There is a circus in town. In New York, that is. The Jets are totally and utterly bizarre this year. Most teams make a few changes in the offseason, but it’s not often we see a team add as many expected starters as the Jets – never mind starters with big names and as much baggage as this collection of guys has. Just think about it: LaDainian Tomlinson is a former franchise mega-stud who was unceremoniously dumped; Jason Taylor has made a career out of hating the Jets; Santonio Holmes has a massive collection of personal issues; Antonio Cromartie has even more. Add to that a couple of additions from last year – Braylon Edwards and his ridiculously inconsistent hands, and Mark Sanchez and his looks and reputation that far exceeds his play so far – and a coach that never shuts up and you have a team that has a real potential to be volatile. Oh yeah, and Darrelle Revis is holding out for big money. Like I said, the team is a circus.
Given the potential for fireworks every time they take the field it’s no surprise that HBO chose to follow the Jets for Hard Knocks this year. Documentaries are only as interesting as the subjects, and the Jets are the best bet in the league to have an interesting and dramatic preseason. It makes perfect sense from the HBO perspective, but far less from the side of the Jets – the last thing this team seems to need is more cameras to show off in front of.
There are a million ways to evaluate this Jets squad. Frankly, most of them don’t make me nearly as optimistic as most people seem to be. I think they have the real potential to melt down at some point. In fact, I think it’s likely. To get some insight into the possibilities, though, it could be interesting to look back at the five teams that have previously been the stars of the show to see how they did after being on the show:
2001 – Baltimore Ravens – The show kicked off following the Ravens in the year following their Super Bowl victory. You can tell it was a long time ago because the stories at the heart of the series included Shannon Sharpe and Tony Siragusa entering the final years of their careers, and a quarterback competition between Elvis Grbac and Randall Cunningham. The Ravens had an acceptable year considering they were following up a win – 10-6 and a playoff win – but at 8-7-1 ATS they were just barely profitable against the spread, and certainly didn’t overperform compared to expectations.
2002 – Dallas Cowboys – The big storylines this year included whether Quincy Carter could establish himself as an NFL star (no), whether Dave Campo could find a way to get on the same page as his team (no), and Emmitt Smith’s final year in Dallas. Given the fact that they had a lame duck coach and an underwhelming quarterback it’s no wonder that the season was not a success. The team was just 5-11 on the season. Their 7-8-1 ATS record against the nfl football lines still wasn’t profitable, but it was very solid given the overall record.
2007 – Kansas City Chiefs – The series returned after a hiatus and followed stories such as Larry Johnson’s holdout, Priest Holmes’ attempted return form injury, and a QB battle that must have been horrifying for fans of the team – Damon Huard vs. Brodie Croyle. Like the Cowboys in 2002, the Chiefs were a lousy team that overperformed against the spread. They were just 4-12 overall, but were an almost acceptable 7-8-1 ATS. With the woes at quarterback and running back it’s no surprise that the team had the second worst offense in the league and were not a popular NFL pick for bettors.
2008 – Dallas Cowboys – America’s Team was featured on the show for the second time. The storylines included a couple of Jones tales – the return of Pacman and the rookie season of Felix. Dallas came out of training camp with high hopes that year. As we have come to expect recently, they never quite performed up to those expectations. They wound up at 9-7 that year, and were a disappointing 7-9 ATS. They didn’t have egos like the Jets do this year, but they had their share, and the exposure of Hard Knocks probably didn’t help.
2009 – Cincinnati Bengals – If the Bengals weren’t covered last year then they may have been considered this year because, like the Jets, they have made some bold and potentially disastrous personnel decisions. Last year the series included things like the return of Carson Palmer from injury, the holdout of the incredibly disappointing Andre Smith, and Ochocinco being Ochocinco. People expected a lot from the Bengals last year, but they are coached by Marvin Lewis, and Marvin Lewis is the worst coach in all of football, so it’s no surprise that they were disappointing. They finished just 7-9 both straight up and ATS. If the Jets have a big year this year then they will be the first team on the show to meet expectations.