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

It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

This is really starting to get old.  Another week, another loss, and more controversy. The game on Sunday was a joke.  And nothing epitomized the Jets season like the 3 play sequence in the 2nd quarter where the Jets drove to the red zone and brought in Tebow on 3rd and goal to hopefully take it in for the TD.  By now, you know what ensued – Keller was called for a terrible false start penalty which led to Sanchez coming in to replace Tebow, who then threw one of the worst INTs of his career – and that’s saying a lot.  Everyone knows you can’t pump fake when you are that close to the end zone – there are too many defenders in a tight area; it negates the impact – but Sanchez pump faked twice, never taking his eyes off of his intended receiver.  It was a rookie mistake made by a 4th year QB.  Sadly, that pass did not rank as Sanchez’ worst of the year – this one did.  How is this guy still our starter?

QB Change? Not Likely.

The week that followed was typical Jets.  Rex continued to stand by his “franchise” QB even though the rest of the sports world is calling for a change.  An unnamed source inside the Jets locker room called Tebow “terrible,” which led to Ryan calling that player a coward.  A former Jet, Rob Turner (a back-up offensive lineman), who now plays for the Rams, called the Jets the “Chicago Cubs of football.”  And through it all, many players remain confident that the Jets, at 3-6, can still make the playoffs. Right. (that said, in 2009, the Jets were 4-6 and then went on to the AFC championship game).

A loss this week against the Rams would be the final dagger for any fan or player who still has hope for this season.  Even with an “easy” schedule ahead, at 3-7, the Jets would have to run the table to even have a chance at the playoffs.  And with New England coming to town on Thanksgiving night, that ain’t happening.

In the next few months, A lot will be written about what has to change with the Jets. I’ve been saying for some time that it starts with Tannenbaum.  After a great start to his career as GM, it’s been all downhill.  His strategy of trading away draft picks to move up in the draft has not paid off, and if you like at the Jets’ recent drafts, you would be hard pressed to find a ton of impact players (Wilkerson and Kerley are the exceptions with Coples, Hill and Davis showing promise).  This review of his performance in another Jets blog is pretty sobering:  http://tinyurl.com/akj8q8z.

It’s Time for Him to Go

 

I’ll still be watching on Sunday, but it’s hard to get excited about this team when you have no faith in the leadership.  To hear Rex and Tannenbaum stand by Sanchez and the rest of the team week after week is getting old.  There is no accountability and no real commitment to winning.  Thankfully, for the first time, Woody Johnson expressed some anger about the 3-6 record.  We can only hope that if the losing continues, he will force the needed changes.

On a lighter note:

  • Grantland last week ran one of the funniest stories about Tebow that I’ve ever read – it is a must read.
  • Huge congrats to R.A. Dickey on his Cy Young.  There hasn’t been much for us Mets/Jets fans to be happy about in 2012, but Dickey was one of them.  You would be hard pressed to find a more thoughtful and sincere player in sports in right now.  If the Mets don’t sign him to an extension, there should be a mutiny.
  • The Knicks are off to one of their best starts in franchise history.  Even with the loss to Memphis last night, you have to be excited about what’s happening at the Garden.  I grew up watching Knicks teams that were known for their intimidating defense – Oakley, Mason, Starks, Ewing, etc. – and it’s nice to see a return to that form.  Woodson deserves some kind of medal for even getting Carmelo to play defense.  If this team stays healthy (a BIG if), they will be a force to be reckoned with deep into the playoffs.

On a more personal note, it was a week of both loss and life in my family.  My paternal grandmother of 88 years left us last week.  Nearly 45 years ago, she and my grandfather decided to purchase season tickets for this “new football team” and a family of Jets fans were born.  She spent many a cold day in Shea Stadium with my grandfather and father, watching Joe Namath, Don Maynard, Richard Todd, Ken O’Brien, etc..  And while she undoubtedly saw more losses than wins, she always remained a loyal fan.  I’m sure she’ll be watching on Sunday from wherever she is.

Just a few days after her passing, the newest Jet fan in the family was born, as my sister gave birth to Luke Charles.  The circle of life and Jets fandom continues…

Week 8 Recap: Franchise Altering Loss

This was not just another loss.  This was a loss that will change the fate of the Jets franchise for the next few years.  Mark Sanchez wasn’t just bad, he was incompetent. The preparation wasn’t just bad, it was completely missing.  The execution wasn’t just bad, it was embarrassing.  Everyone in the franchise had a hand in this loss, and if I’m Woody Johnson, major changes have to happen.

Where to start?  The offense was putrid.  Sanchez looked lost from the start and did nothing to make you believe that he can still be the franchise QB that we thought he’d become.  Today marked the beginning of the end of the Sanchise era.  No question. Many of the fans, including me, were clamoring for Tebow to enter the game.  But I do understand why they didn’t put him in.  The controversy that would create would be overwhelming, and you don’t just institute a Tebow offense in the 4th quarter.   But if he (or Greg McElroy) is not the starting QB after the bye week, then something is wrong.  Take the 2 weeks and make the change that has to happen.  Nobody, I mean nobody can have confidence in Sanchez at this point.  If I’m a Jets RB or receiver, I’m quietly hoping for this change.  Tebow time in New York has arrived.

His Last Time as the Sanchise?

The defense was not much better.  The only player that showed up was Laron Landry (he’s a guy they should definitely re-sign, although I’m not so sure he would want to be back).  They were flat from the start, committed stupid penalties (welcome back, bad Cromartie) and were beaten by a backup QB and a bunch of 2nd string receivers.  They have the players, but don’t have the heart, the execution or the prep.  A lot of that falls on the coaches.  I’ve never been a Mike Pettine fan and he may be one of the first coaches to go in the offseason (that is if Rex survives).

And Special Teams?  This was supposed to be Mike Westhoff’s swan song – his yearlong victory lap.  Instead it’s turning out to be a nightmare.  An onside kick recovered by the Dolphins, a blocked punt for a TD, a blocked FG and poor coverage on kickoffs.  What used to be a unit that the Jets could always rely on, has now become a liability.

This is officially the low point of the Rex Ryan era.  It was all fun and games for the first 2 years, and a dominant running game and defense masked the many deficiencies that our supposed franchise QB had.  The disappearance of that running game and defense has exposed Sanchez, and more alarmingly Rex, for the player/coach they really are.  This was one of the most poorly played games of the Rex Ryan era – on all sides of the ball.  The fact that it happened in a “must-win” divisional game at home is beyond comprehension.

Rex will have a lot of questions to answer this week.  How could a team be outplayed this badly at home – for the second time this season?  As a season ticket holder, I demand answers and changes.  If you were one of the fans there today, who came out (and spent hundreds of dollars) despite the fact that Frankenstorm is looming just hours away,  you should be livid.  It’s one thing to lose, it’s another thing to be outclassed and flat out embarrassed.  There was NOTHING positive you could take from this game.  I repeat – NOTHING.  The team was undisciplined, unprepared and flat.  The yapping all week proved to be that – talk.  This team is all talk and no action. And that falls on the coach.  When they were winning, you could deal with that.  Rex has lost this team and for the first time, his leadership and future as coach is in question.

And of course, Tannenbaum should get as much of the blame as anyone.   The Tebow trade has been a disaster.  You trade 2 draft picks for the guy and then never use him?  This was the week that the Jets were going to “empty the tank” when it comes to Tebow.  His stat line?  1 rush for 2 yards.  ONE RUSH.  That’s emptying the tank?  If we had a true “backup” QB, he would have been in there by now.  The offense is lacking too many playmakers and there is almost no depth on this roster.  I would be shocked if he’s back as GM next year.

And so the agony that is life as a Jets fan continues.  Another week, another low point.   Anyone want to buy some tickets?

A Picture Speaks…

Negative ‘Tone to This Jets Season

First it was Revis, now Santonio.  Another week, another star player out for the season. Things are not looking good for Gang Green at the moment.  The “weapons” that Sanchez can now throw to include Chaz Schillens, recently signed Jason Hill (yes, the same Jason Hill who last year said Darrelle Revis was “overrated”), and Jeff Cumberland.  Not exactly an all-star crew.

This Sums It Up

The media have been feasting on the Jets all week.  I’m pretty tired of the “I told you so” articles that are appearing everywhere.  I didn’t realize how many people had so astutely predicted the Jets’ demise weeks ago.  And of course the calls for Tim Tebow have begun.  I think this is pretty ignorant stuff.  I know I’ve been one of Sanchez’ most consistent defenders, and even I’m starting to waver on him, but I still think he’s the best man for the job.

The problem is, you don’t just insert Tim Tebow as your QB.  You have to insert an entirely new offense.  He’s not made to run a conventional NFL offense.  And while yes he’s a playmaker and exciting, do people really think he’s the long-term answer for the Jets?  If you are going to basically wave the white flag, then go with 3rd string QB Greg McElroy. He’s shown some flashes, and despite a lack of size, he’s more of a prototypical NFL QB. But this would never happen as McElroy doesn’t sell tickets, Tebow does.  In addition, Tebow is not going to help develop your young WRs – Kerley & Stephen Hill.  Just look at what Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas are doing in Denver right now with Peyton Manning at QB.  Think they miss Tebow?  Sorry, Tim is not the answer.

In my last post, I said that Rex and Tannenbaum should get much of the blame for the mess the Jets are in.  I’ve read a few reports that agree with that assesment.  But right now, those two guys are probably the Jets’ best hopes for salvaging the season.  This week’s signings of Aaron Berry at CB and Jason Hill probably aren’t the answer, but I do give Tannenbaum credit for not bringing in the sexier, but potentially cancerous options like Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson.  Rex has the coaching challenge of his career in front of him.  First he needs to keep the team believing and motivated.  But then he quickly needs to fix the very sloppy play on defense.  It wasn’t Revis missing tackles left and right last week, that was the Jets’ defensive line.

It’s pretty interesting if you peek ahead at the Jets’ schedule.  They will more than likely lose to Houston on Monday Night, but then have a very winnable game at home against Indy and rookie QB Andrew Luck.  A 3-3 record wouldn’t be terrible all things considered, especially in the AFC East.   They then go to New England and return home to face Miami. You can start to see a 4-4 record pretty easily.  They then have a bye week, before hitting the road against Seattle and then St. Louis.  I’m now starting to see 5-5.   Things then get tougher with home games against NE and Arizona.  I like our chances at home against Arizona in December.  6-6.  After that, 2 road games against the dreadful Jags and equaly bad Titans.  Dare I say 8-6?  It’s then home against San Diego and then away against Buffalo.  9-7?

Okay, perhaps I’m delusional, but I don’t think it’s completely unrealistic that this team can still be competitive.  Yes, they’ve lost 2 of their best players, but the defense is still loaded with playmakers, and if they can find some semblance of a running game, this team can stay competitive.  The schedule isn’t all that intimidating after this week’s Houston game.

A few other random thoughts:

  • Can we please, please start using Joe McKnight?  It boggles the mind that this guy doesn’t get a few carries or screen passes.
  • The blitz – bring it back Rex!
  • Let Tebow throw when he’s in.  Right now, they are fooling no one when he’s in. Keep the defense honest – at least have the threat of a throw.  Right now everyone knows the dude is going to run up the middle for 2 yards.   Get creative – you have nothing to lose Sparano!
  • Mike Francesa – for those of you who are from New York, you will know this name well.  He’s one of the most polarizing radio personalities in New York.  I personally am not a Francesa fan – he’s way too biased, and has always been a Jets and Mets hater.  He knows his stuff, but his ego often gets in the way (google the interview he did with Revis last year where Revis hung up on him).  But this article from Grantland, really nails it.   What a fun read. And if you are not familiar with Grantland, bookmark it and make it a daily read.  Some of the best writing on the web is happening there right now.  And it’s not just sports.

Here’s hoping my next post has nothing to do with a major injury…

Week 4 Recap: Jets Hit New Low in Rex Ryan Era

Final Score:
49ers: 34
Jets: 0

Disgusting.  Awful.  Pathetic.  To be honest, those words don’t really do it justice.  I want to invent a new word to describe just how bad today’s game was – any suggestions?  It was so bad, that it’s not even worthy of a full recap.  No pictures, no witty remarks, no breakdown.  Take that, Jets.

For me, this loss should be pinned on 3 people – Rex, Tannebaum, and Sanchez.  And in that order.

Rex gets the blame for clearly not having his team ready to play today.  They were outcoached (and out wild cat’d) and outplayed, and looked disinterested for half the game.  The offensive “gameplan” – if you want to call it that – was non-existent.  I know they had an uphill battle to start and the odds of winning were low, but 34-0?  Perhaps even worse, his vaunted defense (best he’s ever had in New York, supposedly) gave up 245 yards rushing.  245.  Rex should be embarrassed.

Tannenbaum gets the blame for not providing the offense with the playmakers it needs to be credible.  Jeff Cumberland?  Epps? (I don’t even know if he has a first name).  Patrick Turner?  But Keller and Hill are hurt you say….big deal…half of these guys wouldn’t even start on a college team.  This team’s depth has been exposed in a big way.  And if you look at their last 3 drafts, you would be hard pressed to find non-1st round draft picks that are making meaningful contributions (Kerley is the only one I can think of).

And then finally, to Sanchez.  Even with the lack of weapons, he was still just awful. 13-29 for 103 yards  with 1 INT and 1 fumble.  The fumble was completely avoidable and took away a sure 3 points at the end of the 1st half – that in fact may have been the play of the game as the score went from what should have been 7-3 to 10-0 and the 49ers never looked back.  He was off all day – badly missing receivers, throwing tentatively.  It was a giant step back for a player who was meant to take a giant step forward this year.  They have NO chance of doing anything this year if he plays like that.  I know you will hear the calls for Tebow this week, but this still comes down to Sanchez.  They’ve pinned their hopes to this guy, and it’s looking increasingly like they will go down in flames with him.  Game 1 in Buffalo must have been a mirage because he has been just plain bad since then.  And I’ve been one of his biggest supporters and fans, but this was just not good.

Adding insult to injury, their best offensive playmaker, Santonio Holmes, appears to be lost for an extended period of time with a foot injury.  Another non-contact injury to one of their top players.  The football gods are not smiling upon us my friends (the fact that he fumbled the ball on that play which was then run back for a TD, was just comical.  That could only happen to the Jets)  I don’t see how they can muster any chance of winning without their two best players on both sides of the ball.  This season could be over before it’s really begun, sadly.

It would take a turnaround of monumental proportions at this point to turn things around.  This is a team with no identity, and more alarmingly, little talent.  The injuries have really exposed how thin the roster is.  There is just no depth behind the starters, and in a violent sport like football, that is a recipe for disaster.  It’s not looking good for Gang Green.

But hey, look on the brightside, we get to play the 4-0 Houston Texans on Monday Night Football next week….dare I say it….Same Old….