Joe Douglas, Christopher Johnson, Robert Saleh
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

Finally, after years of disappointment and depression, the New York Jets fan gets a day to fully enjoy in bliss.

Robby Sabo

No New York Jets fan expected this. Not even the most pessimistic fan envisioned 10-straight years of non-playoff football. Not even the disgruntled and totally incorrigible Jet fan could have expected the impending misery while watching Rex Ryan’s defense fail against Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers on third-down with the AFC championship game on the line.

As bad as it’s been at times, this couldn’t have been expected. After all, Bill Parcells’s arrival in 1997 coincided with seven playoff appearances over the next 14 years—the name number of playoff appearances over the organization’s first 37 years of existence. The Jets, despite the oftentimes misleading perception, belonged in the upper-third of NFL teams post-Parcells.

That was until the Eric Mangini-Mike Tannenbaum roster crumbled. Since then, Rex Ryan, John Idzik, Todd Bowles, Mike Maccagnan and Adam Gase have all come and gone. The 10-win 2015 season feels like forever ago, as does the momentous joy fans experienced when Sam Darnold was tabbed the savior in 2018.

To say it’s a been rough go for Jets fans would be an incredible understatement. So when that rare, perfect moment happens, the excitement the Jet fan feels is beyond belief. It’s similar to an explosion of fireworks few fanbases can emulate, for the despair is great and the starvation is intense.

Finally, the Jets fan got a moment. Each Jets fan experienced a night and subsequent day to bask in the glory that is the Robert Saleh hire. And no, non-Jets fans aren’t allowed to poke fun at the Super Bowl-like celebratory reaction.

From young to old, famous to nondescript, the positive reactions were everywhere. Prior to Thursday night, Twitter, the place where fans often commiserate, held host to depressed fans ready to jump from the tallest building. The fact Saleh had left Northern New Jersey without a deal in place had the fanbase fearing the worst.

Upon one Jets official account tweet that announced the hire, it all turned on a dime.

Speaking of that coaching hire from two years ago—as perfectly teed up by WFAN’s Evan Roberts—it seriously influenced what happened this time around. Christopher Johnson, leading the charge with Woody overseas, wanted to do his part. He wanted to do the right thing while also making a splash.

He went with the guy who he felt could impact the quarterback most. What a mistake.

Johnson entered the fray with Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan firmly entrenched. The 2015 season with Ryan Fitzpatrick did just enough to hold off the dogs. Then 2016 happened. Then 2017 happened. Then Darnold happened. Then Gase and the introductory press conference from hell happened.

Despite the overwhelmingly negative reaction to the hire—and everything else that transpired—Jets fans had no choice but to try to rationalize. Maybe he could get the job done. After all, Peyton Manning did endorse him and he led the Miami Dolphins to the playoffs.

Who cares that the entire league is laughing at us with eye jokes to boot? Who cares the back pages are littered with eye references. Who cares Stephen A. Smith ripped the new head coach to shreds. Who cares former Gase players were speaking publicly about their disdain for the man?

It was done. It was locked up. Adam Gase was the head coach and he arrived for one reason: to help Sam Darnold fulfill his potential. Pay no attention to the Matt Rhule comments that keyed the football world into the idea the Jets were forcing defensive coordinator Gregg Williams onto the next head coach. There was nothing that could be done.

Then Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley irresponsibly happened. Then new uniforms happened. Then mono happened. Then ghosts at MetLife Stadium happened.

For two long seasons, the Jets fan was forced to bide his or her time. Often depressed and always looking for the soft, flickering light at the end of the tunnel, they watched their great hope, who had showcased some promise his rookie season, regress over time. Forget reaching 20 touchdowns in a season; the kid couldn’t even read a defense by the time 2020 was over.

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For two long seasons, Jets fans understood they finally had the goods in the front office but didn’t yet have the talent or the leadership on the field, and that only patience would see them through.

For two long seasons, Jets fans watched as their best and most beloved player, Jamal Adams, moved from organizational dream to complete nightmare. They watched as he tore through the franchise in an unforgivable way that ripped their own hearts to pieces.

Again, more rationalization. “Forget Jamal,” they’d say. “He’s just a wildly-overrated box safety anyway.” And while it’s true that Douglas’s return on the Adams deal is something every smart general manager would take in a heartbeat, fans still had to wrestle with the ugliness that preceded the official deed.

It’s been a long time for these people. It’s been forever since the last Super Bowl (52 years), playoff appearance (10 years) or winning season (five years). Hell, it’s been forever since they had a chance to feel good—if only for one night.

Credit Joe Douglas, a true football man who not only understands the salary cap but program building as well. Credit Christopher Johnson, a man who seems to learn from past mistakes.

Maybe Gase shed some light on Maccagnan’s shortcomings. Maybe Douglas did the same to Gase. Maybe Gase helped Johnson see that the path is through Douglas and a man on the sideline who can truly communicate with everybody. Maybe now, years later, Johnson understands a lot of vocalized offensive terminology means squat if the process isn’t the most important thing in the building.

Under normal circumstances, the “ignorance is bliss” motto shouldn’t be celebrated. After all, not one human in this world can truly know how Saleh will work out in New Jersey or as an NFL head coach. Obviously, Jets fans have no idea either and they know it very well.

Just remember one thing: These aren’t normal circumstances. Not this time.

“Ignorance is bliss” is a silly notion when a group of people hasn’t had a chance to celebrate something for so long. So go ahead, Jets fans: Celebrate like it’s 1998. You got your guy, Robert Saleh, and Douglas has given you no reason for any mistrust up to this point. You got your “leader of men” type who’ll fire up his players and the fans in one fell and very electric swoop.

Finally, the Jets fan had a day to go nuts, and deservedly so. It’s been a long time coming.

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