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 12 Recap: Black Thursday

Where do I even begin?  Before Thursday’s game, I predicted that the game would either be very close, or a blowout.  What I didn’t predict was a performance so embarrassing, that the Jets are now the butt (pun intended) of jokes everywhere.  This was a loss that brought Jets fans back to the days of Rich Kotite (1-15 record) and Joe Walton – the “same old Jets” days.  All of the success and credibility that Rex Ryan and co. earned in the first 2 years was basically wiped out in a span of 52 seconds.  It was that bad.  My only saving grace was that I didn’t have to watch this lame excuse for an NFL team on Thanksgiving evening.  And to think that Woody Johnson REQUESTED that the Jets play on national tv on Thanksgiving night.  Well, Woody, you got your wish.  I hope you enjoyed watching your $750MM purchase get humiliated in front of 40 million viewers.

Things actually started out well, ironically enough.  On the first play of the game, Mo Wilkerson sacked Brady for a loss and the Pats went thee and out.  But very quickly, Mark Sanchez proved once again that he is not the franchise QB this team so desperately needs.  On the Jets 2nd drive of the game, he once again single-handedly sabotaged any chance they had winning, by throwing his latest red zone INT.  And this one was bad, folks.  He was baited into a throw into double coverage by the CB – it was a mistake that only rookies make.  And with that throw went any momentum and hope that the Jets had early on in the game.

But of course, he won’t be remembered for that play in the game.  Oh, no.  He will be remembered for what the announcers described as a play right out of “football follies.” (does anyone else remember when they used to show football & baseball bloopers on tv – whatever happened to those?).  A play that many are calling the “most embarrassing in NFL history.” If you haven’t seen it by now, here it is.  It’s hilarious and sad and embarrassing and painful all at the same time.  It was so bad, that it even made headlines in the UK Papers!  And it really sums thing up.  A QB and a franchise that has no clue where it’s going…

Butthead

I’m running out of superlatives to describe these losses and this team.  How many ways can you say awful/depressing/terrible/pathetic/embarrassing, etc?  I’m open to suggestions.  Adding further salt to the wound, Rex responded with his latest litany of clueless comments: “I’m just as shocked as you are.”  “We are going to fix this.”  “Yes, Mark is still our QB.” “Yes, I do think I will be the coach next year and years to come.” (in his defense, what else is he going to say to that question?)

And now it’s come out that Tim Tebow was active as the only back-up QB, despite 2 fractured ribs – which apparently took over a week to diagnose!   So if Sanchez did get hurt (and he almost did), they would have to either play an injured Tim Tebow, or go with one of their RB or WRs at QB as their 3rd string QB, Greg McElroy, wasn’t even active. That’s just reckless and clueless coaching.

What I’m most amazed about however is how unprepared and undisciplined they were.  If I hear Rex say once more that they “had a great week of practice,” I’m going to personally get on a plane to New Jersey so I can laugh in his face.  And while it’s nice to know that the Jets will win the practice Super Bowl this year, it would be nice to see some of that phenomenal practicing paying off on the field.  The whole team, with the exception of Landry, Kerley, and Wilkerson, looked as if they would rather be at home with their families, eating Turkey.   And frankly, who could blame them?  Would you want to suit up and play for this sorry franchise right now?

Help Me – I Wish I Were You

We season ticket holders pay way too much money to accept this kind of play, especially when our owner forces us to give up part of our Thanksgiving to come watch this team live. Thank you, Mr. Johnson.  It’s clear that so far, you care more about ratings and your bottom line (not to mention Mitt Romney), than winning.  Please step up and demand some accountability.  Make the changes that need to be made, starting with Tannenbaum, and yes, Rex.  Thursday’s game changed my opinion on him.  It’s clear that he has lost this team and has no clue on how to change things.  The housecleaning should start the minute after the final game comes to an end.  And if it weren’t for the terrible contract that you gave to Sanchez last year, he should be going as well.

These last 5 games are going to be painful.  If I were in charge, I’d give the ball to Greg McElroy.  See what you have in this guy.  Throw Stephen Hill the ball 15 times a game.  Make Bilal Powell or Joe McKnight your starting RB.  On defense, bench Bart Scott, Bryan Thomas and anyone else over the age of 30.  The rest of the season is all about finding out what little you have to build on for 2013.   Start talking to the long list of proven NFL coaches who are currently out of work – Cowher, Gruden, Dungy, Payton, etc.  Give them the biggest contract for a coach in NFL history and get them to right the ship.  Allow them to help pick the GM as well.  Give your fans a reason to be hopeful for 2013.  If not, Woody will have a mutiny on his hands.  After spending upwards of $25,000 per PSL, the days of accepting mediocrity are over.

You’re officially on the clock, Mr. Johnson.

I Want My Money Back!

Welcome to the Florham Park Zoo

So, anything happen in Jetsville this week?  I mean, can it get any more ridiculous.  Let’s quickly review what’s happened:

  • As predicted, Jets Offensive Coordinator Brian “Schotty” Schottenheimer “resigned” from his post as Jets OC.  Offensive line coach Bill Callahan also bolted for Dallas
  • The Jets quickly hired Tony Sparano (not to be confused with Tony Soprano) to be their new OC

    Him

    Not Him

    Not Him

  • A number of unnamed Jets ripped Mark Sanchez in the media, and openly lobbied for Peyton Manning
  • Numerous Jets, including Nick Mangold and owner Woody Johnson, refuted that article and defended Sanchez’s work ethic, committment and talent

Did I miss anything?

Clearly Schotty had to go, although I don’t believe for a second that he resigned.  I’m sure he made out just fine financially, and he already has interviews lined up.  I like the Sparano hiring.  For starters – as the former Dolphins Head Coach, he knows the division.  He’ll know how to attack the Pats, Bills and Dolphins, and he’ll know how opposing defenses attack the Jets.  He’s a no-nonsense, back-to-basics coach who will focus on the run and protecting Sanchez.  He won’t take any BS, and will easily put people like Holmes back in their place.  And he wears sunglasses, day or night.  Sick.

The article trashing Sanchez was sad for so many reasons.  For starters, it was not only embarrassing that players would trash their teammate like that, but even worse, they weren’t man enough to share their names – pathetic.  Second, the comments were just plain wrong.  Numerous Jets and even the owner have come to Sanchez’ defense, citing his incredibly strong work ethic and dedication.  He’s a first in, last out kind of guy.  He’s clearly less than perfect, but the things mentioned in that article were just plain wrong.  And as far as Peyton Manning goes…that’s just a dream, folks.  Why would he come here?  What’s to gain?  Sorry, I don’t buy it.  And finally – the New York press should be called out for another example of irresponsible reporting.  Only in New York is it acceptable to publish an article filled with half-truths and anonymous quotes.  That article is just another example of why so many players don’t want to play in New York.

It’s amazing to me that in the run-up to the divisional week of the playoffs, the Jets are somehow front-page news, and even the lead story on SportsCenter yesterday.  It shows how polarizing Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez are, and just how much New York teams are always under the spotlight.  The Giants are not even getting as much press!

Many questions still remain, with the Sanchise’s future as the biggest.  Rich Cimini, my favorite Jets beat writer, posted a well thought out and balanced analysis of what it will take to salvage his future.  A must-read.

Just another boring week in Jetsville…