Disappointing year is finally over

The Jets finally finished their disappointing season by losing to the division rival Miami Dolphins, 23-21, on a game-winning field goal by kicker Olindo Mare. <BR><BR>

Gang Green concluded the year at 6-10, the worst record the franchise has had since going 1-15 in 1996 and the only losing season thus far under head coach Herman Edwards' tenure.

"It starts with the head guy," Edwards said. "I need to improve. I feel I let these guys down this year."

It will be interesting to see the changes that will be made for next season as the 2003 campaign was doomed ever since quarterback Chad Pennington suffered a devastating injury in preseason. Gang Green started the year 0-4 and could not bounce back in time to make a playoff run.

"We'll all remember this feeling as a team," said Pennington who completed 22 of 28 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown. "We'll do everything in our power to make sure we don't have this feeling again."

One way to make sure those depressing feelings felt throughout the team do not happen again could be to strengthen a defense that made a mediocre quarterback like Jay Fieldler look like a Hall of Famer such as Joe Montana. Fiedler threw for a career-high 328 yards and a score and kept the Jets' defense on their heels with his accuracy in completing 21 of 29. It may have been the final showing for Fiedler in a Dolphins uniform as Miami missed out on the playoffs for the second straight season despite finishing up at 10-6.

"We didn't beat the good teams," Dolphins' linebacker Zach Thomas said. "The players let a lot of people down."

It was an up and down year for Miami and many significant changes are expected to made for them as well, including their head coach Dave Wannstedt. Wannstedt has a 41-23 record and two playoff appearances with the Dolphins in his four seasons after replacing Jimmy Johnson in 2000. But missing out on the playoffs for consecutive years may be too much for owner Wayne Huizenga to take.

"I'm going to meet with Wayne tomorrow," Wannstedt said. "We're going to talk about the direction of the team. We've had no discussions about next year."

If today's game was the deciding factor in what direction Huizenga is going to go with Wannstedt, then the Dolphins' players may have saved their current generals' job. The team outgained the Jets 397 to 285 in total yardage and jumped out to a 20-10 halftime lead. Gang Green made things interesting by coming back and taking their lone lead of the game at 21-20 with 6:02 left in the fourth quarter. But it was Fiedler's day to shine as he put the finishing touches on his Montana impression by completing three of four passes for 36 yards on the final drive that helped set up Mare's game-winning field goal. By beating the Jets, Miami helped put them in a last place tie with the Buffalo Bills.

Edwards and company will have to quickly move past this miserable year and look towards 2004. Many issues have to be addressed which include whether to keep Ted Cottrell as the defensive coordinator, who to take in the upcoming Draft, and what players to retain or send packing. It will be a busy offseason for the front office of the Jets as the contracts of Pennington, defensive ends Shaun Ellis and John Abraham, and a few others will have to be taken care of. Not to mention the several talented free agents, such as 49ers linebacker Julian Peterson or wide receiver Terrell Owens, that will be available for Gang Green to add.

But for now, New York should just be happy that this season is finally over. The offseason awaits and the necessary adjustments for them to be successful in 2004 must be made.

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