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Jets Are Full of Surprises in 2000

October 31, 2000

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) _ With so much offseason upheaval, a .500 record halfway through a difficult schedule might have been acceptable for the New York Jets. Instead, after eight games, they are in first place in probably the NFL’s best division, and are rekindling comparisons with 1998.

At 6-2, the Jets are tied with Indianapolis and Miami for the AFC East lead. They have two games left with the Colts and one with the Dolphins, a team they rallied from a 30-7 deficit to beat on Oct. 23.

They’ve displayed the kind of resilience and resourcefulness that is the mark of a title contender, just as they did in making the AFC championship game two years ago.

``What have we learned so far?″ cornerback Aaron Glenn said in assessing the Jets’ four fourth-quarter comebacks thus far. ``We will play 60 minutes and not stop playing even when things are looking bad, and that’s the most important thing we’ve done. This is not a 59-minute team.

``We know that our offense is capable of pulling these miracle comebacks, and we’ve always had confidence in our offense. And our defense is capable of supporting that.

``The good thing is we are 6-2 and in first place with those other teams in our division. This is the part of the season you want to push the envelope and accumulate as many wins as you can. The second half of the season is what makes it or breaks it for a lot of teams.″

Not that the Jets are discarding what they’ve achieved so far.

This was a team in turmoil after Bill Parcells resigned as coach, only to see hand-chosen successor Bill Belichick quit after one day and bolt to New England. The Jets then dealt star receiver Keyshawn Johnson to Tampa Bay rather than meet his contract demands, and they relied almost exclusively on the draft and second-level free agents to fill holes.

Yet they stormed to a 4-0 start, winning in Green Bay and Tampa. And they stormed from behind to beat the Packers, Patriots, Buccaneers, and Dolphins, getting big plays from rookies (John Abraham, Shaun Ellis, and Laveranues Coles), retreads (Shane Burton and Roman Phifer), established stars (Vinny Testaverde, Curtis Martin, Wayne Chrebet, and Mo Lewis), and developing ones (Marcus Coleman and Randy Thomas).

Much of the credit for their quick start goes to Al Groh, who has looked like anything but a first-time NFL coach. Of course, he has 18 years of coaching experience, mostly working with linebackers or as a defensive coordinator.

Groh fell into the job when Belichick left, but he’s stamped his personality on the Jets. He is fond of saying he wants ``the most team possible,″ and he seems to have it.

``I don’t think it was that big of a learning experience in that I have been asked the previous eight weeks what has happened that surprised me,″ Groh said. ``Other than game events that come upon you, the week-to-week stuff, not much has come up. I did have six years of doing this and 12 more years being in the league and seeing what goes on. Those 18 years combined, if things surprised me, then I was not doing a very good job keeping my eyes and ears open.″

New York’s quick start overall _ despite its slow starts in so many games _ could turn into a quick fade. The Jets’ future opponents have a 40-25 record.

But so little has fazed them so far _ from Johnson’s comments to a 23-point fourth quarter deficit _ that a formidable schedule shouldn’t matter much, either.

``I think the team has established during this period of time for their own recognition they can do a number of things that make themselves hard to beat,″ Groh said. ``If we will continue to maintain proficiency in those areas and improve on a couple of other areas, then we ought to be able to stay as one of those teams that every Sunday is hard to beat.″

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