Friday, January 25, 2008

New York Jets By The Numbers: #9

I suppose Jeff Blake could have been an effective starting quarterback for the Jets if the Jets had kept him after the 1993 season. They kept Browning Nagle but not Jeff Blake, who automatically enters into the category of What Could Have Beens, players who got their start with the Gang Green before playing in greener pasture. At some point, eventually, the phrase "the former Jet" leaves their on-air description, and they merely become a famous player whose careers with another team eclipses their once limited experience with my team. Think James Farrior, Santana Moss, John Riggins.

But Jeff Blake? Jeff Blake became a journeyman quarterback throughout the NFL after he was let go by the Jets. Bengals, Vikings, Cardinals, Eagles, Saints. Holy crap. Is it fair to even judge him? What a motley crew of teams, many of them probably proclaiming him their best choice for QB. What's funny is that when I google him today, I find Jeff Blake part of the Business Development Staff for LandAmerica, a real estate company. Check out the airbrushed photo! He's at the bottom of a page of high-powered fellow Business Development Staff (whatever that means), all women by the way. Real estate and football. Two fields of work that involve taking someone else's territory. Is there a better fit? And that ring? Yikes. It's not a Super Bowl ring, in case you're wondering.

Jay Fielder is a man whose rise to prominence came in our present era, when no one seems capable of grooming a consistently decent quarterback. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning may be two of the greatest quarterbacks in the game's history, but in the rest of the NFL continues to suffer from neurotic anxiety at the position. Should he be more mobile than throwing? Should he just hand the ball off? Should he be started young and learn the offense? Should he just take instruction through the speaker in his helmet? The Jets are no exception: Pennington? Clemens? Gosh. Does it make any difference? Dartmouth grad Jay Fiedler slipped into the Dolphins lineup because of that anxiety, made doubly confusing by the fact that no one, as yet, has even come close to filling Dan Marino's shoes. Jay Fielder was better than Serge Rosenfeld, so that helped.

By the time the Jets got him, he was a castoff from castaway Dolphins, and he went down with injury early in 2005, managing 8 completions in only 13 attempts. Jay, we hardly knew ye. However, milestones are milestones. He is the Jets first and only Jewish quarterback, and the first and only starter to be distantly related to Boston Pops conductor, the late Arthur Fiedler. There you go.

Can these two excellent SEC quarterbacks, drafted 43 years apart, be adequately distinguished? Pity the one on the right. He's not a nephew of Danny Ainge. He's got so many high expectations to carry, including one as a bionic womaniziner. Such skills can be learned, though, Erik.

What number Erik Ainge will wear? Apparently 9.

Ten, 11, 12, and 13 are taken, as are 14, 15, 16, 17. Eighteen would have been great. If there's a burden worse than being quarterback in New York, let it be the one he's already had to carry by following in the distant footsteps of Peyton Manning at Tennessee. He needs a two-digit number. I'm really starting to believe that QB's are hampered lately by single-digit numbers. There's a bad vibe from Michael Vick's #7; there's too much of a signature of Favre to #4. No one's ever been a successful quarterback in the NFL in #3 - maybe Daryle Lamonica - nor with #'s 5 or 6. Eight has yet to work in any case other that Steve Young's (certainly not in Browning Nagle's). So the only number left is 9. I can respect a Steve McNair. But since 18 is divided by 9, it still makes Ainge only half of Manning. But then we should be so lucky.

Finally, John Hall, who kicked for the Jets in the brief return to glory under Parcells. He joins the category of Jetskins, players who left the Jets for Washington: Laverneus Coles, Santana Moss, Pete Kendall, John Riggins, Verlon Biggs. He was released by the Redskins before the beginning of this season. Kickers have an incredible ability to re-emerge from obscurity, so nothing is hopeless for him, but the loyal fan in me always secretly (and shamefully) relishes the low performance of players after they leave my team willingly. When he left the Jets after 2002, Hall played only one full season. It's a spiteful way to be, but being a fan has never been a rational thing.


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