Featured writer for Sideline Report covering the Jets
The Day the Franchise entered the Dark Ages
1990s The New York Jets were an up and down team under Bruce Coslet. After finishing 8-8 in 1993, Coslet was let go. The reason was simple, they had a bright energetic, and I mean energetic, DC; and he was about to be hired away by numerous teams. Pete Carroll, was innovative on defense, and his energy was never ending. I remember Carroll running up and down that line, as if he was actually playing.
Owner Leon Hess was on a mission to win a SB, and the Carroll hiring was the beginning of 7-8 years during which for the first time ever, the owner was very involved.
That 1994 squad included Boomer Esiason, Johnny Johnson, Art Monk on offense. The defense was stacked with Ronnie Lott, Mo Lewis, James Hasty, Marvin Jones, Jeff Lageman, and Kyle Clifton.
Carroll managed differently; he was a player coach during a time when that was not accepted. Most HCs were drill sergeants. The NY media constantly scrutinized his ways. The constant stories of a zoo like atmosphere had to be weighing heavily on Mr. Hess, a strict old fashioned man.
In retrospect, Pete Carroll was well ahead of his time, the NFL was a very strict and hard “order” to break. Carroll was viewed as an excellent DC that needed constant baby sitting himself.
At the time the division consisted of The Patriots, Dolphins, Colts and Bills. After a victorious trip to tough Minnesota, the Jets were at 6-5. Excitement was in the air; in those days 10 wins usually won the division. The next opponent was the 7-4 Marino led Miami Dolphins, at home. A victory would have given the Jets a tie for first place.
I was not able to go to the game because my wife was expecting my second child. NBC’s local game in Newtown, CT was the 5-6 Patriots@Colts. No way I miss this game, so very strategically I set up a visit to my parents’ house in Westchester; where I knew for sure the Jets game would be televised.
Carroll’s defense held Marino in check all game long, not an easy task at the time. With a little over two minutes to go, the Dolphins had the ball near their 20, losing 24-21. Excitement was everywhere, the stadium was incredibly loud, as the Jets were about to pull the upset, and most likely set themselves up for a WC run.
Dan Marino took his team down to the Jets 8, 30 seconds to go no timeouts left. He quickly runs up to the line of scrimmage and starts waiving his arms to tell his team that he needed to stop the clock, and spike the ball. The defense relaxed, as did everyone else on the Fins side.What the Jets players, announcers and fans didn’t know, was that Marino had communicated to Mark Ingram that the spike was a fake. Ingraham ran to the right side of the end zone, covered by a relaxed Aaron Glenn. By the time Glenn realized what was happening, Ingram was catching the football for the winning touch down.
I remember sitting staring at the TV thinking there has to be something illegal about that play, no way this happens. Jets world was stunned, the players were so demoralized, and all the energy in the world wasn’t going to fix this humiliation.
The Jets lost their next 4 games, played like a broken team. They finished at 6-10 and one game behind the Bills. That was a season, I will never forget.
Owner Leon Hess, not a fan of Pete’s revolutionary ideas, dispatched his people to Philadelphia and hired away Rich Kotite from the Eagles. This became the ultimate slap in the face to us Jet fans. Kotite was brought in as the anti-Carroll, strict, yet innovative.
Kotite led the Jets to a 4-28 (3-13 and 1015) record in two seasons. The team was awful, without desire to win. Kotite was clueless, and the owner was hated and attacked regularly. As a result Leon Hess took matters into his own hands, and stoled Bill PArcells away from New England. Beginning what has become the biggest rivalry in the division.
I regard Kotite’s two years as our Dark Ages. A time I wish to never witness again as a devoted fan.
Pete Carroll was loved in Jet Land, his defense was the best we had seen since the Sack Exchange, and until Rex Ryan came along. Pete was not ready to grow up and take over a team. He did become a DC again in SF before joining the Pats as their HC. In retrospect, there is no question Pete could have grown into the Jets HC position, had he been given the chance to. I loved Leon and miss him as an owner, but he jumped the gun on Pete. That jerk reaction doomed the franchise for the next two seasons. The Dark Ages!