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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

M-E-S-S Mess! Mess! Mess!

ESPN ran a regular segment on SportsCenter with updates of the New York Jets training camp. It was complete with clever one-liners by Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan, minor controversy involving remarks by cornerback Antonio Cromartie, a manufactured quarterback controversy that wasn’t, and hour-by-hour Tim Tebow updates. A number of hosts and callers on local and syndicated sports talk shows expressed disapproval with ESPN’s reporting mix.

“Why the Jets? They are just one team. They aren't even a Super Bowl front runner.” That’s all very true. They are also INTERESTING. In 2012, however, their appeal was less like an NFL team and more like that of a train wreck. A train wreck is the only way to describe the New York Jets’ season, which will not end in the postseason after their 14-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football last night.


Mark Sanchez did not have a very good season. The debacle that was the Jets’ season is not all his fault. It isn't even “mostly” his fault. In fact, I wouldn't put Sanchez if the “Fault Top Five” for finger-pointing and assigning blame for the Jets playoff-less season.

Mark Sanchez is a game manager. He does not have a rocket arm. He is not a play extender or a play maker. Mark Sanchez is a quarterback who if given adequate protection, quality wide receivers, and a running threat that the opposing defense has to account for, he can win most of his games, including playoff games. When Sanchez has none of that, if the defense doesn’t set the offense up to win the game, the Jets will probably lose.

This year’s Jets only had one quality wide receiving threat, albeit a star, Santonio Holmes. To call his other receivers, save for tight end Dustin Keller, “mediocre” would be offensive to mediocre receivers. The Jets got off to a 2-1 start. Then Holmes was lost for the season in week 4. The Jets’ offense went down in a ball of flames.

The Jets have a quality starting running back in Schonn Greene, but he did not begin to significantly produce until the middle of the season. By that time, the wheels had already begun to loosen on the Jets’ wagon. There were no noteworthy complimentary backs to Greene in the backfield.

I think this is a bit excessive. 1

Future Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson retired before training camp. While in the twilight of his career, Tomlinson was still a valuable contributor in the Jets’ passing game last season. The Jets’ solution? Do they draft a suitable replacement or pursue a veteran free agent running back? No. Do they beef up their receiveing core with future a Hall of Famer like Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson available before the start of the regular season (say what you will about Owens or Johnson but both of them are better than any healthy Jets’ WR)? No. Do they attempt to at least shore up some depth in a thin offensive line? No.

How does the Jets front office address glaring deficiencies at running back, receiver and offensive line? They arrange for a trade with the Denver Broncos for Tim Tebow, the least accurate starting quarterback in the National Football League in 2011 and also the biggest fan favorite and media draw. Brilliant! Address the most important position on the field by bringing in a backup who will prove to be a distraction and undermine the standing of the starter!

Tim Tebow: Just what the doctor ordered, if the Doctor is named "Kevorkian"!

Tebow Mania was nonstop in the New York and national media. And while Tebow was little more than an infrequently used decoy on the field, I cannot imagine how the incredibly high amount of media attention he received was not a distraction, especially when the Jets’ offense began to sputter. Mark Sanchez said and did all of the right things in adjusting to Tebow’s presence on the team. However, the most popular player on ANY team during a slump is the backup quarterback. The Jets’ backup QB happens to be one of the most popular players in the league.

The Jets had final scores of ten points or less in eight of their 14 games played so far this year, almost unbelievable in today’s very quarterback-friendly NFL. The demand of a QB switch could be expected from any fan base, but Tebow’s presence left The Sanchize in a position in which he was looking over his shoulder before the season started. Rex Ryan benched Sanchez during a lackluster performance in a win over the downward spiraling Arizona Cardinals earlier this month. Wisely, he replaced Sanchez with Greg McElroy, not Tebow. That move seems to have doused many of the Tebow Mania flames, but the damage was already done.

There is nothing cool about being benched in sports, but Sanchez (center) had to take some silent comfort that if he wasn't wearing his helmet that at least Tebow ( right) wasn't either. 3

Rex Ryan’s future in the Big Apple has begun to be called into question. Still, I would be stunned if he weren't given another year to help right the ship. He is too brilliant of a defensive mind and he, as head coach, makes the Jets a desirable destination for free agents. His players love him and he is the ultimate motivator. He has demonstrated too much potential as a Head Coach to simply cut ties after one bitterly disappointing season.

The Jets organization has parts in place that give them the ability to reach greatness. Their leadership at the top and their personnel decisions worked as an albatross this season. The Jets need to stick with Sanchez, as no draft pick or free agent is going to fall into their lap in the coming offseason. They need to place Tim Tebow DEEP on the bench or make it clear from the start of training camp that Sanchez is the starter. This means no repetitions for Tebow with the first unit during training camp or practice…ever. Finally, they have GOT to get some competent receivers and other offensive skill players on the roster. Every last draft pick should be used on a receiver, offensive lineman, or running back. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, or Peyton Manning might not be able to will this supporting cast to more than a 9-7 record.

The Jets are an interesting team to follow. The circus is fun to follow, too. IF the Jets are serious about making a super Bowl run next season, it is time to fold up the tent in the big Apple.

Rex Ryan: "Don't forget to write if I'm not here next year."
Don't forget to vote in the fan polls!

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