New York Jets: Don’t Give Up on Rex Ryan Just Yet

Chris Gross on why Rex Ryan shouldn’t be the fall guy for the New York Jets struggles this year

Over the past few weeks, the New York Jets have seen their season come undone in front of their very eyes. The Jets have lost 4 out of their last 5 games, 2 of which came in blowout fashion in their home stadium. Many have attributed this to poor coaching. Analysts, fans, writers, and even casual football observers have suggested that perhaps Rex Ryan is not quite head coaching material yet, that maybe he is better served as a coordinator. The same groups of people have also suggested that the Jets need to go after a former head coach with championship pedigree, someone like Bill Cowher or John Gruden.

However, the issues with the New York Jets go far beyond the coaching staff. The front office of this franchise has put this team in hole that could likely set it up for another year of poor play and mediocrity. General Manager Mike Tannenbaum and those who work within the department have maliciously restructured and back loaded a surplus of player contracts, guaranteeing the salaries for this season and beyond to guys who would have likely been released due to their dip in performance over the past two seasons. Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, and even David Harris have all played mediocre at their best this season, and absolutely horrible at their worst. Yet, Scott and Pace, who began to slide last year, had guaranteed salaries for 2012, so they were not expendable for the Jets. Remember when Tannenbaum supposedly gave Scott permission to seek a trade this past offseason? Other teams likely laughed at the notion. Who would be foolish enough to take on the guaranteed salary of a player past his prime, clearly on the downside of his career?

Fortunately for the Jets, Scott and Pace can be released next season without any serious financial repercussions. Harris, on the other hand, is guaranteed just over $9 million for 2013; so unless the Jets can do what the Yankees did to David Justice when they traded him to Oakland, don’t expect Harris to be playing elsewhere next season. The reason these guaranteed contracts are tied into the current state of affairs with the Jets is because they limit the money that can be spent elsewhere throughout the roster. This is why you are seeing this team, who was an AFC Championship contender just two seasons ago, fall so far from grace that they are the laughing stock of the league. So poorly General Manager Mike Tannenbaum has constructed this roster, that the Jets are stuck starting players who likely would not see the field, or possibly make the active roster, on some quality teams around the league.

The Jets have lost a total of 7 games so far this season. While people continue to point to the coaching as the primary reason for these losses, many are forgetting just how depleted and shallow this roster really is. Let’s take a look at how the Jets talent compares to the teams that they have lost to this season, starting with the offensive personnel.

The information in green in the above chart represents the Jets offensive season statistics up until this point in the year. Based on the team’s depth chart, players are inserted into their proper position (Sanchez at QB, Greene at RB1, Powell at RB2, and so on and so forth). The information on the right side of the chart (in white) represents the season average of all of the Jets opponents’ statistics at their respective positions. The idea here is to give a representation of how truly overmatched the Jets have been, in terms of talent, against the teams that they have lost to this season.

Let’s start by looking at the quarterback. Mark Sanchez is performing statistically below average, in comparison to his opponents that have defeated him, in every single category. His completion percentage is nearly a full 9 points lower than the average completion percentage of that group, while his turnover ratio is much higher, touchdowns are much lower, and QBR and passer rating aren’t even comparable.

Now, the obvious argument here is that he has faced Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks who alter the average because of their inflated numbers. Well, that assertion is false. Also included in that group are two rookies in Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson, a quarterback in Alex Smith who has just been replaced in San Francisco, and Matt Schaub who is good, but is certainly not the next Joe Montana. This is an average based off of two great, one decent, and 3 below average quarterbacks. An argument could certainly be made if these numbers were somewhat close, but for the most part they aren’t even comparable. Sanchez’s QBR isn’t even half of the average of that of his opponents, and his passer rating is nearly a full 20 points lower, as well. The level that he has played at for Rex Ryan and the Jets this year, would surely render him a backup if placed on any of these teams, and possibly in a third string role in some cases (New England, San Francisco, Seattle, and perhaps even Miami). The NFL is a quarterback driven league, as everyone is well aware of, and when you’re quarterback is performing well below the average of his competition, it is a miracle that you are able to win any games, never mind four.

Onto the running back situation. It’s no surprise that Shonn Greene is below the average of opposing starting running backs. This is an assertion most people who have observed the Jets this season have come to terms with. Greene is not a feature NFL back. He would be most productive in a stable of effective backs, primarily as a downhill runner late in games, as he was in the early stages of his career.

Unfortunately, though, Greene clearly is not in a solid stable of backs with the roster currently in place in New York. Take Bilal Powell for example. Although Powell has gotten one carry less than the average of RB2 on the teams the Jets have fallen to this season, he is still well below in total rushing yards, and is averaging nearly a full yard less per carry. His 24.4 yards per game and 0 carries of 20 or more yards are just not the numbers of a solid number two back capable of spelling a solid lead runner. His 3 touchdowns are impressive by comparison, but remember two of those came by clever play calling by Tony Sparano in St. Louis. Powell can be better if given a bigger role, but he has not performed to the average of his counterparts thus far.

Joe McKnight is, not shockingly, the only back outplaying his roster spot in comparison to RB3 on teams New York has lost to. Turn On The Jets has been a McKnight advocate all season long. His 22 carries are almost 5 less than the average at his position, however he has attained over 25 more yards than the average third back has. His yardage per game is only slightly above average, but remember, as the weeks continue to pass without him getting carries, that number is out of his control. By comparison, this position is the only one on the Jets offensive depth chart that they hold an advantage to over their opponents – the third running back spot.

As far as the wide receivers on this team go, the numbers speak for themselves. First, note that Santonio Holmes, who has been inactive since week 4, is still second among this group of receivers in receiving yards, and third on the team, overall. Now, let’s break into the current depth on the active roster.

Jeremy Kerley has been solid for the Jets this year, as the only real viable option in the entire corps. Unfortunately, though, Kerley just simply isn’t a number one receiver, a role he has been forced to take on due to injury and (what do you know) a lack of depth. As the chart displays, Kerley would be a solid number 2 receiver by comparison to the average of those opponents. As a primary target, though, he is, like his teammates, well below average. With nearly ten fewer catches, over 67 fewer total receiving yards, and just about 10 fewer yards per game, Kerley is a number 2 option that has been forced into a number 1 option due to poor roster depth.

Now, observing the remaining three receiver spots, you will find that New York has three players that play to the level of the average third wide receiver on those opponents. Gates is slightly below that average, but slightly above the average of the fourth receiver, outside of yards per catch and yards per game. Schillens and Hill would both be decent third receivers at this point, which Schillens basically is, but neither are even close to being an average number 2. In other words, the Jets have one number 2 and three number 3’s or 4’s on their roster. Combine that with the QB play that is well below average by comparison, and again, it is a miracle that this team is able to accumulate any type of passing offense.

The Tight End numbers are a bit altered because of injury, with Keller missing reps and Cumberland having to fill the void of TE1, but what you’ll see is New York is, once again, far below average at the position. It his hard to judge whether or not Keller would be better, statistically, and Cumberland worse, if Keller never missed time due to injury, but the bottom line is, neither of these Tight Ends are playing up to par at their respective positions.

Offensively, this team’s lack of talent is a true display of how hard it has been for the Jets to scratch out four wins so far. You have below average starters at every position, many of whom aren’t even playing at the level of opposing backups. Look at the opponents on that list and go through their rosters position by position, comparing them to the players on the Jets. Many players on this roster would not make some of those teams – Clyde Gates (who actually didn’t make one of those teams), Cumberland, and perhaps even Dustin Keller (NE, SF). When observing this personnel and the level each player has performed at thus far, is it really surprising that the Jets have lost seven games, or is it shocking that they have won four?

Onto the defensive side of the ball – Below is a chart similar to that of the one that represents the Jets offensive personnel in comparison to the opponents that they have lost to, position by position. The numbers in the orange represent the average numbers of the top three players at each position on opponents the Jets have lost to, with the exception of defensive tackle, where the average has used the top two spots on the depth chart from each of those teams. In the green, each defensive player on the Jets is represented. The number of players used coincides with the number of players used to determine the average of the opponents, to give you an accurate representation of where each player stands.

First, let’s observe defensive end. It should come as a surprise to no one that Muhammad Wilkerson is playing far above the average of opposing defensive ends. Wilkerson is superior in every statistical category, with the exception of sacks. Coples is only slightly below in terms of tackles, but is well above in tackles for loss. Sack wise, unfortunately, is where he, like Wilkerson, is below average. DeVito, is well above the average number of tackles, but again, lacks in sacks and even tackles for loss.

At defensive tackle, Sione Pouha has performed slightly above average, despite missing time, while Kenrick Ellis has been hampered by injury, causing his numbers to be below average. Taking the two of them into account, the Jets have had fairly average to slightly below average play at the NT position this year, a position that is vital to a successful 3-4 defense.

Another vital position in this scheme is outside linebacker. Here, the play is below average in nearly every statistic, at every spot on the depth chart. As far as sacks go, it isn’t even close. The defensive line is hampered by the inability to rush the passer from the OLB position. Often times, as our film breakdowns have revealed, teams can easily block one of these player using only one lineman or back, resulting in a great amount of double teams to Wilkerson and Coples. In other words, the OLB’s inability to rush the passer is preventing the defensive line from rushing the passer. This is a vicious cycle in this scheme, but a true representation of why this team has struggled so mightily in the area.

To finish out the front seven, we move to inside linebacker. David Harris is well above average in his run support, but far behind against the pass (only 2 PD vs. the average of 4, and 0 INT vs. the average of 0.7). This should come as a surprise to no one, considering how Harris’s struggles in coverage have been noted throughout the season. Behind Harris is Bart Scott and rookie DeMario Davis. Scott is clearly a well below average LB at this point in his career, and is making a strong push for the “poor” category. Scott likely doesn’t make the active roster in San Francisco, New England, Miami, Seattle, or Pittsburgh. Davis is promising as a rookie, but clearly he hasn’t performed up to par as well. Basically, this team has four starting linebackers who would be backups at best if placed on one of these opposing teams.

In the secondary, Landry and Bell have played excellent in run support, as the numbers indicate. Landry has performed better than Bell in the coverage area, but is still slightly below average, which tells you what you need to know about Bell’s play in coverage thus far. Eric Smith has been in and out of the active lineup because of injury, but considering he is the third safety on the roster, he hasn’t played insanely bad.

As far as the corners go, the only player worthy of any type of recognition is Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie has three more passes defended than the average opponent, and nearly 2 more interceptions. His touchdown separates him from a majority of the group as well. Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster have been decent in terms of tackling, both still below average, but not necessarily horrible. However, in terms of coverage, it is rather embarrassing. Wilson has defended less than half of the average number of passes than his opponents, and he is a starter. Lankster isn’t quite as bad, but remember he has a lot more passes thrown his way when in the game, so that number is likely inflated.

In Short, this defense is solid at about 3 positions – defensive end, strong safety, and cornerback. You have about three players on the entire unit that are playing above the average of those players on opponents that have beaten the Jets. Combining this lack of talent, with the clear lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball, is a clear indication of how poorly this roster has been built.

Most people want to put the blame on Rex, and their motives are certainly justified. Rex is far from perfect as a head coach. His lack of holding players accountable, particularly Mark Sanchez, needs to be altered if he wishes to have any success as a head coach in this league. However, Tom Coughlin altered his coaching style from a pure disciplinarian, with little personal connection to his players, to more of an emotional coach, back in 2007. This slight tweak in his coaching philosophy has led to two Super Bowl wins. Now, no one here is comparing Ryan to Coughlin. Coughlin is surely the superior head coach, and will be for some time. The point is, coaches can adjust and achieve success. Rex is more than capable of this adjustment. The true question is whether or not he is willing to do it.

Aside from this flaw, Rex is the right man for this head coaching job, at least for the next year. Among the head coaches in Jets history, Ryan ranks second in winning percentage behind only Bill Parcells. Ryan also has the most playoff victories of any of these coaches. Is this more of a reflection of how poor the coaching has been in this franchise’s history? Perhaps, but the point is, when you get a guy who has shown that he can win games, you don’t kick him out the door at the first sign of struggle. All coaches struggle at some point; it is part of the business.

Now the next argument that is often made against Ryan is that he inherited a loaded roster in his first two years, which is the only reason for his early success. This is another assertion that is very narrow-minded. Remember, there were only 4 new starters from the 2008 roster during Rex’s first year. Brett Favre, who made the pro bowl in ’09, was replaced with a rookie from Southern California who had only one year of college starting experience under his belt. Braylon Edwards was brought in after the team had already won three games, and proved to be a useful weapon to the rookie Sanchez. Defensively, the only two additions that were made to the starting unit were two free agents in Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard, who happen to have been previously coached under Ryan in Baltimore. With these minor additions, Ryan propelled this defense from 16th to 1st in a year. Offensively, Ryan’s strong rushing philosophy kick started a run game that jumped from 9th in 2008 to 1st in 2009.

Most importantly, though, Ryan changed the culture of this franchise. For years, the Jets had accepted mediocrity, often hovering around .500, or sneaking into the playoffs and being bounced in the first or second round. No one in the league seriously feared the Jets, but when Ryan arrived he installed a bloodthirsty attitude throughout his team. Suddenly, the Jets went from the hunted to the hunters. In 2009 we saw a Jets team that displayed a higher sense of urgency and team bond than he had seen in years, for some of us, a lifetime.

Ryan came in and did what no other coach in the history of this franchise has been able to do – win 4 playoff games. Never mind the fact that he did this in his first two seasons; that number currently ranks first in playoff wins by a Jets head coach, as previously noted. Unfortunately for the Jets, after 2009, the personnel department slowly began to dismantle the roster, resulting in the current lack of talent and depth that we have gone over.

In 2010, the Jets drafted Kyle Wilson in the first round. Wilson has played at the level of about a 4th rounder for the majority of his career. Many people want to blame Rex for this pick, but remember this decision was made in anticipation of a Darrelle Revis holdout. The front office likely wanted to have insurance and leverage over the looming Revis extension. So while it is easy to think that Wilson was Rex’s choice, remember that Mike Tannenbaum likely wanted to cover his rear end in the event that he could not structure a new deal for Revis.

Since then, the front office has done its best to dismantle this team. They have let key pieces leave, while replacing them with far inferior players. Tannenbaum has given guaranteed contracts to players in the tale end of their careers, who haven’t lived up to their ends of the bargain. Blame Ryan all you want, but don’t forget that the General Manager has the final say in all personnel decisions. Is it a surprise that teams run by Jerry Jones and the late Al Davis have had so much trouble keeping a head coach and finding adequate talent? This isn’t to compare Tannenbaum to either of those two, but the point is that head coaches are there to coach the players given to them by their front office, and that is exactly what has happened with the Jets.

Rex Ryan, although flawed, is not at fault for the troubles of this season. He has been given a well below average roster, and has still mustered up 4 wins, while coming very close to beating two of his conference’s best teams. The 2009 and 2010 teams, although talented, did not really have any superior players, other than Darrelle Revis, and Ryan brought each of those teams within a play or two from the Super Bowl. Rex has what it takes to get this team its first championship in over 40 years, but based on the numbers and clear lack of talent, not even the best of coaches could get this team above .500.

The front office of this organization is to blame for the misfortune you have all witnessed, not the coach. Based on the information presented here, Ryan has exceeded the talent on this team, and at only four wins, that tells you all you need to know about the poor work done by the front office in recent years. The common desire is for New York to bring in a head coach with championship pedigree, like Gruden or Cowher, as mentioned above. But remember this very true statistic – no coach in the history of the NFL has ever won a Super Bowl with two different teams.

Rex has the ability to lead this team to a championship, and most importantly he has the hunger to do so, as well. Give him average talent, not even great, and this team will be able to compete for a championship. As the roster stands now, the Jets are not only below the top performers at each position, but they are well below average. No coach is winning with what Rex has to work with. Changes need to be made, but Head Coach is the one spot that needs to remain intact for the Jets to get where they want to be in the quickest manner.

 

From The Outside Looking In – Buffalo Fan On Fireman Ed

A Buffalo Bills fan gives his take on Fireman Ed stepping down

Every now and then, we like to publish an outside opinion. Today’s comes from Kevin Kelly of GET Broken Record, but more importantly of the Buffalo Bills fanbase. I was curious how somebody outside of the Jets fanbase, looked at the situation. So here it is – 

The New York Jets can learn a lot from the Buffalo Bills & the Cleveland Browns. Here’s why:

The Jets just lost their most notable fan. What’s worse, the Jets community approached this headline the same way they’ve approached every other lackluster, problem-laced gag moment of the 2012 season: Point fingers, blame someone else, then isolate the lone problem and get rid of it in attempts to bring about that Championship season everyone keeps talking about.

Take a step back. Know that it’s a true impossibility to see the forest through the trees. And stop wanting everything you want right now just because you want it right now.

Overwhelmingly, we’re New Yorkers (Jersey, Northeast, Tri-State, fine, whatever) and as a result– we want everything now. Not in five minutes. Right. Now.

We get upset when there’s a line for coffee in the morning. We curse under our breathe when we miss a train by a split second, we’ve been the bridge or hit traffic in the tunnel and thought about leaving the city for good. Forever. Starting right now. –we’ve nudged, bumped, screamed & been screamed at, pushed, pulled & prodded all in attempts to get us wherever we were going just a little bit faster. Because we’re in New York. And New York waits for no Man.

Even right now, as you’re reading these words, there’s a chance you’re probably thinking ‘Get to the point’ 

The only place in the world where people toss aside their loyalty with reckless abandon is New York City. Believe me, when the Jets are good again,  when there’s no more snow and the weather is fair, you’ll be right back to loving that team you ‘never doubted for a minute’ and ‘always knew would pull it out’, but for now–because they haven’t given you all that you’ve wanted and all you think you’re entitled to and deserve just because you watch them on Sundays, you’ve turned your back on your team. Textbook New York sports fan. Love ’em when they’re up. Hate ’em when they’re down.

Blame Woody Johnson, he brought Tebow along when we didn’t need him.

WHO WOULD’VE THOUGHT a business owner would make a move intended to generate revenue, merchandising & ticket sales.

Blame Rex Ryan, he talks way too much and won’t throw Sanchez under the army of buses Jets Nation has already rolled over him.

WHO WOULD’VE THOUGHT a Coach would stand behind his choice when the going got tougher than its ever been. A coach publicly supports his mentee (with half a season to go) and the witch-hunt warriors want both their heads. Think about morral, think about Belief. A belief in oneself is the first step in achieving greatnessAnd if it’s not, why is that phrase in so many self-help books on personal achievement (i.e. Napoleon Hill’s Think & Grow Rich, Deepak Shopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Jack Canfield’s Success Principles, all New York Times Bestsellers) A Coach’s job is to motivate, he’s not on the field. It’s a Coach’s responsibility to get the most out of the players on the field, and I think Ryan acts the way he does with this mantra in mind, however convoluted it might seem behind the smokescreen of screams and rants and raves.

For Rex to walk that back, shatters a psyche.

If Rex denounces Sanchez, then the last shred of mental composure goes out the door. When an athlete questions their ability, when they start thinking and analyzing and wondering “what if” …bad things happen. In sports, they’re called the “Yips”

Think about a kicker that misses a field goal opportunity early on in the game?

How does everyone feel the next time he’s got to go kick another one?

Yip.

Anybody remember Chuck Knoblauch in the postseason?  Yip. Rick Ankiel? Yip.

The most famous was Greg Norman. Arguably one of the greatest golfers in the world in the early 90s, in the 1996 Masters Tournament, Norman took a 6-shot lead over Nick Faldo into Sunday. He shot a 78, blew the lead and lost the Masters. It’s considered by many the greatest choke of all time.  Afterward, Norman was asked: “What happened? What went wrong” His answer?

“I turned the computer on. And couldn’t turn it off.”

Simply put, he thought way too much. We process constantly. We worry, over-think, over-analyze, create dozens (or more) of the worst possible hypotheticals. It’s poison, and it cost Greg Norman the Green Jacket.

For Rex Ryan to denounce Sanchez, someone who has heard the “amost” and “what-if” and “has to happen now” and “TEBOW” nonsense all season, would be catastrophic, and would cue the beginning of the end for #6 in a Jets uniform.

You could blame the owner. You could blame management. You could blame the Coach. You could blame the coaching staff. You could blame the players themselves. And now Jets fans, you’ve turned your sites on the FANS.  It promptly cost you one Fireman.

The point, dear Reader, is that you’re a Championship town cheering for a non-Championship team.

It doesn’t mean it won’t happen, it just means it won’t happen now. Are you the only team making blockbuster moves worth tens of millions and still end up with a losing record? The Bills aren’t good this year (as with most), but they’re not crying for Mario Williams’ head on a stick.

Yes, it sucks to be considered a second-tier team by your coworkers because they’re Giants fans… but who cares- that’s not how the rest of the country sees it. The Jets are struggling. Be a JETS fan and route for your team.

The Bills lost 4 Super Bowls in a row. Marv Levy kept his job, Scott Norwood was embraced by the Bills faithful, not rejected. Jim Kelly could run for Mayor and win. There are talks the Bills are looking to leave Buffalo, and what happened? The city rallied around their team, Jim Kelly is looking to buy it outright with a group of investors. Kelly by the way can be found in the parking lot of Ralph Wilson stadium on Game Days wearing a hoodie and tailgating with fans.

The Cleveland Browns are terrible. They’ve been terrible for a while. They were so bad, Art Modell picked them up, left the city and planted them in Baltimore calling them ‘Ravens’. Cleveland didn’t have a team for a while. But the city wanted it. The fans wanted their team. Good, bad, ugly, the fans supported their team. They have a new team now and play at a new stadium, they’re still not that good but they’re getting better. The ticket prices are just as expensive as anywhere else and any other game, the jerseys cost the same amount, the beer is expensive, the investment in time and attention among fans is identical anywhere else in the country (on average) than it is in New York but they don’t approach the field with the brashly arrogant New York attitude of “I just bought this ticket so win now or go to hell cuz YOU owe me!”.  Instead, they go out and support their team.

There is a reality oblivious to New York sports fans:  Fans, and the teams they cheer for, are really in this together. We’re happy when we win. We’re not happy when we lose. But we don’t abandon ship. The waters have been muddied with free agency but the colors on the uniform and what that stands for hasn’t gone anywhere. There is an unspoken sense of pride & community when you see someone outside of the sports arena with Jets apparel on, or find out they’re a fan in passing conversation. They are immediately closer to you. It’s a brotherhood.

Attacking itself from within is a cancer. United we stand. Divided we fall.  I’ll forgo the Gettysburg Address, but you get the point.

Players, coaches & executive personnel come and go. The undeniable constant that ties us all together is that the name on the front of the jersey is, has and will always be more important than the name on the back. Don’t ever forget that.

New York Jets – How To Handle Offense In Final Five Games

How the New York Jets should handle their offense in the final five games of the 2012 season

In case you haven’t noticed the New York Jets offense is awful. Truly, almost indescribably awful. It is the lethal combination of mediocre talent, poor coaching and a lack of organization. The result is consistent failures in short yardage and the red-zone, turnovers, penalties and of course…ass-fumbles. Yet, there is still five games left to play. Five very winnable games against similarly poor football teams. How should the New York Jets approach these games to both remain competitive and be productive for their 2013 season? Let’s take a position by position look –

Quarterback – Whether you want to accept it or not, Mark Sanchez is going to be on the roster next year because of his contract. Hopefully a competent veteran is brought in to compete with him. Tim Tebow didn’t play when he was healthy. He isn’t going to play with broken ribs. He isn’t going to be team’s quarterback next year so get the idea of him starting out of your head. The wisest course of action is to have Sanchez play out the string and hopefully take steps towards improving and building some type of momentum towards next year. The only way we are going to see Greg McElroy under center is if the Jets lose their next three games. At that point, particularly if Sanchez continues to struggle it would be wise to give him a look. Although Jets fans need to taper any kind of expectations for him, he was a seventh round pick for a reason and hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire in his pre-season opportunities.

Running Back – Unlike at quarterback, the incumbent starter isn’t going to be back next year. The Jets are going to let Shonn Greene walk in free agency because he isn’t a lead back, can’t contribute in the passing game and can’t make anybody miss. Why continue to give him 15+ carries per game? We’ve seen this movie before. Give Bilal Powell, Joe McKnight and particularly Kahlil Bell extended work. Find out if any of the three can be your 1B option next season when you go find a new starter via free agency, trade or the draft. McKnight is averaging 6 yards per carry (with a small sample size) and Bell has a career average of 4.5 yards per carry…isn’t that worth a look?

Wide Receiver – No more Clyde Gates, who shouldn’t be on a NFL roster. Jeremy Kerley should remain the primary “Z” receiver with Stephen Hill taking as many reps as he can get at split end. Yes, this contradicts what we said last week about sending him to the bench but with the playoffs now out of the question and Chaz Schilens banged up, give Hill the reps and let him build some confidence heading into next year. Throw him smoke screens. Throw him hitches. Get him going again on easy catches and yards after the catch and then take some shots down the field with him. He is likely the opening day split end next year, so why not let him work through improvements now? The slot receiver should be fellow rookie Jordan White. Give him the reps now and see if he can be a contributor next year. If Hill and White show anything these next five games, next year’s group of receivers with them, Kerley and Santonio Holmes might actually be a productive group.

Tight End – Dustin Keller’s future remains up in the air but you have to keep playing him because the Jets only have so many players who can get open. It probably wouldn’t hurt to give Hayden Smith a longer look at some point but this team likely needs to revamp this entire position in the off-season.

Offensive Line – Bench Matt Slauson and Austin Howard for Vladimir Ducasse and Jason Smith. We suggested this during the bye week and it hasn’t happened yet, so why not now? Let’s see what Ducasse and Smith can do with 100% of the reps at their respective positions. We know Slauson (who is gone after this year when his contract expires) and Howard (same thing) aren’t the long term answers, so give their backups a chance. If you don’t have confidence in Ducasse, how about playing Caleb Schlauderaff or Hayworth Hicks? They are taking up roster space, so why not use them?

New York Jets – Fireman Ed’s Exit Is Loudest Chant Of All

TJ Rosenthal on Fireman’s Ed exit and the general decline of the relationship between the Jets and their fans

Fireman Ed’s stepping down as Jets “Superfan” provides us all with an opportunity to take stock of how much has deteriorated in stadium seats since he first became the face of the Jet fan some thirty odd years ago. We have traveled considerably from the once standard “suit and fedora” event wearing garb, to the jersey numbered taunters and instigators that many of us have become,. Like the Jets play on the field this season, behavior in the stands has become at times, deplorable. It is hard to blame Ed for choosing to no longer be the target of other people’s anger, yet fans themselves are not the only ones deserved of the scrutiny while our decorum grows increasingly volatile.

Former New York Knicks legend Bill Bradley noted in the Harvey Araton book “When The Garden Was Eden,” that the connection between the city and the championship teams that he played on in 1970 and 1973 was a collective one steeped in a mutual exchange of “brotherhood, cooperation, excellence, teamwork, joy, and self fulfillment.” The evolution of live sporting events that have led us towards PSL’s, and the rising cost of game ticket prices have since altered the relationship between fan and player that existed during Bradley’s years as a player . The same era in which Ed began leading the J-E-T-S chant.

The more innocent notion of spectating and cheering on one’s home squad, has been replaced today by a greater need within the fan for his or her team to “win now.” An emotion that runs parallel with the current sense of entitlement for the loyalist. Paying an arm and a leg to witness the journey, now means that results must validate the investment. When home teams fail to deliver, the frustration in home stadiums, as we all have seen and experienced, grows faster and more ferociously than ever before.

Few wore replica jerseys and colors that publicly promoted one’s own leanings back when Ed Anzalone first became “Fireman Ed.” Merchandise was more kitschy, less plentiful, and overall, less available in the early 1980’s. Going back in time prior to the dress down relaxed wear of the 1970’s, attendance for public events including sporting contests was still further characterized by the more formal suit and tie. Fights and arguments still took place above playing fields during television’s golden  age, but the societal code of conduct as a whole, was more polite. Such as during times when people sat down to watch a game together.

Nowadays, booze filled stadium-goers promote their loyalty with every type of visual gear imaginable in the form of jerseys, sweatshirts, caps, and more. You name it, the NFL makes it. At the risk of those who sport the attire, becoming reachable targets of displeasure.

Visiting team supporters are often harassed simply for wearing the “wrong colors” from the minute they enter any lion’s den. In the case of Ed, his backing of embattled quarterback Mark Sanchez with the number “6” during Sanchez’s unforgettable gaffe of crashing into G Brandon Moore, turned Ed’s own allies into enemies last Thursday night. This during an embarrassing 49-19 loss on national TV to the hated Patriots. In a game that consisted of never ending Jet follies that reminded too many in attendance of the ugly days that marred the Rich Kotite era.

When Jets owner Woody Johnson acquired polarizing backup Tim Tebow back in March to both add a playmaker while increasing merchandise sales, he probably failed to consider what the combination of rising prices for a struggling team with poor quarterback play, would bring out in his own customers by late November.

Florham Park’s constant presentation of the Jets as a viable Super Bowl contender has not helped the situation out either. The Jets are not the only team in professional sports however, that justifies the high cost to attend games by selling the vision that glory for all those who come along for the ride will be had by season’s end. Many clubs promote the fool’s gold view that their team has, as coach Rex Ryan noted regarding his club in September, “the most talent”  it has possessed in years, in order to ramp up the excitement.

It would be foolish to believe that society will ever return to the days before seasons were measured by trophies, when a team’s likability, and improvement from one year to the next carried a heavy merit. Fireman Ed too, did not walk out on a die hard fan base that has taken his cue for the past three decades, because the Jets will not be returning the Super Bowl this year. He simply stood up for himself as a patron unwilling to take the heat for the shoddy play of the team that he lives for.

It truly is a shame that it had to come to that. Not only for Fireman Ed, but for many others who simply seek the enjoyment of supporting their team in person. Only to exit with personal shame and grief on top of a pitiful performance they spent their hard earned money to see.

New York Jets – Rex Won’t Break Link To Sanchez’s Failures

Rex Ryan refuses to break his link to Mark Sanchez and the failures that are coming with it

Anyone who has witnessed the Jets play over their first eleven games can attest to the fact that Mark Sanchez lacks a quality supporting cast and knows that Rex Ryan has tried in vain to talk up, and coach up an undermanned team. If the Jets tank at any point during the final stretch of five winnable games though, Ryan must acknowledge that part of the problem this season has been at quarterback by sitting Mark Sanchez. For an entire series. A game. a stretch of games. Otherwise the head coach will become tied to the season long failures of the signal caller, by not even admitting that the problem behind center needs fixing too.

GM Mike Tannebaum will have alot of answering to do in the weeks to come for leaving the Jets with a mediocre and unproven receiving corps aside from Santonio Holmes, and a feature back in Shonn Greene. A power plodder who lacks the attributes needed to break off big runs and accrue big time yardage on a weekly basis. Veteran back and receivers were available prior to training camp but passed over in favor of players like Stephen Hill. A rookie whose penchant for the dropsies should have surprised nobody in the Jets front office, considering that he had just career 46 catches at Georgia Tech.

Sanchez has had a hard time finding anyone to throw to since Santonio Holmes went out during the blowout loss at home to the 49ers in week 4. Hill can’t hang onto the ball, Chaz Schilens is, well, Chaz Schilens, and while Jeremy Kerley has developed some and Dustin Keller is back after a long hamstring injury, it’s been slim pickins for the fourth year QB, who has exuded the body language at times, that his subpar corps doesn’t always run the right route.

Ryan nonetheless observed what he had on the offensive side of the ball in the preseason and still noted that this team was one with “the most talent since I’ve been here.” Ryan willingly brought archaic run play coordinator Tony Sparano in to fix the ground game, and Tim Tebow in to be a fill in the cracks playmaker. Neither have panned out.

Which brings us to Sanchez. The third main character offense besides Sparano and Tebow that Ryan is tied to in this 4-7 season. One that could nosedive at the drop of a hat. If Sanchez struggles down the stretch, during any winnable game that could be saved by changing the energy at QB1, Ryan should pull the trigger. Making a call to the bullpen for Tim “The Terrible Broken Ribbed” Tebow, or even the heady but unproven Greg McElroy. Take your pick.

Win or lose, a switch during this hypothetical scenario would at least note that the head coach has duly noted the play of the starter is unacceptable, because all we have heard from Ryan this year has been that Sanchez gives the Jets “the best chance to win.” As he sidesteps the heavy questions about Sanchez’s key role during losses.

Should it go down the way it has too often in 2012 from Sanchez, with the red zone intereceptions, and sloppy pocket presence, then Rex should cover his you know what and remind both the fans and the owner, that he still sees the road clearly from his driver’s seat. Not doing so would only tie him even more to the failures that keep happening in the pocket.

Turn On The Jets Week 12 NFL Picks

The TOJ staff gives their picks for week 12 of the NFL season


The Race for Steak continues. Note that last week’s record includes the most recent Thursday games –

CURRENT STANDINGS

1. Rob Celletti (85-72-6)

2. Mike Donnelly (82-77-4)

3. Chris Gross (81-77-5)

4. Chris Celletti (80-78-5)

5. Joe Caporoso (67-90-6)

Joe Caporoso

Last Week (7-7-2)

  • Oakland (+8) vs. Cincy
  • Pittsburgh (-1.5) vs. Cleveland
  • Buffalo (+3) vs. Indy
  • Denver (-10) vs. Kansas City
  • Tennessee (-4) vs. Jacksonville
  • Tampa (-1) vs. Atlanta
  • Seattle (-3) vs. Miami
  • Baltimore (-1) vs. San Diego
  • San Francisco (-1) vs. New Orleans
  • St. Louis (+1.5) vs. Arizona
  • Green Bay (+3) vs. Giants
  • Philadelphia (+3) vs. Carolina
  • Minnesota (PK) vs. Chicago

Mike Donnelly

Last Week (8-7-1)

  • Bengals -8
  • Steelers -1.5
  • Bills +3
  • Broncos -10
  • Jaguars +4
  • Falcons +1
  • Dolphins +3
  • Chargers +1
  • Saints +1
  • Cardinals -1.5
  • Packers +3
  • Panthers -3
  • Bears PK

Rob Celletti

Last Week (6-9-1)

  • Bengals (-8)
  • Browns (+1.5)
  • Colts (-3)
  • Chiefs (+10)
  • Jaguars (+4)
  • Falcons (+1)
  • Dolphins (+3)
  • Ravens (-1)
  • Saints (+1)
  • Cardinals (-1.5)
  • Giants (-3)
  • Panthers (-3)
  • Bears (pk)

Chris Celletti

Last Week (8-7-1)

  • Raiders
  • Steelers
  • Colts
  • Broncos
  • Jaguars
  • Falcons
  • Seahawks
  • Ravens
  • Saints
  • Cardinals
  • Packers
  • Panthers
  • Bears

Chris Gross

Last Week (6-9-1)

  • Bengals (-8)
  • Steelers (-1.5)
  • Colts (-3)
  • Broncos (-10)
  • Jaguars (+4)
  • Bucs (+1)
  • Dolphins (+2.5)
  • Ravens (pk)
  • Saints (+1)
  • Cardinals (-1.5)
  • Giants (-3)
  • Panthers (-3)
  • Chicago (PK)

Turn On The Jets Week 12 Best Bets: Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

Chris Celletti with his weekly NFL Best Bets, including a needed rant on the state of the Jets

Because anytime you can name your sports column after a MeatLoaf song, you have to do it.

Week 11 Record: 1-2

Season Record: 12-20-1

I named my column so for two reasons. The first is quite simple, that at this point I’ll take two out of three of my Best Bets picks every week for the rest of the season. If that happens, I’d finish below .500 at 24-26-1. At this point I’d take that, just like the Jets would probably sign up for a 7-9 finish to this season. Thus, we’re at my second reason for why I named my column as I did.

I had the joy of ringing in the holiday season at MetLife Stadium last night, which means that I was there to see the Jets’ 2012 season come crashing down. When the Patriots scored 21 points in less than a minute, I thought to myself that this was as bad as I’ve seen the Jets play, as an entire team, maybe in my life. Yes, that includes the 4-25 stretch under Rich Kotite, the Brooks Bollinger games, the Neil O’Donnell games. Not only are the Jets 4-7, they’ve been thoroughly outclassed five times this year. Five times! Even the Jacksonville Jaguars keep games close – they were in it late against the Packers at Lambeau and took the Texans to overtime recently. At this point, the Jets are incapable of staying in a game with a good NFL team, which is inexcusable with the way this league is structured.

I, like many Jets fans, became enamored with Rex Ryan when he took over in 2009. Even then you could criticize his boasts, his X’s and O’s, his game management, but what we all thought he did was what we have been waiting for our whole lives – he changed the culture of the Jets. We all have to admit that we were hoodwinked, and had the blindfold over our eyes in 2009 and 2010. The culture has not changed at all. These are the same New York Jets. This is Pete Carrol, this is Al Groh, this is Herm Edwards, this is Eric Mangini, and yes, this is Rich Kotite. This is, unfortunately, Same. Old. Jets.

So what do you do when your team is not only this bad but this disillusioned? You gut it, and gut it now. As far as I’m concerned, I won’t be satisfied heading into next training camp unless two out of these three people are gone: Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum. So again, here, I’ll take two out of three.

Admittedly this is unrealistic. If Woody Johnson has the stones to fire Mike Tannenbaum – something he has earned – whoever the new General Manger is would likely want to bring in his own head coach, which means that Rex Ryan would be gone, and whoever the new coach is would probably want his own quarterback, which means Sanchez would be gone. And given that Johnson apparently loves Tannenbaum and Ryan, and Sanchez is owned a ton of guaranteed money next year, chances are they’ll all be back next season. Wonderful.

On to the picks:

Raiders +8 at Bengals: The Raiders defense is awful but they do put up a lot of points. This line seems a tiny bit high for me, and I like the chances of a backdoor cover given the Raiders can hit big plays.

Falcons -1 at Buccaneers: I think the Falcons win this game, and to me, if they win it they’re going to cover a one point spread.

/Watches in dismay as the Falcons win by 1

Ravens (Pick) at Chargers: John Harbaugh vs. Norv Turner? That’s a whitewash.

Bonus Non-Football Bet of the Week (Season Record 4-6-1)

Let’s go with an NBA Player Prop, something we haven’t done at these parts yet this season. I went on over to Bet US and looked for a Jeremy Lin prop ahead of tonight’s Knicks-Rockets game, and to my dismay there were none. I really, really wanted to take the under on anything they would have presented to me re: Lin (note: I’d be handing you free money, Bet US). Well, they’re giving me an over/under of 24.5 points for Carmelo Anthony. You know where I’m going with this one.

No Huddle – The Ongoing Jets Disaster Edition

TJ Rosenthal goes No Huddle on the ongoing Jets disaster

We can’t remember being more embarrassed and humiliated as Jet fans. Even the Rich Kotite era was such a shock to the system that wondering “how much worse can it get this Sunday?” became a sick and twisted weekly habit. Last night’s tar and feathering was different. It fully exposed the sham that is the 2012 New York Jets. Exposed the personnel choices, the quarterback’s heart, the coaching staff’s ability to coach, the owners clear lack of attention in what was an “election year.” If you’re a Jet fan, it cant possibly get much worse than this. Can it?

1 – Ed Left, Tebow’s Ribs And Brandon Moore’s Ass

In the same game, Fireman Ed left the stadium early, the backup QB suited up with broken ribs and no third option behind him, and the starting QB ran his own broken play into the nationwide long derrière of his trusted veteran guard. A play that resulted in a fumble for a TD. In this same game, the opponent scored three TDs in :52 seconds to blow a 7-0 game wide open. A must win game no less.

The Jets number one superfan could t even watch. Too bad the rest of the entire country was forced to. In primetime. Thanks for the three hour special holiday comedy guys. With so many struggling out there, you gave a nation something to laugh at for an evening.

2 – Nobody Is Safe

Woody Johnson may have entered last night’s game with a “safe” list of coaches and players who were poised to be left unharmed by the results of this season. That list is now a crumpled up piece of paper in some garbage can.

Rex Ryan channeled his own inner Kotite after the game at a post game presser by saying “the offense did some good things.” Knock it off Rex. The organization is the joke of the sports world in America today. Then Ryan came out in support of Sanchez again. After an interception that ruined a quarter of collective team management, then “Butt Gate” Ryan should have been in support of nobody.

The more he hitches his wagon to the worst starting QB in the NFL the more he puts his own job in jeopardy now.

Nobody is safe anymore. Not Rex. Not anyone.

3 – The Roadmap Going Forward

The Jets roadmap going forward depends on what Johnson does regarding GM Mike Tannenbaum and Ryan. Sanchez has probably played himself out of a starting job in the league, thanks to his endless red zone mistakes, tunnel vision, and inability to energize others. The Jets right now are a mess on the field and off of it. Diehards will have to endure more bumps and bruises over the next five weeks before any attempts at turning the page begin. Expect more unnamed sources to accompany those bumps too.
The plane has now lost both wings and the cockpit is a giant smoke cloud.

What a disaster.

New York Jets – Burn It To The Ground

The New York Jets need to be accountable for their mistakes and begin the process of gutting their team

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.

Initial Reaction – New York Jets Give Us Thanksgiving Turd

The New York Jets bottomed out on national television tonight

That has to be as bad as it gets, right? You couldn’t write a script for a more embarrassing performance on national television. Tonight was a large exclamation point on how far the New York Jets have fallen since their appearance in the AFC Championship Game only two seasons ago. Tonight was a large exclamation point on the overwhelming lack of talent on this football team.

There is no mystery. There is no in-season solution. The Jets are a bad football team who lacks talent at every single position. The failure is widespread and starts at the top. In a perfect world this will lead to Woody Johnson taking a hard look at his personnel department, deciding to gut it by starting with the firing of GM Mike Tannenbaum and then go from there. Unfortunately in the Jets world, they will finish 7-9 and use the injury excuses for Revis and Holmes instead of making any major changes.

That would be a shame. This team lined up for their first play tonight with Clyde Gates, Chaz Schilens, Jeff Cumberland, Lex Hilliard, Austin Howard and Matt Slauson on the field. They had Jason Smith ready to play major reps off the bench. Their play calling was ludicrously unimaginative and predictable. On defense, their lack of speed at linebacker is at comic proportions. They had Ellis Lankster trying to cover Wes Welker! Ellis Lankster!

Sloppy. Poorly prepared. Mentally weak. Embarrassing. Untalented. Those are your 2012 New York Jets. Mark Sanchez sliding into Brandon Moore and losing a fumble was a perfect microcosm of this team’s season. They deserve the ridicule. They deserve the GIF images of that fumble on every site. They deserve the butt of every joke this year. They are the Chiefs. They are the Browns. They are the Jaguars.

Destroy and Rebuild it. Any trace of those 2009 and 2010 teams are gone. There is no Ground and Pound. There is a mediocre offensive line blocking for mediocre backs with a mediocre quarterback throwing to mediocre receivers. There is a slow defense who can’t stop the run or sack the quarterback.