The Jets were one of the league's biggest disappointments last season, when they lost their final three games and missed the playoffs after making consecutive trips to the AFC title game in Rex Ryan's first two seasons. But their penchant for staying in the headlines has kept them popular with the league's NFL partners.
The NFL schedule was officially released Tuesday and the Jets are slated to play four nationally televised games under the lights, including three at home. The Jets will host the Texans on Monday Night Football on Oct. 8, the archrival Patriots on NFL Network's Thanksgiving Night game and the Chargers on the final currently scheduled Sunday Night Football game of the year on Dec. 23. The Jets will also visit the Titans for a Monday Night Football tilt on Dec. 17.
The Jets will play consecutive road games three times (weeks two and three at the Steelers and Dolphins, weeks 10 and 11 at the Seahawks and Rams and weeks 14 and 15 at the Jaguars and Titans). The road-heavy final month-the Jets finish the season by visiting Buffalo Dec. 30-presents an obvious challenge, though Rex Ryan was pleased the Jets will travel to largely warm-weather cities while playing the Chargers at home.
"You kind of see that clump of games and it's like 'Hoo, yeah, that's a tough December,'" Ryan told reporters Tuesday. "You're going into some decent weather-Jacksonville, Tennessee. I kind of like having San Diego come into our place in December. I think that's a good thing."
The Jets will get plenty comfortable at MetLife Stadium earlier in the season, when they play three straight home games-from weeks four through six against the 49ers, Texans and Colts-for just the fifth time since the NFL schedule expanded to 16 games in 1978. History suggests that'll be a good thing for the Jets, who made the playoffs after three-game home stands in 1981, 1998 and 2002.
"We've got some home games early in the season and it all balances out," Ryan said.
The three-game home stand comes one season after the Jets embarked upon their first three-game road trip since 1982.
As anticipated, linebacker and restricted free agent Aaron Maybin returned to the Jets Monday, though under slightly different terms than were anticipated after the Jets tendered him in February. Instead of signing the one-year deal worth $1.26 million, Maybin instead will be paid a $615,000 base salary with a $325,000 signing bonus. There is also a $75,000 workout bonus, so he can make a total of $1.015 million. Maybin, a first-round pick of the Bills in 2009 who flamed out after just two years in Buffalo, enjoyed a rebirth last season, when he led the Jets with six sacks despite playing just 239 snaps.
Free-agent safety Jim Leonhard's future with the Jets is uncertain after he tore his right patella tendon in December-the second time in as many years he suffered a season-ending leg injury-but he told the Newark Star-Ledger he is still interested in returning to the club.
"You never know," Leonhard said. "I know Rex and I know the defensive staff. I know the defense is a great fit for me. It's just when the time comes, is it going to be the right situation?"
Coach Rex Ryan spoke optimistically of the Jets' "new beginning" during a team meeting at the start of the off-season conditioning program Monday (April 16).
"I don't care what you call it-a brotherhood, a tribe or whatever," Ryan told reporters on a conference call Monday. "We want to be special, and I think that starts right now with the offseason program and the conditioning and the OTAs and the minicamp."
Earlier this winter, Ryan said Tim Tebow would be utilized not just as a quarterback but "as a football player." ESPN reported this week that unnamed sources indicated Tebow will play at fullback, H-back and running back for the Jets in addition to serving as the quarterback in the "Wildcat" formation.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're not bickering little school children. We're able to understand that things happen in the moment. This is a new team. This is not the 2011 Jets." -- Jets center Nick Mangold.