What ‘Fireman Ed’ means to me

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You might look at the title of this post and wonder, as a UK based fan, what on earth I could have to say about the impact of Fireman Ed and the JETS chant considering the biggest influence is (or was) felt by those at MetLife Stadium week by week.  However, as I tweeted already, it was that chant, led at that time by Fireman Ed himself, which first made me first feel like a Jets fan. I’ll admit, on that warm August night at Met Life Stadium in 2010, I had not a clue what was going on beyond that the Jets were playing the Giants but nevertheless the atmosphere and experience was enough to captivate my interest. Then, not long into the game, something started, something which sparked life around the whole stadium. J….E….T….S…. (you all know the rest). By the second reprise I was standing, wearing my crisp new white Mark Sanchez t-shirt purchased for the occasion, shouting ‘Jets, Jets, Jets’ at the top of my voice. There was something about that moment, the way the chant galvanised the fans in one voice, that completely swept me up in a wave of Jets mania, which I haven’t jumped off since. From then on, Fireman Ed was an integral part of the Jets for me (much as Rex Ryan was), appearing from time to time during TV coverage much to my excitement, until he hung up his helmet in 2012. Completely understandably, due to the abuse he frequently suffered from so called fellow fans, but nevertheless a huge loss to the Jets family.  When I visited Metlife again last year, the chant was still there (the Jets ran a competition for other fans to lead it each game) but it wasn’t the same. Ed was the face, the voice and the driving force and somehow some of the passion was lacking. The fact his stepping down was reported nationally is indicative of his impact. Having listened to him speaking so passionately on ‘Lets Talk Jets’ (@talkjetsradio) podcast about his love for both the Jets and the tradition of the chant, I got thinking about his importance, not only to myself, but to the wider Jets community.

British sports fans are familiar with the concept of the chant or song sung by fans of a particular team and for most English soccer teams, the singing of these is central to the game day experience. Some are less than polite in their content but it’s hard not to be moved by unified Liverpool fans singing ‘You’ll never walk alone’ or ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ ringing around Twickenham, even if you root for the other team. As I child I stood behind the goal at Elland Road singing, or more accurately, shouting along to ‘Marching on Together’ and had a whole repertoire of other chants, mostly in the anti-Manchester United genre. So for me, the J.E.T.S chant seemed a familiar part of a sporting event. What all these have in common is their unifying effect on the fans of a team. In some way they bring everyone together in a common aim, even if that is being less than complementary to the opposition.  Around the NFL, from what I’ve witnessed, most fan interaction seems more focused on what is happening on the field (important too); making noise when defending third downs and cheering first downs, penalties and touchdowns. Of course there is the ‘Who dat?’ and the ‘Who dey?’ and various other chants around the league but as a Jets fan hearing ‘J.E.T.S’ has the same effect as ‘We hate Man U’ had for me as a mini Leeds fan. It brings us together.

It’s ironic really that someone trying to do something to unify the JETS fan base was effectively forced out by the very people he was trying to galvanise. Yes, he is a divisive figure but for me the value of fans unified by a common call can’t be underestimated. I truly hope that the ‘Bring back Ed’ petition (@firejohnidzik) is successful, but even if Ed himself decides not to come back, let’s hope that the Jets do something to keep the tradition alive properly.  Listening to MetLife regulars speak of their disappointment in the current game day experience and holding up what is done at other places such as Seattle as a gold standard seems sad considering that we have that special and unique thing. One thing I know for sure is I can’t wait to proudly scream ‘J.E.T.S Jets Jets Jets’ at the top of my voice at Wembley in October and I hope that the next time I get over to New Jersey, the chant has been bought back to life, whether the man in the fireman’s hat is leading it or not.

Marshalling the Jets forward

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Over the last few weeks my blog has been rather quiet mainly because there has been lots of Jets chatter but a dearth of Jets news. This time of year in the NFL is equally exciting and irritating. Exciting, especially this year, because of the number of elite level players hitting free agency and the big changes we know are just around the corner, but irritating because at the end of day only the GMs, coaches and scouts know what they are planning and the endless speculation surrounding it becomes a little tiresome. What I do enjoy is that when real news does come, it’s often nothing like the suggestions that have been bandied about in the previous weeks.

Friday was a day of actual news from Florham Park with the headline grabbing trade with the Bears for Brandon Marshall and a new contract for David Harris.  Jets fans are understandably excited by the Marshall trade as he provides the Jets with a true number one receiver, allowing Eric Decker to take up a more suitable role as number two. A quick look at his stats show that Marshall has consistently shown star quality across a career with 773 career receptions for 9,771 yards and 65 touchdowns in nine NFL seasons. He has had seven straight years of 1,000 or more receiving yards, only ended by injury in 2014. Having played under him in 2010/11 with the Dolphins, Marshall is also familiar with head coach Todd Bowles. All signs suggest a good move.

I’m intrigued by this trade mainly because Marshall is an interesting guy who has certainly had a roller coaster of a life and career. His NFL films’ ‘A Football Life’ gives a great insight into his world both on and off the field. Drafted in the 4th round in 2006 by Denver he has been a controversial and outspoken figure as well as a pro-bowl calibre receiver. His relationship with Jay Cutler (also drafted by Denver in 2006) shows both his loyalty and also how he has not been afraid to rock boats. After unexplained outbursts (Cutler said at times it was like a switch flipped and he ‘didn’t know who this was’) and off field controversy, Marshall was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and has since championed mental health issues, using his spotlight to draw attention to this and encourage openness and discussion. Marshall is both a passionate and intelligent man and football player.

Looking at the wider impact, the Marshall trade is particularly interesting, not least because it casts some possible light on the direction the Jets will go with Percy Harvin. I have always believed that Harvin will be released (and NFL insider reports Friday suggest this will happen) due to his price tag. Although there is the money in the coffers to keep him should they wish, with the number of other needs, that $10+ million would be better spent elsewhere. A trio of Harvin, Decker and Marshall would clearly be a force to be reckoned with, but without a solution to the quarterback situation it would be akin to have a box full of bullets but no gun. Geno Smith threw a lowly 219 completions in 2014 and by the end of the year the offense was skewed firmly towards the run because of the high interception rate. At this point, without a consistent passing game, spending so much on a receiving corps seems a waste. Now the Bills have traded with the Eagles for LeSean McCoy, CJ Spiller could become a possible and highly realistic target for the Jets in free agency to help Bowles create the more ‘balanced’ (and workable) offense of which he has spoken recently.  Of course there is still the QB to sort out and time will tell how this goes. Developing the OL will at least alleviate some of the pressure on Geno but there is still much to do. Brandon Marshall is the first of hopefully many big moves but is a positive indicator of the way Maccagnan and Bowles are thinking.  The next few weeks will be interesting.