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

Week 13 Recap: The King is Dead, Long Live The King

At 3:09pm on December 2nd, 2012, the Mark Sanchez era officially came to an end.  It doesn’t matter who won today’s game, or even who starts next week’s game – the minute that Rex Ryan and the Jets pulled Mark Sanchez, was the minute that the Sanchez era ended.  All you had to do was hear the crowd reaction, and more importantly, see the team’s reaction.  They responded.  Tough catches were made.  Players were fired up. They CARED.  And all it took, was a QB change.

Meet Your New QB, Jets Fans

Meet Your New QB, Jets Fans

The game itself was miserable.  The score said it all: 7-6.  The Cardinals may be one of the few NFL teams that are currently worse than the Jets.  Calling this game a “defensive struggle” is being generous.  This game was an offensive struggle – the Cards converted zero – ZERO – third downs, all game.  But someone had to win, and it was the Jets.

But back to the real story.  After 2 1/2 awful quarters of Mark Sanchez, Rex finally made the move he had to make and made a QB change.  But it was not the change everyone thought it would be.  With Tim Tebow inactive today due to a rib injury, in came 3rd string QB and former 6th rd draft pick, Greg McElroy.  And the team responded with a TD on the very first drive, which was enough to win this sorry excuse for an NFL game.

Sanchez was terrible from the start – in fact, he threw an INT on his very first throw – to former Jet Kerry Rhodes of all people (he had a fantastic game by the way – the ultimate payback game).  And it got worse from there.  2 more bad INTs and one more throw that should have been picked off and returned for a TD.  Sanchez looked lost from the start  Final Numbers:  10-21 for 97 yds and 3 INTs.  Ouch.

And you know much Rex and Tanny love Sanchez.  That’s how bad it was.  Rex had no choice but to make a change.  There was literally NO chance that the Jets were going to win today with Sanchez under center.  He single-handedly was holding them back in another game where their defense did what it needed to do.

Is McElroy our long-term solution at QB?  Probably not.  He’s a smart game-manager, the kind of QB who can take you places with a great running game and a great D – neither of which the Jets have at the moment.  He’s a slightly stronger-armed Chad Pennington – which is still an upgrade.  But what this moves does is signal that the Sanchez era is over. It has to be.  There will be a small riot in Florham Park this week if Rex goes with Sanchez again.  The players will erupt, as will the fans.  This move should have been made months ago and credit to Rex for finally, making it.   Rex has already said that he won’t announce his starter for next week.  But what else is he going to say at this moment?  It’s going to be an interesting few days inside Jets’ HQ.

The ultimate loser in this (besides the long-suffering Jets fans) is Tim Tebow.  He must be thinking – what the heck do I have to do to get in a game?  Many are speculating that if Tebow were active today, Rex would have stuck with Sanchez – i.e. that there is no way they will ever go with Tebow as their starter.  If that is the case, then the move to get him was even dumber than many thought it was when they made it.  You don’t trade for a back-up QB if you have no intention of ever using him.  But the irony here is huge – all year, everyone has been speculating about a Tebow-inspired QB controversy.  Who would have predicted a McElroy-inspired QB controversy?

So the remaining 4 weeks of the season just got interesting.  I was just starting to lose interest in the season, but now you have a reason to watch.  And with Jacksonville up next, they have a legitimate chance of getting to 6-7.  But nothing is guaranteed with this team, and that now includes the starting QB.  It’s never dull here in Jets-land…

Oh and by the way – the Pats clinched the AFC East today for the 9th time in 10 seasons. The more things change, the more they stay the same…

He Got His Wish

He Got His Wish

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…