When you watch that type of performance from a football team on a national stage with their season on the line, it begs the simple questions “What happened? What went wrong? Who is to blame?” Yet, we’ve seen this movie before the past two years. The Jets had a chance to be a playoff team last year but were blown out by the Philadelphia Eagles, a non-playoff team. They then lost by 15 to the New York Giants and ended the season with a loss to another non-playoff team, the Miami Dolphins. In 2012, it has been more of the same. In a pivotal game against Miami, who is currently 4-6, they were blown out on their home field. Then last night…well you saw what happened.
Since their December win in 2010 against Pittsburgh, the New York Jets don’t have a single impressive regular season win on their resume. What they do have on their resume is a collection of blowout losses. Three losses by 17 or more last year. Five losses by 17 or more this year…and counting. This isn’t a one game issue, a one mistake issue, or a one player issue. This is an organizational failure that is the product of poor personnel evaluation and a lack of accountability.
The 2010 Jets were a very good football team who won 11 games and a beat a 14 win New England team in the playoffs on the road. They laid an egg in the first half of the AFC Championship Game, which cost them a trip to the Super Bowl…the first in a series of recent Rex Ryan coaching blunders. But how does a team that talented so quickly fall?
Look at the 2009 draft now in retrospect. Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene and Matt Slauson were the only players they left that draft with. Three players. How do you build depth like that? Sanchez is clearly a game manager who can succeed if he is protected by a strong running game, talented skill position players and a very good defense. He is not built to carry a team. This was abundantly clear after 2010. Poor self-scouting led the Jets to believe otherwise, so they decided to proceed in 2011 with a three receiver base offense that was going to be pass heavy and neglected building around Sanchez.
Greene was a third round back who was effective after a defense was worn down by a quality starter like Thomas Jones or LaDainian Tomlinson. This wasn’t a first round back who had a skill set that was off the charts. He was a one-dimensional downhill runner. What did the Jets do heading into 2011? Make him their “bell-cow” back who was ready to receive 20+ carries every week. Poor self-scouting. Slauson was good enough to beat out Vladimir Ducasse and that was it. He started by default because a 2010 2nd round pick busted. Yet, the Jets didn’t replace him heading into this year. Poor self-scouting.
Now look at the 2010 draft, which is maybe the worst draft class in recent NFL history. The Jets left with four players…again no opportunity to build depth. Kyle Wilson. Vladimir Ducasse. Joe McKnight and John Conner. Think about that. Kyle Wilson is a below average nickelback, never-mind starting NFL corner and the Jets spent a first round pick on him. When you draft a corner in the first round in 2010 and you already have Darrelle Revis, you would think you wouldn’t be chasing Nnamdi Asomugha the next off-season and then settling on giving a big contract to Antonio Cromartie. But the Jets did. Ducasse can’t play in the NFL. Not at guard. Not at tackle. Not anywhere. The Jets replacement plan for Hall of Famer Alan Faneca was Ducasse…poor self-scouting. Conner was a one-dimensional fullback who brought nothing to the offense and the Jets already had Tony Richardson. So now you are carrying two fullbacks, including one who is useless…poor roster management. McKnight is a good kick returner and has potential on offense but can’t stay healthy.
Two poor drafts made worse by poor self-scouting set the table in a big way for the current issues. However, don’t forget the ill-fated chase for Asomugha. Remember, the Jets could have just re-signed Cromartie and they would have been fine. Instead they needed the “name” and they needed to be in the Asomugha chase. They lost and had to pay Cromartie an even bigger contract in the long run as “apology money.” What was worse is that in the process of going after Asomugha, they guaranteed money on contracts for Bart Scott and Calvin Pace to free up cap space, players on the downside of their career. They also went cheap at wide receiver and offensive line, ignoring the necessity of keeping talent around Sanchez and receivers that he had built chemistry with.
They began paying the price last year and are really paying it now. Scott and Pace are past their primes and aren’t equipped to start in this league anymore. The Jets didn’t want to pay Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery or Brad Smith. They went “name” and got Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason on relatively low cost deals. They floundered and now the Jets are starting from scratch again at receiver. The “plan” to replace Damien Woody and Alan Fancea was Ducasse and Wayne Hunter. Poor self-scouting by planning on handing jobs to two incompetent players.
Where does this leave them now? A mess. Below average players weighing down the cap with bloated contracts. The Tim Tebow trade was a PR-stunt to distract attention from a roster with glaring holes all over the place. Rex Ryan isn’t built to handle adversity like this and seems at a complete loss on how to handle such an untalented team. You can’t bluster wins which is what he is trying to do. He knew this team lacked talent but couldn’t talk down expectations because that’s not who he is. He also failed by hiring Tony Sparano to coach his offense, foolishly sticking to the “Ground and Pound” theory in a league that is moving away from that trend.
The logical move is to fire General Manager Mike Tannenbaum and completely rebuild the personnel department. Let your new GM improve the scouting, let him make a decision on Rex and the quarterback position. Let me oversee the gutting of this roster, which should see the departure of the following starters: Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas, Matt Slauson, Austin Howard, Shonn Greene, Lex Hilliard, and Brandon Moore.
There is no half-measure solutions. This roster needs to be turned over completely and rebuilt through strong drafts and wise decisions in free agency. There are a few scraps on this roster who have long term potential who will be useful moving forward (Muhammad Wilkerson, Jeremy Kerley, Quinton Coples, Demario Davis to name a few) but beyond that it is burn to the ground time.
You can’t get away with poor drafts and poor scouting in the NFL. The Jets are now a textbook example of that.