Jets fans are entitled to root against their team this season while dreaming dreams of a draft day quarterback savior. A half-century between Super Bowls can breed that kind of cynicism — and pragmatism.
But at the same time, talk of an 0-16 record never was realistic, given the evenness of talent in the NFL, and it also was more than a little disrespectful to the men in the arena.
Football does not lend itself to tanking, given the risks to life and limb each time these guys step onto the field.
So, sure, we outsiders could find amusement in an 0-2 start, with little reason to expect better anytime soon. But don’t tell that to the large, sweaty men limping through grim losing locker rooms in Weeks 1 and 2.
Then came a bolt from out of the blue: On Sunday the Jets channeled their inner 1985 Bears and 2000 Ravens and dominated the Dolphins in a 20-6 victory.
The Dolphins had 30 rushing yards. Thirty! Through three quarters they had 81 total yards.
Quarterback-for-the-moment Josh McCown won his third game in 25 starts since 2014, helped by a game-turning 69-yard laser of a touchdown pass to Robby Anderson.
Who the heck were those guys?
The Jets insisted they were the same guys who lost in Buffalo and Oakland, against all available evidence. They also took a few well-earned bows.
“Coming out today and getting a big win like this when everybody said we wouldn’t win a game this year — proved them wrong,” cornerback Morris Claiborne said, smiling.
So did getting the first erase the pressure to avoid 0-16? “Oh, no,” Claiborne said. “People are still going to say what they’re going to say. They’ll probably say, well, we’re not going to win another game after this one.
“It is what it is. We hear, but we don’t hear. We feed off of it.”
McCown was wary of calling it “relief,” because of what the word suggests about the team’s expectations.
“Obviously there’s an external narrative that people have for this team,” he said. “We’ve not bought that. So for us to say it’s a relief, it was not an expectation that it was going to be hard to win a game this year.
“We expected to win games. We expect to win a lot of games. That’s our goal, internally. So we’ll keep fighting for that. It’s always good to win your first one. In that regard, that’s a relief.”
The best thing about it was that it reinforced the notion there is young talent to build around, especially rookie safety Jamal Adams, who made several big plays, exhorted the crowd and drew a taunting penalty that extended a Miami drive.
Speaking of the crowd, it was modest in size and included many Dolphins fans. If that is what MetLife Stadium looks like on a warm early autumn afternoon for the home opener, what will it look like in December?
But those who did show up were enthusiastic and did not seem to be holding their applause in hopes of a No. 1 overall pick next spring.
As coach Todd Bowles said, “You have to give them something to cheer about,” and for one week, at least, the Jets did, as the comically discombobulated Dolphins did an impression of what the Jets are supposed to look like.
“We’re all we’ve got and we’re all we need,” receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “This group is focused on the guys in this locker room and the belief in this locker room, and that’s all that we can control.”
Had a widely dismissed team made a statement? “I don’t believe in that type of stuff,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. “This is a long season. This is one.”
The most jaded of fans had to give these guys credit on this given Sunday, even if they understandably hope the Jets will not make a habit of this sort of thing.