2 What on earth are the Jets doing?
Life isn't fair, New York Jet owner Leon Hess reminded his young first-year coach, Pete Carroll, in January. "I'm 80 years old," the kindly Hess said, "and I want to win now." Then he fired Carroll.
That same day, Hess hired Rich Kotite, who had been canned by the Philadelphia Eagles 11 days earlier. Though Hess's winnow edict presumably was ringing in his ears, Kotite allowed himself to be outbid in the free-agent market for three of the five starters from last season's Jet offensive line—including a future Pro Bowl guard, Dwayne White, and left tackle, Jeff Criswell—and he traded New York's only proven wideout, Rob Moore, to the Arizona Cardinals without pursuing a veteran to replace him. Unless they're able to sign a more experienced receiver, like former Houston Oiler Webster Slaughter, the Jets will rely on three young receivers who have a total of 16 NFL catches among them.
Kotite decided that New York would play an NFC East-type smash-mouth offense, yet he waived Johnny Johnson, the big back who gained 1,462 total yards two years ago in just such a system. As for the Jet defense, three veterans from last season's secondary were dumped—though the pass defense should benefit from the departure of cornerback James Hasty, who led the NFL last year in blown coverages and locker room divisiveness.
On draft day, with glaring needs at receiver and running back and on the offensive line, the Jets stunned the league by making a tight end, Kyle Brady, their first pick. Still, Brady is the best tight end to come out of college in the 1990s, and Hugh Douglas, New York's second pick, could turn out to be a fine pass rusher. The Jets also won the free-agent war for one of the most valuable players among this year's crop, safety Gary Jones. But can they win now? Not with this bunch. Not in the AFC East, the deepest division in the league.
"We've had a lot of changes," says Kotite, "but they weren't winning with the guys they had here, were they? You've just got to give these guys a chance to perform."
Hess retired as chairman of Amerada Hess Corporation this spring, which means he will have a lot more time to attend to the Jets. And he has had a birthday since firing Carroll. He's 81. Clock's ticking, fellas.
3 Have the Steelers awakened from their nightmare?
It has been nearly six months, but cornerback Rod Woodson still can't conceal his disgust. He is sitting in a chair in his backyard while his kids cavort in the pool, and when the subject of the AFC Championship Game is broached, Woodson just starts shaking his head. "Third-and-14," he says. "We've got the best defense in football, our season is on the line, it's third-and-14, and...well, I just don't know what that cornerback was thinking."
With a little over five minutes left in the game and Woodson's Pittsburgh Steelers leading the San Diego Chargers 13-10, veteran Steeler cornerback Tim McKyer made a Pop Warner mistake. Instead of giving wideout Tony Martin a big cushion, McKyer jammed him. Then McKyer glanced back at Charger quarterback Stan Humphries, and as he did, Martin steamed past him. Then Humphries lofted the winning touchdown pass to Martin.