My 2013 New York Sports Wish List

I thought about writing a recap of last week’s game, but what is there to say, really?  McElroy was sacked 11 times – that was impressive.  Jeremy Kerley, a WR, threw one of the longest passes of the season.  That was also impressive.  And once again the team made more headlines off the field (mostly Tebow-related), than it did on the field.  But that’s nothing new in 2012 for the New York Jets.

This week’s game – thankfully, the last – will be very difficult to watch.  I barely made it through 3 quarters of last week’s game (kudos to fellow diehard Greg for watching it with me in London), especially after it was clear that 90% of the team were phoning it in (McElroy, Kerley, Landry, Wilkerson and Coples were the only ones who seemed to care).  I will probably watch the 1st half on Sunday, simply for laughs and because the sadist in me will enjoy watching the team go down in flames.

So with the season and 2012 coming to an end, and my move back to New York just a few months away, I thought I’d put together a New York sports “wish list” for 2013.  Limiting it to just the Jets would be too painful to write….so, here goes:

1. A New GM for the Jets – someone who has a clue and a vision for the franchise.  Someone with 100% control over personnel decisions.  Someone who knows how to (re)build a franchise.  Someone who knows how to scout and build through the draft.  Bill Polian comes to mind.  So does another Bill P.  But they are both probably too smart for the job.  This will be Woody Johnson’s most important decision since he purchased the team.  No pressure.

2. A championship for the Knicks – why not dream big?  This is the most talented and deep team since the glory days of ’94 (the Sprewell team of ’99 was fun, but not nearly as talented).  Last night’s loss against the Lakers was as confidence-building a loss as there could be.  Carmelo is playing on another level, and if they can figure out how to integrate Stoudemire, and more importantly, Shumpert (their best 1:1 defender), this team has a real chance.  It’s been nearly 40 years since our last championship – we’re due.

3. Hope for the Mets – Unlike the Jets, at least the Mets appear to have a plan.  Sandy Alderson seems to be making all the right moves and I believe in what he’s building.  Now it’s still pathetic that a baseball team in the biggest sports market has to pinch pennies, but Alderson is making the most of what he has while building for the future.  I was bummed to see Dickey go, but it was the right move.  Resigning Wright had to happen or there would have been a fan mutiny.  And if Harvey continues to develop, with Wheeler not far behind, they could have a dominant 1-2 pitching combo for years to come (and let’s not forget about Jon Niese, who ESPN analyst Buster Olney said could be a “hidden ace” next year).  This team will be bad in 2013, but could contend as soon as 2014.

4. An end to the NHL strike – I’ve been an Islanders fan for as long as I can remember.  My parents had season tickets in the glory days – the Dynasty days – of the 80’s.  I grew up idolizing Brian Trottier, Billy Smith, Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies and so many of the other Islander greats.  But since those days, this has been one sorry franchise.  Last year we saw our first glimmers of hope, as players like Tavares, Bailey and Grabner really came into their own.  And with a slew of highly touted prospects on their way (Strome, Reinhart), this could be finally be a team worth rooting for again.  And of course, they are moving to Brooklyn in just a few years.  So let’s please end the strike (that said, has anyone noticed?), and let these guys play.

That’s my abbreviated list.  There are probably 9 other things I could put on the Jets’ list alone, but we’ll save that for early next year.

Finally, in somewhat related news, I won my fantasy football league as the no. 8 seed. Pure dumb luck.  At least one of my teams won something in 2012…

 

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!

 

Week 14 Recap: Sanchez Survives, Barely

Another week, another poor Sanchez performance, another win.  The Jets squeaked out a win against a terrible team for the 2nd week in a row.  I know they say a “win is a win,” but this is nothing to get excited about, Jets fans.  At 6-7, the talk of playoffs will now only get louder, but its laughable to think this team has any shot.

Sanchez did just enough to not lose.  But he tried his best when he had his league-leading 11th fumble.  Combined his INTs, he on his own has more turnovers than about 6 or 7 TEAMS, according to the announcer.  He made one- really, one – big play, the entire game, and that was the throw to Cumberland on the last drive.  A throw he almost overthrew.  And the Jets showed how much confidence they have in their $20MM QB on that last drive, by handing the ball off on 3rd and 8, which put them in the desperate situation which almost resulted in a loss.

Rex and co. proved time and time again this game that they have no confidence in Sanchez when they needed a big play in the air.  Why start him if that’s the case?  Even more puzzling, they made McElroy inactive, and listed Tebow as the 2nd string.  Can someone please explain that to me?  You energize your team and fan base last week with McElroy, only to make him inactive this week?  What if Sanchez really, really struggled?  You then go to Tebow – a guy you’ve already demonstrated that you also have no faith in as a starting QB.  It’s a mind-boggling decision from an organization that has no clue right now.  This is 1980s Jets stuff, people.

You will hear a lot this week about the decrepid offense that the Jets are rolling out.  And I don’t disagree.  With Keller out and Stephen Hill hurt early on, the Jets were playing a number of guys on offense who could barely crack the practice squad early in the year.  Sanchez isn’t exactly surrounded by pro-bowl talent.  But that said, he’s still missing receivers, holding on to the ball too long and making terrible decisions.  And that has almost nothing to do with the players around him.

The defense played a stellar game again.  But one has to wonder about the last 2 weeks – was that great defense or terrible competition?  Probably both.  Cromartie and Landry continue to be the defensive MVPs, and today was Quinton Coples’ coming out party.  He absolutely levelled Chad Henne in the 4th quarter, and his pressure on the last play of the game caused the last INT.  With he and Wilkerson coming on strong this year, and the return of Revis next year, the Jets have the makings of a very, very good defense for 2013. And they will need it.

This win shouldn’t give you any additional confidence that the team is improving.  For the 4th time this year, the Jets were shutout in the first half.  Shut out by a team that has won 2 games this year, and who’s defense ranks near last in the league.  The offense has been reduced to one that can’t do anything, but run.  And at the end of the game, when the Jags were stacking 8 guys on the line, we couldn’t run the ball.  Why they didn’t do that earlier makes no sense.  You can be sure Tennessee will do that next week.

So Sanchez will be the starter again next week.  And the offense will struggle, mightily.  Tennessee is a tougher team than Jax, and it’s not an easy place to win on the road – on Monday Night Football, no less.  If the defense gives up more than 10-14 points, I don’t think we have a chance.  And they have two big-time playmakers in Chris Johnson and Kenny Britt.  Sanchez is going to have to make plays.

What’s most depressing about all of this is that it is 100% guaranteed that Sanchez will be back next year, and will be the starter.  Rich Cimini of Espn.com did his usual phenomenal analysis of Sanchez’ contract in this article.  Bottom line – he is uncuttable and untradeable.  The cap hit is enormous.  Unless Sanchez decides to take a massive pay cut to get out of the cauldron that is New York, he’s here next year.  So I hope you like a lot of what you’ve been seeing the past few weeks…

6-7, one win away from .500.  The Jets, who had the most difficult schedule in the NFL across the first 12 games (still, no excuse), now have the easiest schedule the rest of the way.  9-7 is conceivable, but something tells me that they will find a way to lose at least one of those games.  And that “they” is our starting QB.