The New York Jets losing to the San Francisco 49ers yesterday should not have surprised anybody. It does not merit a shocked or angry reaction. The approach to the game and the emphatic manner in which they lost does however merit a response. Hopefully that response is taking place among the coaching staff and front office of the organization as they take today and tomorrow to reflect on a few harsh realities.
On the game film from yesterday, the coaching staff is going to see what a legitimate Super Bowl contender looks like. The 49ers are the team Rex Ryan wants. A smash-mouth, versatile running game supported by an efficient quarterback on offense and an elite defense that can get after the quarterback and force turnovers. The New York Jets can’t be them because Muhammad Wilkerson isn’t Justin Smith. David Harris isn’t Patrick Willis. Quinton Coples isn’t Aldon Smith. Bart Scott isn’t NaVorro Bowman. Not even remotely close. Shonn Greene isn’t half the running back Frank Gore is. Dustin Keller is a very poor man’s Vernon Davis. Colin Kapernick is a fast Tim Tebow who can throw the football. And right now, Mark Sanchez isn’t anywhere near the quarterback Alex Smith is and that is saying something because Smith isn’t very good.
The Jets don’t have Super Bowl talent. The Jets have 8-8 talent with zero depth. There is no middle class on the Jets roster. There is no capable backups with bright futures. Continuing the San Francisco comparison because it really drives it home – the 49ers 3rd and 4th running backs, Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James could very well be the Jets 1st and 2nd best running backs. The 49ers 4th, 5th, and 6th wide receivers, Kyle Williams, AJ Jenkins and Ted Ginn Jr would be the Jets top three receivers this Monday night.
The lack of talent and depth gets dumped on Mike Tannebaum’s lap and it appears more analysts are finally jumping on the Mike Tannenbaum is doing an awful job train we have been driving here at TOJ the past year or so. When you have a pair of lackluster off-seasons in a row and don’t draft well it catches up to you. Unfortunately, there is no cure all trade or signing that can be made at this point. It is going to take a purging of overpriced veterans this off-season and a wise use of available cap space, something that Tannenbaum shouldn’t be given the chance to do but probably will because of his relationship with Woody Johnson.
Where does that leave the 2012 Jets right now? The problem with the game-plan against San Francisco was that the Jets approached the game like they had enough talent to compete with the 49ers. They mistakenly thought they could play their normal defensive scheme minus Darrelle Revis and stop their offense. They thought they could run a standard offensive game plan and score on the 49ers defense. They could not have been more wrong and that is on Rex Ryan’s hubris.
Similar to Tannenbaum, Ryan does a poor job of self-scouting his own talent. He overestimates the players on his roster. Hopefully, yesterday’s game tape will be a needed hard smack in the face resulting in Ryan realizing his team’s deficiencies. Against San Francisco the Jets should have been emptying the book on offense, mixing in gadget plays and new formations in hopes of catching their defense off guard. On defense, they should have been trying new formations, blitz schemes and personnel. Houston is coming to town this Monday and they are a better all-around team than San Francisco. If the Jets play straight up, they will lose by 30 points for the second week in a row.
On defense, it is time face the reality about the Jets linebackers. They have one very good inside linebacker who is having a poor year in David Harris and not much else. Bryan Thomas and Garrett McIntyre can’t play major reps on a good NFL defense. Calvin Pace and Bart Scott are slow, 2 down linebackers who are average players at best. The less linebackers on the field for the Jets, the better. We discussed in the off-season how the Jets are better built for a 4-3 or 46 and it is time for Rex to stop trying to fit square pegs in round holes in the 3-4.
Get Quinton Coples in the starting line-up and start showing more 4-3 looks. Accept the reality that Siona Pouha is hurt and give him time to heal while getting Kenrick Ellis more reps. At linebacker, more reps need to be given to Demario Davis immediately. Let him make his mistakes now and grow into the position he will hopefully be holding the next few years for the Jets. They need his speed out there. Put Aaron Maybin on the inactive list until he learns a second pass rush move and give Ricky Sapp a chance to rush the passer on third downs. In the secondary, hopefully Aaron Berry gets up to speed quickly. From a talent perspective, he could very well be starting over Kyle “I taunt the receiver when I’m beat by 10 yards” Wilson in a couple of weeks. Beyond that, you hope Antonio Cromartie and LaRon Landry continue their elevated level of play.
On offense, the solutions are going to be much harder to come by. Mark Sanchez was abysmal yesterday and the lack of supporting cast isn’t going to help him out of his slump. Tim Tebow is not the answer as a full time quarterback. He can be the answer as a shot in the arm to the offense if he is used properly, which Tony Sparano has shown no concept of doing. No more reps at H-Back. No more reps in the slot. No more reps at fullback. Get Tebow in the shotgun with Joe McKnight and Jeremy Kerley next to him and let him run option and take off up the middle on short yardage situations. Give him 10-12 carries a game. Treat him like a running back who is taking direct snaps and then pop in a deep pass on occasion to keep defenses honest.
The Jets are so bad at running back, that it wouldn’t be irrational to give recently signed Jonathan Grimes and roster ping pong ball Joe McKnight extended work. How could they be less productive than Shonn Greene? Go with a committee approach that hopefully pops a few big plays with the two of them and Bilal Powell. I mentioned Kerley in the Wildcat because he is type of player who should be getting 8-12 touches a game, especially in an offense as devoid of talent as the Jets. Use him how Green Bay uses Randall Cobb. Give him handoffs, pitches, quick screens…get the ball in his hands.
Mark Sanchez is so inconsistent that he may not be salvageable at this point. He needs to be given quick reads where he can get the ball out of his hands without too many progressions. Hopefully an improved, creative run game will open up some type of play action for him down the field. At wide receiver and tight end, you can only hope Stephen Hill and Dustin Keller get healthy and Chaz Schilens can be relied upon.
The Jets need a roster overhaul but they have 12 games left. In order to make those 12 games competitive, it is going to take creativity on both sides of the ball and a shake up of the depth chart. Hopefully Rex Ryan and his staff are smart enough to realize that.