New Year, Same (Old) Jets

So maybe that title isn’t completely fair.  Woody Johnson made the right move to relieve Mike Tannenbaum of his duties.  I’ve been calling for Tanny’s dismissal for over 2 months on this blog.  And while he isn’t 100% responsible for the state that the Jets are in, he deservedly shoulders much of the blame.  What started out as a promising career as a GM just a few years ago came to a crashing halt on the final day of 2012.

That said, leave it to the Jets to even mess up what was an easy decision.  For starters, they were the only team on “Black Monday” who didn’t make their leadership available for comment.  In fact, they made the effort to cancel a previously planned end of season conference call with Rex Ryan that was scheduled to take place yesterday afternoon. Every other team that fired a coach, GM, etc, made someone in the organization available for questions.  The Jets?  Radio silence.  Unless you count Woody Johnson’s PR statement that was released to the press and emailed to season ticket holders.  Many of the Jets’ players were in yesterday, clearing out their lockers, and were thus forced to answer questions about Tannenbaum’s firing, Sparano’s limbo and the vote of confidence given to Rex.  It was awkward for the players and it was classic Jets – they can’t even get things right off the field.

There was some speculation earlier in the week that Tannenbaum might get reassigned in the organization, and that speculation was universally and rightfully panned.  The idea of him staying on as a “cap expert” was especially laughable given he’s responsible for the awful cap situation they are in.  (side note: there is so much misinformation and general BS from the media surrounding this team.  Every reporter wants to “break” a story and they often do at the expense of facts or reliable sources.  It’s irresponsible journalism and not talked about enough).  Tannenbaum’s “go for broke” strategy of the last 2 years loaded the Jets with overpaid, aging players at the expense of draft picks, youth, and a foundation.  An astounding stat:  Between 2009 and 2011, the Jets had only 13 draft choices compared to the Patriots, who had 34 selections (thanks to ESPN.com and Pro Football Focus for that).  While the Pats were re-loading with the likes of Gronkowski, Ridley, Spikes, etc., the Jets were trading away draft picks for Sanchez, Cromartie, Tebow, etc.  And that put even more pressure on the front office to get the draft right.  It’s hard enough to draft the right players with a full stockpile of picks – try doing so when you have only 3 or 4 in a given year.  And unfortunately for Tannenbabum, he was wrong in recent years (Sanchez, Gholston, Wilson, Ducasse) more often than he was right (Wilkerson, Coples, Kerley).  Compounding matters, the Jets invested big money in aging, experienced players (Scott, Pace, LT, Burress) in a league that favors youth, speed and depth.  The recipe worked for 2 years, but at a steep price: a decline that was fast & hard.

So what of the decision to keep Rex?  Media & fan reaction seems to be evenly split. Some applaud the move, citing Rex’s ability to keep the team together and miraculously in the hunt for a playoff spot right through week 15.  They talk about how much players love to play for him and his defensive genius.  Many however think he should be just as culpable as Tannenbaum for the team’s personnel decisions (especially his almost purposeful ignorance of the offense) and decline.  And they think that any coveted GM will not want to come to a team where they don’t have full decision-making authority, including the ability to choose their own coach.

I completely see both arguments, but find myself landing in the pro-Rex camp.  Rex has proven that he can take a team with the right talent to the AFC championship game.  There have been countless coaches loaded with more talent who have not been able to do the same (2011/12 Eagles, any recent Chargers/Cowboys/Falcons teams, etc.).  And who is to say that a new coach would be successful?  The “success rate” (let’s use a very liberal definition – success = winning record) of new coaches in their first 2 or 3 years has to be less than 75%.  For every Jim Harbaugh, there is a Jim Schwartz.  For every Mike Tomlin, there is a Mike Mularkey, etc., etc.  Point being – a new coach doesn’t necessarily guarantee success.   Keep a proven winner in Rex, but surround him with the right talent on offense and an offensive coaching staff who knows how to build and run a modern system (sorry Rex, Ground and Pound is no longer a winning formula) and can develop a young QB, which will surely be in the Jets future.

Woody has enlisted the help of a professional search firm to help find the next GM – the same firm and recruiter that the Seahawks used to find their recent GM.  At first I thought it was a strange move, but now I like it – hire experts in the field and remove any personal bias from your initial search.  If the results are similar (Russell Wilson in the 3rd round was the best if not 2nd best – Alfred Morris in the 6th – pick of the recent draft), we will be in a good place.  A lot of names have been thrown out and all sound promising.  My one hope/request is that they have true control and final say over all personnel decisions.  We need someone with a long-term vision, respect and authority.  We haven’t had that since Bill Parcells was running things, and we really never had that before he was here.  Sad, but true.

In the meantime, I’ll be pulling for the Redskins (my in-laws are lifelong diehards) in the NFC and the Texans in the AFC.  But sadly, I think we will see Peyton Manning’s Broncos (he’s worth every penny.  Don’t bet against him at home in Mile High in the playoffs) vs. Aaron Rodgers’ Packers.  Boring.  I’m not buying the Falcons and their suspect D and I don’t love a rookie QB’s chances in San Fran (or Indy or Seattle or Washington for that matter – crazy how many rookie QBs made the playoffs) to take them to the Super Bowl.  But that said, the game of the year will be Brady vs Manning in MIle High in the AFC championship game.  And I’ll be vicariously living through all of those fans who have real QBs and bright futures ahead of them.

So here’s hoping that a New Year brings some sanity and normalcy to this star-crossed organization.  On the bright side, there’s really nowhere to go but up from here.

Yes, This Was the Scariest Picture I Could Find

Yes, This Was the Scariest Picture I Could Find

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Plenty of Ashes, But No Phoenix (yet)

Where to start?  With Sanchez’ now world-famous implosion on national TV?  With the decision to start your 3rd string QB this week?  With the Jets’ awful cap situation and future?  So much to write about, so little time…

By now you’ve probably read everything there is to read about what happened on Monday night.  It was quarterbacking at its worst.  The passes Sanchez threw at the end were akin to those thrown on Thanksgiving in your backyard.  Back-foot heaves into triple coverage. Reckless play that made Brett Favre look conservative.  It was as if Sanchez was daring the Jets to bench him.  Watch me throw another crazy interception!  What are you going to do?  You owe me $8MM guaranteed next year, suckas! (insert maniacal laugh)

Sanchez mercifully left Rex with no choice.  And the death threats Sanchez received this week (seriously? Especially after Newtown.  I’m ashamed to be part of this human race sometimes) only exacerbated things.  There was just no way Rex could trot out no. 6 next week.  So what do you do – start Tebow, your QB2 and constant source of media attention, but a guy who clearly has no future as the QB of the Jets?  Or do you go with Greg McElroy, your no. 3 QB who may have a future in this league – as a back-up.  The answer is:  Who Cares?  Neither guy is the QB of the future, and this team has so many problems, the last 2 weeks of the season will have no real impact on the future.   If this team were not in New York, no one would be writing about the travails of a 6-8 team without any direction.

One Last Walk-Off as the Jets' Starting QB

One Last Walk-Off as the Jets’ Starting QB

So what next?  The so-called experts in the Jets’ blogsphere and the Jets beat writers have started to chime in with their ideas.  Some good, some crazy, some predictable.  What’s pretty consistent amongst them all is that the Jets are screwed, at least for 2013, and most of that is due to Mike Tannenbaum and his epic failure of salary cap management.  Read this for some very useful analysis.

Here is one thing that I think is clear – Mark Sanchez will be with this team next year.  He makes a GUARANTEED $8MM in 2013, with a “cap hit” of $12MM.  If the Jets cut Sanchez before June 1st, his “cap hit” is $17MM.  The total cap for 2013 is projected to $120MM.  That would mean that if they cut Sanchez, a player that is no longer on the roster would make up nearly 1/6th of the salary cap.  Astounding.  And more importantly, it means they are not cutting him.

Wait - Are You Serious?  Sanchez Will Be Back Next Year?

Wait – Are You Serious? Sanchez Will Be Back Next Year?

So what do you do?  Trade him, many people say.  That would be great!  But seriously, what team in their right mind would trade for him?  Maybe, just maybe they would if the Jets assumed most of his salary, but I think that’s a long shot.  Other say that he’s so miserable, he’ll take a pay cut to get out of town.  Hmmm…maybe, but would you walk away from a guaranteed $8MM?  Or would you stick it out in New York and spend your $8MM on Eva Longoria look-alikes?  I know what I’d choose.

So where does that leave us?  It leaves us with Mark Sanchez still will the New York Jets in 2013.  He probably won’t be the starter, but he’ll be on the team.  That’s just the grim reality.

So how do the Jets get better?  It won’t be easy, but here are my top 5 priorities:

1. Fire Mike Tannenbaum and bring in an experienced GM who has rebuilt other franchises.  It was a good run Mike, but the work you’ve done the past 2 years has been a disaster.  Their best player (Revis) wasn’t drafted by him, and his track record in the draft (with the picks he hasn’t traded) has been spotty at best (Gholston, Wilson, Ducasse = bad.  Wilkerson, Coples, Kerley = good).  His FA signings and trades have been equally mixed (Landry, Bell, Tomlinson = good.  Tebow, Schillens = bad).

2. Retain Rex Ryan, fire the offensive staff.  A new GM may want to bring in an entire new staff, but my personal opinion is that Rex should come back.  As bad of a job as he did last year, he’s done an equally good job this year.  With the injuries to Revis & Holmes and the general lack of talent on the team, it’s a minor miracle that he kept this team together and in position to compete for a playoff spot.  He turned around the franchise and its culture when he arrived 4 years ago and twice had them a game away from the Super Bowl.  No other Jets coach has done that.  Give him 2 more years with a solid QB and talent around him.  On the flip-side, fire Tony Sparano and the entire offensive staff.  Bring in a proven offensive coordinator and one that can develop QBs – Norv Turner, anyone?

3. Find a new QB – duh!  This won’t be easy and their franchise QB is probably in the 2014 draft.  Sign a cheap, but serviceable QB (Matt Moore, Jason Campbell, Kyle Orton, Shaun Hill) and have him run the team for a year until you find someone in the 2014 draft.  Sanchez is your back-up until you can cut him in 2014.

4. Trade players and draft picks for more draft picks.  Many have said they should trade Cromartie ($8MM) or Revis for picks.  I don’t love this idea – why weaken your only true strength?  But the Revis idea is an interesting one – he’s actually a bargain next year, and despite the ACL injury, he would net at least a 2nd round pick, and maybe even higher.  If you can trade Tebow for a late round pick, do it.  Whatever they do, they have to maximize next year’s draft – they need as many new bodies as they can find.

5. Cut your dead, over-the-hill weight – Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas, Jason Smith, Eric Smith (anyone named Smith) and yes, probably Dustin Keller.  All goners. Holmes might well be on this list too depending on his recovery from surgery.  Sign younger, faster players and build up some depth on the O-line and D-line.  This game is still won in the trenches.

See – easy!  The bottom line is this – the Jets will (should) be in full rebuilding mode next year.  We are looking at a 4-12 team at best.  But by the end of the year, they will be out of cap hell, with a top 5 draft pick and hopefully their QB of the future identified.  And as Andrew Luck and RGIII have shown, you can turn around a franchise in less than a year if you have the right guy under center.  One can dream, right?

We Will See More of This in 2013

We Will See More of This in 2013

Week 15 Recap: “An Amazing Night of Futility”

Those aren’t my words, those are Mike Tirico’s of Monday Night Football.  And I don’t even think that sums it up.  4 INTs for Mark Sanchez in the biggest game of the year.  A fumble on the last drive of the game – a drive that was a gift to begin with after Sanchez threw his latest mind-boggling INT.  You can’t make this stuff up.  This was a level of incompetence and poor play that even the Jets have never reached before – in the biggest game of the year.  Thankfully I didn’t wake up at 6am to watch it.  Or not.

A full recap to come later this week.  But I will just say this one thing – the Jets have to, HAVE TO, find a way to cut ties with Mark Sanchez.  I don’t care about his cap number.  I don’t care about the fact that his supporting cast hasn’t been great.  He single-handedly lost tonight’s game, and many others this year.  Every single INT was on him.  Every time the defense gave him once more chance, he promptly turned it over.  If I’m a Jets player, I don’t know how I can show up to work again knowing I have no chance of winning with this guy at QB.  Bringing him back next year is admitting that you are forfeiting the season.  He is that bad.

Another season over.  Another season without a Super Bowl.  Another season without an answer at QB.  Can’t wait to get back to New York to watch it all in person next year!