When Pigskins Fly

New York, New York, It's a Hell of a Football Town

"The NFL balances the money, they balance the players to keep everybody in every city happy and they [balance] the teams," says Phil Simms, a former quarterback with Parcells's Giants and now a CBS NFL analyst. "They're going to make it hard on you to separate yourself from the rest of the pack."

Complicating the task is the Faustian bargain each Jets player makes in allowing Parcells to verbally flagellate him to the playoffs. But after spending the last two years as the target of Parcells's ire and the last few months on the covers of national magazines, will it become easier to tune out the Jets' majordomo? Probably not. For one, Parcells loves the transactions page and is not afraid to add another name to the agate. And second, Englewood's favorite son hates only one thing more than losing— losing to a team he could see again in the playoffs, which the Jets figure to qualify for.

Still, no matter how much players and coaches sling the clichés about starting from scratch, a team with 14 players over the age of 30 knows better. It knows that after an appearance in the AFC Championship, there are no more "baby steps" to take. A team conscious of that is as close to the Super Bowl as it is to surrender. With New England, Buffalo, Denver, and Jacksonville on the docket in the first five weeks, a disappointing start could bury the Jets mathematically and psychologically.

Eyes on the prize: Vinny Testaverde passes over Jessie Armstead.
photo: Pete Kuhns
Eyes on the prize: Vinny Testaverde passes over Jessie Armstead.

The questions these Jets face are plentiful, especially for a team only a proverbial step away. But Parcells likes adversity, or at least the threat of it. The Jets won 12 games in 1998 because they were able to adapt— adapt to injuries, hostile crowds, and ineffective performances. Every personnel need is filled— quickly— with talent that is experienced or with talent that can be molded to contribute. And with a set of mechanics like that, the Jets green-and-white Cadillac should roll well into January.

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