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NEW YORK JETS
The best Jets season since their Super Bowl year of 1968 left some bad memories: The loony phone call that got through to Coach Walt Michaels at half-time of the playoff game with the Raiders, the muddy field in Miami for the AFC championship game and, finally, Michaels' mysterious departure after the season. What's going on here? Michaels ain't talkin'. The club is paying him $140,000 a year to keep his mouth shut.
But the nagging questions persist. How could a caller get through to the head coach between halves of a playoff game? Where was the security? Why didn't anybody in the Jets organization check to make sure the drainage pumps were turned on in the Orange Bowl before that 14-0 loss to the Dolphins in the AFC championship game? A fast track was a necessity for All-Pro Halfback Freeman McNeil and Quarterback Richard Todd's two come-fly-with-me receivers, Wesley Walker and Lam Jones, who were as helpless as beetles in the mud.
Cop-out, say the Miami people. Dolphin Defensive Coordinator Bill Arnsparger had then Jet Offensive Coordinator Joe Walton's offense so wired, Miami would have beaten New York on a billiard table. There's some truth to that. Todd and Walton (now the head coach) were overmatched. Adjustments were minimal. Those that were made didn't work.
So why do we like the Jets so much this year? One word: personnel. "Incredible," said the Rams' Jack Faulkner after scouting the Jets in a preseason game. "No one has the people they do." That night the Jets were missing three defensive linemen, and still blew away the L.A. Raiders with nine sacks. Here's another reason we like the Jets: Billy Baird. The little free safety from the Super Bowl era personally took the secondary in hand last year and put it in coverages that produced a very competent pass defense, one that worked without the luxury of that ferocious firepower up front. The Sack Exchange was crippled in '82: Defensive End Joe Klecko went down in Game 2 with a ruptured patella tendon in his right knee, and the tackles, Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam, dragged through the season with assorted injuries.
Well, Klecko is back now, maybe at full strength. Time will tell. Lyons and Salaam are still banged up, but the Jets are deep up front. Everywhere you look on this club there are All-Pros or budding All-Pros—on the offensive line (Marvin Powell, Joe Fields and Dan Alexander); in the back-field (McNeil); the receiving corps (Walker); the linebacking unit (Lance Mehl); and the secondary (Bobby Jackson and Darrol Ray).
It's unfortunate that the lingering memory of David Woodley is his four-for-14 afternoon against Washington in the Super Bowl last January, because the young quarterback turned in some very solid performances on the road to Pasadena. But when the Dolphins drafted Pitt Quarterback Dan Marino in the first round, the whispers grew louder: Don Shula is looking to replace the 24-year-old Woodley. It turns out that Woodley wasn't the man Shula was trying to replace after all. It was his relief pitcher, Don Strock, who apparently is USFL bound.
Midway through the exhibition schedule Shula posed this question: "What two men would you say are the keys to our offense this year?" Woodley and Andra Franklin was one answer, Woodley and Marino another. Shula shook his head. No mysteries there. Woodley is the No. 1 quarterback, Marino the No. 2, and that, Shula said, is the way it'll stay. Franklin is his favorite fullback in the NFL.
"The keys," Shula said, "are David Overstreet and Dan Johnson."