In New York, the deja vu is more like a rerun of 1999 and 2002 combined.
Think about it. The 1999 Jets, coming off a postseason in which they split two playoff games, had been constructed to win immediately. But after a summer of hype in which the words Super Bowl and Jets were often mentioned in the same breath, a season-ending Achilles' tendon injury suffered by QB Vinny Testaverde in September sent the Jets into a spiral that eventually dropped them to 4-8 before they rallied and finished 8-8.
The 2005 Jets, coming off a postseason in which they split two playoff games, had been constructed to win immediately. But after a summer of hype in which the words Super Bowl and Jets were often mentioned in the same breath, a season-ending shoulder injury suffered by QB Chad Pennington in September has sent the Jets into a spiral that leaves them at 2-5 entering Sunday's home game against San Diego.
But of course, the Jets had the same 2-5 record in 2002, heading into a game against San Diego. That was when coach Herm Edwards used his now-famous line, "You play to win the game" to answer an innocuous question about whether his players still would be motivated. The Jets routed the Chargers and went on to win the AFC East title.
Edwards came up with a variation on that quote this week, saying, "You've got to win the game." Of more importance is what the normally-positive Edwards said when asked if he is considering any lineup changes.
"No, not at this time, no," Edwards responded. "But it could take place. If the performances of players are not up to the standard that we think is acceptable, then there will be some changes."
He said if those changes occur, they would take place during the game, and that he is considering changes at any position. The most likely candidates would be Testaverde and right tackle Jason Fabini, who moved from left tackle last month because of a left knee injury and has struggled the last two games.
During his four-plus years at the Jets' helm, Edwards, who is known as a players' coach, has been loath to make lineup changes unless injuries are involved.
Here are his performance-based demotions: In 2002, he benched Testaverde in favor of Pennington after a 1-3 start, and in 2003, he sat down aging linebacker Mo Lewis and disappointing free agent wide receiver Curtis Conway at different times. So the fact that Edwards is publicly threatening demotions could be his only way to awaken both an offense that has been slumbering throughout the season, and a defense that has taken a step back against the run the last two weeks, allowing 382 yards.
"I think the players know how I feel," Edwards said. "They know how I feel about being 2-5. They understand where I'm coming from ... and there's a few of them that have been in the situation before, too. They have gone two ways."
He's referring to the 2002 division title, as well as the fact that the 2003 team also began 2-5 while Testaverde started the first seven games because Pennington was injured. That team finished 6-10, even with Pennington starting the last nine games.
What gives the Jets some hope is that first-place New England, which also has been beset with injuries, is only 4-3. The Patriots are the only team in the division with a winning record.
"We can still win the division and get to the playoffs," middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. "We're 2-5, it is what it is, but we're not worried about it right now. We're going to try and win this division."