Commentary

Jets' new era started with Brett Favre

An unlikely impresario, Johnson used QB's star power to get team into the spotlight

Updated: October 6, 2010, 3:37 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

Brett FavreUS Presswire

Before "Hard Knocks," the New York Jets had Brett Favre.

In the summer of '08, Favre was their reality show, a headline-making drama that went from courtship to coronation. For a month, it captivated the city -- the entire nation, really. It was the biggest trade in franchise history and, although no one knew it at the time, it signaled a new era for the Jets.

It's when owner Woody Johnson emerged from his shell and started chasing big names to fill his new stadium, to sell his club suites and to knock the New York Giants off the back pages. It started with Favre, and it hasn't stopped.

They went from a larger-than-life quarterback to a larger-than-life coach, Rex Ryan, who drafted a quarterback from Hollywood, Mark Sanchez. The kid needed help, so they brought in plenty of star power, with Braylon Edwards, LaDainian Tomlinson and Santonio Holmes.

And, of course, they wanted to flaunt it all, so they welcomed "Hard Knocks" into their inner sanctum, and the result was a summer-long infomercial on the Jets.

Johnson has gone Steinbrenner on us -- or Sonny Werblin, for you old-school types. From a marketing standpoint, the Favre trade worked, raising the profile of the franchise. On Monday night, the Minnesota Vikings will be in town and he will face the Jets in the new stadium that, in a small way, he helped sell.

GM Mike Tannenbaum, who executed the trade, believes Favre's arrival helped validate the Jets as a desirable place to play, attracting other players. Against long odds, they persuaded one of the biggest names in sports to give them a try, kind of like the class nerd talking the prom queen into a date. The Jets may have been his only option, but they prefer to remember it as a recruiting victory.

"Here was a guy, a Hall of Fame quarterback, who decided to come here because he recognized we had a good foundation," Tannenbaum said Tuesday. "Was it a referendum on the New York Jets? Were we credible? In his eyes, we were credible."

Think back to the trade (Aug. 7, 2008) and you can understand some of the Jets' motivation. There was no buzz around the team. They were coming off a bad season, the coach (Eric Mangini) had no sizzle and the Chad Pennington-Kellen Clemens-Brett Ratliff quarterback competition was a yawner.

And don't underestimate this factor: The Giants were the defending Super Bowl champions, heroes for taking down the Jets' biggest rival, the previously undefeated New England Patriots. The Jets felt they needed to shake up the marketplace, so they imported an American icon.

"He did a lot of good things for us," Tannenbaum said. "The thing I'll remember most is his passion, especially at practice. I think that rubbed off on the other players."

Before the Favre trade, Johnson had shown a willingness to spend money, but he was buying linemen and linebackers: Calvin Pace, Damien Woody, Kris Jenkins and Alan Faneca in 2008. As good as they were, they weren't going to sell PSLs. So the Jets started to chase Favre, and his first day on the practice field was magical.

A weekend crowd of 10,000-plus, about five times the norm, showed up at Hofstra to see NFL royalty in a Jets uniform. The PA system blared Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days," and the crowd roared every time Favre threw a pass. Johnson was so giddy that he borrowed a camera, joined the scrum of photographers surrounding Favre after practice and pretended to take a picture of his new megastar.

"I've never seen anything like this," Johnson said, meaning everything.

There was no happily-ever-after-ending for Favre, the hired gun who fired blanks because of a late-season shoulder injury. For that reason, and because he never gave the impression the Jets were anything more than a one-year marriage of convenience, he will be booed Monday night.

Deservedly so. But there's no denying he was good business for the franchise.

Don't open Revis Island

Ryan is optimistic that CB Darrelle Revis will play Monday night after missing two games with a strained hamstring. Free advice: Keep him down another week. Unless they're convinced that Revis is 100 percent, there's no point in risking a re-injury, not with your best defensive player.

They've played 10 quarters without Revis -- six good, four bad -- and there's no reason the Jets couldn't live with another four. Better safe than sorry. The last thing they need is for this to become a nagging injury.

Remembering the miracle

On Monday night, the Jets will commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the Midnight Miracle. On Oct. 23, 2000, they rallied from a 30-7, fourth-quarter deficit to stun the Miami Dolphins in overtime, 40-37. More than 20 players from that game are expected to return for the ceremony. Two play for the Jets -- DE Shaun Ellis and LB Jason Taylor, a member of the Dolphins on that unforgettable night. "It was the Monday night miracle up here, and a Monday night nightmare for us down there," Taylor said.

Odds and ends

Ellis underwent an MRI exam on his sprained left knee and, as expected, there was no significant damage, according to a league source. Barring a setback in practice, Ellis is expected to play Monday. ... The most amazing stat from the Jets' 3-1 start: They have only one turnover, the best four-game start in franchise history. ... How does A.J. Smith, the man who booted Tomlinson out of San Diego, feel about the future Hall of Famer's fantastic start with the Jets? Hard to say. A Chargers spokesman refused an interview request, saying the GM doesn't do interviews. ... Tomlinson's 6.1 per-carry average is the best of his career over the first four games. ... Brad Smith has scored touchdowns five ways in his career -- passing, rushing, receiving, kickoff return and returning a blocked punt. Said special teams coach Mike Westhoff: "Brad leaves, I'm leaving."

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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