Around this time every year football fans start feeling that familiar itch. No it has nothing to do with that weekend you spent making less-than-brilliant decisions. It is an itch that signals football, and the hope of a new season, is on the way. Every year the routine is just about the same: with training camp and “real football” mere weeks away, you start familiarizing yourself with the schedule. You go week by week, check off wins and losses before even knowing the make-up of the final 53.
It is nonsensical. Yet, it is something that we just do. It sets the bar for this year’s crop of green and white. It will have us on the edge of our collective seats, pulling out our hair, and making an art form of profanity. We all abide by that same routine. However, this year, I took a look at a most crucial number. This one statistic can dictate whether or not the New York Jets will return to the playoffs for the first time in four years or be relegated to mediocrity once again: turnovers.
For those that have had the misfortune of watching the Jets offense for the past four-to-six years one thing that has remained constant, the penchant for turnovers. Dating back to 2008, Jets starting Quarterbacks have finished in the top-five in interceptions every year except 2010. Brett Favre actually lead the league in picks in 2008 with 22. Not to be outdone, Mark Sanchez had three top-five finishes on his resume in 2009, 2011, and 2012 where he finished 2nd, 5th, and 3rd, respectively. Last year Geno Smith registered a 4th-place finish with 21 picks. This is a very apparent trend with these recent Jets teams. Because of the strong correlation between turnovers and winning percentage, it is no surprise that the team’s record in these years have been underwhelming.
It is also no surprise that the Jets most successful season (in terms of combined regular and postseason win total) was also the year in which they committed the fewest turnovers (2010) with Mark Sanchez only throwing 13 Interceptions and 4 fumbles lost for a grand total of 17 combined turnovers. To put that in perspective, Sanchez threw at least 18 interceptions in each of his other seasons as a member of the Jets.
Remarkably, the Jets have avoided having complete disaster in terms of winning percentage in recent years. To some degree, one can attribute this unnatural success to Rex Ryan and the defense’s role as “The Wolf” to the offense’s Vincent Vega. However, that is probably an oversimplification.
If these recent Jets teams that fell short of the playoffs had an even half-way competent Quarterback capable of maintaining a paltry 15-18 turnovers as opposed to 25, the results may have been different. They likely would have made the proverbial dance. What would have happened after that is anyone’s guess.
The key to success for the 2014 Jets is not CJ2K’s potential impact or whether Quinton Coples finally emerges into the player we expect him to. Rather, the Jets key to success in 2014 lies in their ability to maintain possession and avoid turning the ball over. Football is a nuanced and complex game, yes, but improvement can be made simple: do not turn the ball over. With that in mind, instead of wishing for wins against certain opponents or injuries to certain players (scratch that, I’ll probably continue that tradition), I’m rooting for just 15 turnovers. Nothing crazy or flashy just something simple and effective. Can Geno, Marty Mornhinwheg, and the Jets offense can figure out a way to make that happen? If so, playoff tickets are on me.