3 New York Jets
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There's a new coach and renewed enthusiasm, but what else is new?
By Paul Zimmerman
Over the past decade the Jets have had six coaches. No NFL team can match that number. String together the quotes that greeted the arrival of each new guy, and you'll feel like you're watching an endless tape loop.
Pete Carroll, a beloved assistant, a man of the people, replaced Bruce Coslet in 1994. Great, the troops said, now we have a real players' coach; he treats us like men. Carroll was fired after a year. In came Richie Kotite. Just wait, they said, he'll firm things up. Chaos gradually replaced order, and a 1-15 record in Year 2 spelled Kotite's doom. In came the hard guys, Bill Parcells, followed by his first lieutenant, Al Groh. Great, now we'll have some discipline around here. Both quit, Groh departing under heavy fire for his unbending ways. Enter Herman Edwards this year, a good guy, extremely popular. Football's fun again, came the cry.
Haven't we been through this before?
"What happened to Pete Carroll will not happen to Herman Edwards," says quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who has a strong sense of history. "If players respect a coach, they'll play for him. If he's got no respect, then they won't, whether they like him or not. A guy like Herman, well, everybody loves him, and everybody respects him. It's the way he talks to his players, the way he takes care of them. He says something and he does it, so you continue to trust him, and you'll go out and play hard."
The 37-year-old Testaverde is entering his 15th season. Edwards is the eighth coach he has played for. Testaverde has seen it all, every style, every gimmick, every promise, fulfilled and unfulfilled.
"Every coach I've been around said the same thing, 'Don't worry, I'll have you ready to play,'" Testaverde says. "Well, some did and some didn't. Herm came with a plan for tailoring the practices to keep our legs fresh, and he has stuck to his word. The last guy here didn't, and that was our basic complaint. But don't mistake keeping us fresh with being a soft coach. Not one player on this team thinks that Herm's soft.
"I haven't felt as fresh as I do now in many years. I'm 10 pounds lighter. I worked out like crazy this off-season. Last year I was coming back from the torn Achilles. I didn't have that extra bounce in my step. I threw a lot of interceptions [an NFL-high 25]. O.K., now I've got that bounce. I can't wait for the season to start."
The excitement permeates the club. Paul Hackett, the new offensive coordinator who spent the last three years as coach at Southern Cal, says, "I'm back to coaching again. For three years I became an administrator; I was removed from the game. Now I feel revitalized. Every day is an adventure."
He says his offense will be a reflection of the years he spent on Bill Walsh's staff in San Francisco, with a heavy emphasis on the effective and underrated 49ers-style running game. "Lots of trapping, pulling and crack-back blocking," says Hackett. The passing will be short and controlled, keyed by a line that led the league in fewest sacks allowed (20) last year, even though the Jets threw the most passes (637) of any team. Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae and right guard Randy Thomas, who is on the verge of being an All-Pro, are the standouts up front.
The long-ball attack took a big hit during camp when first-round draft choice Santana Moss, the club's fastest wideout, tore cartilage in his left knee. "You have to boom when you have the players to boom with," Hackett says. "In San Francisco we were a high-percentage, controlled passing team until Jerry Rice arrived. Then we went vertical." Moss's return, projected for midseason, could bring in the boom.
Edwards, who coached the secondary in Tampa Bay's slanting, penetrating, hit-the-gap style of defense last year, has installed the same concept with the Jets. What's interesting is the man he hired to run it: 54-year-old Ted Cottrell, whose last seven years were spent working with Buffalo's gap-control, 3-4 system. Cottrell inherits an interesting group, led by an explosive outside pass rusher, John Abraham; but once again the Jets suffered a serious hit when nosetackle Jason Ferguson tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder in camp. He's out for the year.
The AFC East is filled with minefields. The Dolphins and the Colts are solid playoff teams. The Bills have a proud postseason history, and even the projected doormats, the Patriots, usually manage to play the Jets tough.
"I know that we have the personnel to achieve what we want to do," Edwards says. "I'm not concerned with what happened in the past. It's easy to point the finger, but when you do, remember where the thumb points -- right back at you."
Issue date: September 3, 2001