a 1-6 team or a 4-8 team. "What’s our record?" Tuna would ask rhetorically. "That’s the team we are." I’m sure Mangini feels the same.
But my point would be to argue — bear with me on this — that the close nature of most of the Jets’ games this season is a good omen for a bounceback next season. I base this on all the NFL teams that started 1-8 since the 16-game schedule was introduced in 1978.
There are 39 of them, and some of those teams were outscored through the struggles of their first nine games by less than a touchdown a game, while others were being thumped on average by two touchdowns or more.
And the definite, although not ironclad, conclusion, is that if you’re competitive through those first nine games, you’ve got a better chance of being one of those NFL turnaround teams of the new millennium.
The Jets, being outscored by 7.7 points per game, are in the 8.0-and-under group that does the best the following season. No guarantees of playoffs or anything, but The average improvement in that category is along the lines of going from 3-12-1 to 7-8-1.
And of the 11 teams that were better than minus-8.0 after nine games, five made it to 9-7 or better the next year and three — Cleveland in 1984, Houston in ’86 and San Diego in ’91 — made it to the playoffs.
It’s not much to hang your hat on. But this is why the coach does things like punting into the "Evil East" end zone from Washington’s 39 in overtime yesterday, why he says he’s "proud" of the way the Jets fought in the loss to the Redskins. Not to upset you, but to keep trying to win, to keep things competitive and to keep the Jets players’ heads in the game for this season. If that happens, next season often falls into place.
That’s What Roomies Are For
Joe Kowalewski got everybody pumped up with his first pro touchdown and his resulting celebratory actions in the second quarter of the Redskins game.
"I was as happy as anybody can be for him," said fullback Stacy Tutt. "He works hard. He deserves the opportunity."
But that’s not the only reason Tutt made sure he picked up the ball Jo-Ko spiked and handed it to the first-year free agent tight end.
"He’s my roommate," Tutt said. "I wasn’t going to let that ball get away."
"I was waiting so long to spike a ball," Kowalewski said. "In college, we weren’t allowed to spike the ball after touchdowns. I’ve been waiting a long time for that."
And losing the souvenir pigskin was never in doubt. "Stacy’s got my back," he said.
‘Inside the Jets’
The guests on tonight’s "Inside the Jets" will be rookie CB Darrelle Revis and Kowalewski. With regular host Bob Wischusen working a college football game tonight, Greg Buttle steps in and kicks the proceedings off from Charlie Brown’s restaurant in Garden City, N.Y., at 7 p.m.
Tags: bye week, Eric Mangini, Joe Kowalewski, Stacy Tutt
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