The Reality Of Peyton Manning To The New York Jets

TOJ on the reality of Peyton Manning to the New York Jets

We might as well get this out of the way now. Let’s talk about Peyton Manning and the New York Jets by starting with a few clear realities –

1. Peyton Manning isn’t going back to Indianapolis.

2. It remains up in the air whether or not Manning is going to be healthy enough to play this year or ever again.

3. If Manning is medically cleared for the 2012 season, the New York Jets will absolutely explore the option of signing him.

You are kidding yourself if you think Woody Johnson, Mike Tannenbaum, and Rex Ryan aren’t going to do their due diligence on Manning if he is available and healthy. It would be negligent for them not to.

Before we even examine if it is smart for the Jets to sign Manning. First, you have to answer if he would even want to come here. From what we have heard Arizona, Miami, and Washington are all viable options for him as well. Arizona offers warm weather, Larry Fitzgerald, and a team that played very well down the stretch last year. Miami also offers warm weather and a team that played very well down the stretch, along with a new head coach who will embrace a pass heavy system. Washington has a Super Bowl winning head coach and a very capable defense. I would say the Jets have an equal or maybe slightly lower, and definitely not higher chance of getting Manning than either of those three teams.

The outside perception of the Jets right now is that they are in complete disarray in the locker room. I doubt that scares Manning entirely off but does he really want to come to a cold weather team and share New York with his little brother? Could he handle being paired with a personality like Rex Ryan? What about new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who wants to predominantly run the football?

From the Jets side of things, if you don’t think there is a recipe for potential disaster in signing a quarterback of Manning’s age with neck issues you haven’t been watching the past 40 years. Beyond that, forget Ground and Pound or anything Sparano wanted to implement, this becomes Manning’s offense, which means you now have dueling philosophies between Manning and Ryan.

For as great as Manning has been, he hasn’t played in a full season. It would be silly to assume he will come back and immediately be 100 percent of the player he used to be.

You will also be saying good-bye to Mark Sanchez. The Jets won’t be sitting on his salary alongside Manning’s and by bringing in Manning they are throwing in the towel on Sanchez as their franchise quarterback. He isn’t going from starting for three years to sitting on the bench on a first round draft pick’s salary to serve as an apprentice under Manning. So if Manning injuries himself or does the Favre one and done, you are back to square one in finding a quarterback.

Ultimately, everything I wrote above is to point the ignored the negatives in the hysteria of potentially adding one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. In reality, I’d say Manning to the Jets has about a 5% chance of happening. If it does happen and he is healthy, would I be excited about the potential of it? You are damn right I would be. Yet, we would not know the answer on whether or not it was the right decision until Manning got through a whole season and took the Jets to and past the AFC Championship Game and that is a hell of an if.

For whatever Mark Sanchez and the Ground and Pound is, it has gotten the Jets within a few plays of the Super Bowl two of the last three years. If Manning Ball can’t get them past that, then it will always be viewed as the wrong decision.

What I want to see is the Jets front office making football decisions, not media decisions. It was a media decision to sign Brett Favre and it failed. It was a media decision to bring in Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason, while letting Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery walk and it failed. The chase of Nnamdi Asomugha was a media decision and it failed while hurting the Jets off-season last year. Football decisions this year would seem to be based around building a stronger offensive line, rushing attack, and split end option for Mark Sanchez coupled with a ball hawking safety and a pass rusher for the defense. A media decision would seem to be adding Manning at all costs, so you could see why I am skeptical.

New York Jets: The Disappointments, Part 2

A look at the New York Jets players who disappointed on defense and special teams

Yesterday we looked at the New York Jets players on offense who disappointed. Today we will focus on the defense and special teams. Unfortunately these two lists combine to be much longer than the players who exceeded expectations in 2011.

Bart Scott – Over his first two years with the team, Scott was praised for his ability to do the dirty work alongside David Harris at inside linebacker. He was a reliable tackler, was comfortable in Rex Ryan’s system, and a supposed leader on the team. This past season he struggled so much he was reduced to being a situational player, leading to reported dissatisfaction in the locker room from him. The Jets owe Scott about 4 million dollars in guaranteed money next year but it is still being reported that he will likely be cut.

Calvin Pace – For the amount the Jets paid Pace before the 2008 season, they aren’t getting a quality return on their investment. Pace is a pretty good three down linebacker in the Jets 3-4 system but can’t consistently get pressure on the quarterback and fails to make an impact in too many games. The Jets lack speed at linebacker and Pace is a big part of that.

Eric Smith – I think most of us did a double take when the Jets gave Smith a seemingly big contract to return as their starting safety this past year before they brought back Brodney Pool. He had always struggled in pass coverage and often look over stretched in a full time role. 2011 emphatically proved that Smith is not a capable NFL starter. Apparently, the Jets have an out on his contract and it is hard to see him back in a starting role or in any role at all next year with the team.

Jim Leonhard – It was disappointing to see Leonhard suffer a season ending injury for the second year in a row. Prior to that, he was average at best. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets brought him back on a veteran’s minimum deal to play alongside the new safety or two they bring in via the draft and free agency this year.

Antonio Cromartie – When you think about Cromartie’s 2011 season, what do you remember? I remember two muffed kicks, Miles Austin ripping the ball out of his hands for a touchdown, and Brad Smith beating him for a ridiculous touchdown catch. Outside of a big game against Jacksonville in week 2, when else did be bring the big play element to the Jets defense that he was supposed to? He settled down in coverage towards the end of the year but on the whole it wasn’t a very good season for #31.

Nick Folk – It was just an okay year for Folk who took a small step back this year and missed key short kicks against New England and the Giants.

New York Jets: The Disappointments, Part 1

A look at the New York Jets players on offense, who had disappointing seasons

Earlier in the off-season, we looked at the New York Jets players who exceeded expectations this past season. Today, we look at the players who fell short of expectations on the offensive side of the football. Tomorrow we will look at the defense and special teams.

Mark Sanchez – He did make statistical improvements in some key areas this season, notably touchdown passes, total touchdowns, and completion percentage. However, he struggled heavily down the stretch and didn’t play well in the biggest moments of the season. Instead of solidifying himself as the quarterback of the future, Sanchez is now facing a make or break year as the Jets quarterback. He needs to improve his play on the field, fix a broken relationship with Santonio Holmes, and work towards assuming more of a true leadership position in the locker room.

Shonn Greene – After watching Greene’s body of work for three years and him spend this whole past season as the Jets lead back, it is hard to come to any assumption other than that he is a fairly average player. He isn’t explosive, doesn’t create big plays, and hasn’t broken enough tackles. In a run heavy system that I anticipate the Jets to have, they need another back to pair alongside him. It will be interesting to see how they approach free agency and the draft in regards the running back position.

Hard to read this now, considering the failings of Sanchez and Greene in year three.

Santonio Holmes – You want a frustrating stat? On Victor Cruz’s 99 yard touchdown catch against the Jets, he had more receiving yards than Santonio Holmes has had in any game this season. You can blame some of that on coaching and quarterbacking but sometimes you need to break a tackle and take one to the house, especially if you are supposed to be a number one receiver. Nevermind the whole thing about the everybody hating him in the locker room and him quitting on the team.

Plaxico Burress – He was productive in the end-zone but couldn’t get open between the 20s and faded down the stretch. Burress will be one and done with the Jets.

D’Brickashaw Ferguson – For whatever reason, this was an off year for the Jets left tackle. Ferguson was shaky in pass protection from the beginning of the year and never was able to get into a rhythm.

Wayne Hunter – A revolving door at right tackle and arguably one of the worst starters in the NFL. At least he stood up to Santonio Holmes in the huddle though.

Matthew Mulligan – Holding. Offense. Number 82. 10 yard penalty. Repeat first down.

Stop The Pity Party Jets Fans

New York Jets fans need to stop the pity party over the upcoming Super Bowl

I am not going to sit here and act like it doesn’t completely suck to have the Giants and Patriots playing in the Super Bowl for the second time in five years, because it does. The New York Jets have scrapped and clawed to relevancy and respectability since the Giants and Pats met in the big game after the 2007 season and now it feels like they will begin back at square one next season.

All the ground they seemed to be making up has disappeared in a highly public flame out and locker room meltdown, coupled with their two natural rivals winning their respective conferences.

That being said, the constant complaining about the luck received yesterday from the Giants and Patriots needs to stop. A win is a win. A playoff win is a playoff win. Also the endless whining about how awful this is for Jets fans doesn’t help the situation.

Look at it this way, either the Giants and their rightfully annoying fans who surround your daily life will be disappointed in two weeks or Brady, Belichick and everything we hate about New England, Boston, their city, their sports fans, and their franchise will be disappointed. Personally, I’d rather see the Giants win. If you have your own personal reasons where stomaching a Patriots win would be easier than root for them, if you want to root for neither and hope for the impossible scoreless tie than do that instead.

Yet, endless whining only increases the pleasure for Giants/Patriots fans and perpetuates the ongoing negative stereotype of Jets fans.

Our team is back to starting at square one in the 2012 season. The underdogs. The clear cut little of brothers of New York and the AFC East. No hype. No expectations. Just another 8-8 team who needs to make a few moves to get themselves back into the playoffs next year. I am excited for the off-season to start and to see if Rex, Sanchez, and everybody else in this organization can pick themselves up off the mat.

For now, I love the game of the football. The games were terrific yesterday. The media coverage will be tough to endure the next 13 days but I will keep you distracted with articles about our team here. In 13 days, I will watch what should be a great football game. I will be happy to see Shaun Ellis and James Ihedigbo get a shot to play in the Super Bowl. I will be curious if Eli Manning can get a win to proclaim full dominance over New England and start the debate if he is a better quarterback than his brother or see if Tom Brady can continue his revenge tour and if New England can actually win a Super Bowl with a defense that bad.

It sucks, but hey life could be worse…what do you think Ravens or 49ers fans feel like today? What do you think Kyle Williams and Billy Cundiff feel like today? Poor Williams is getting death threats to his family for dropping a football in a game.

Regardless of what happens in the Super Bowl, you will still be excited when free agency starts. You will still be counting the seconds until the draft. And you will still be in front of your TV or at the game when the season kicks off next year.

For now, stop the complaining and crying. Nobody feels bad for you, nor should you want them to do.

What The Jets Can Learn From The Rangers

What the New York Jets can learn from their city counterparts, the New York Rangers

One of the ways I’ve been able to distract myself from the ulcer-inducing aftermath of the 2011 New York Jets has been to focus on another New York team that I’m extremely passionate about: the New York Rangers.

In case you don’t know (and you might not, since “the worldwide leader in sports” has chosen to bury hockey for the last decade, especially now that it no longer broadcasts hockey games), the Rangers currently stand tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for the best record in the entire NHL.  Say what you want about the Giants, but the New York Rangers have been this city’s most consistent winner since October.  Still, it was no easy task to get to where the Rangers are, and they really aren’t all that close to the ultimate goal of winning a Stanley Cup anyway; almost three months of regular season, plus four grueling playoff series stand between them and hockey nirvana.

However, I began to think: maybe the Jets could learn a thing or two from the Rangers, despite the fact that hockey and football are two entirely different sports.  The history of these two teams is not all that dissimilar.  Flashes of past glory, but a tradition that consists mostly of disappointment for a large, passionate fanbase.

For those of you not well-versed in Rangers history, here’s the Cliff Notes version:  They have won exactly one championship in the last 72 years.  For the last two decades, the Rangers have largely built their team by bringing in high-priced free agents with flashy names (sound familiar?), with only one instance of success: 1994.  After Mark Messier, the Rangers inked the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Holik, Pavel Bure, Jaromir Jagr, Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, with results ranging from one-and-done playoff appearances to complete and utter disaster.

So, it was time to shake things up.  Sometime within the last six or seven years, the Rangers have instead focused on building their roster through the draft and minor league system.  They brought in a coach with a specific style and personalty and have stuck with him (rather than firing him for missing the playoffs in the 2009-2010 season), allowing the players to mature.  They have supplemented a very young roster with shrewd trades and yes, one or two big-money free agent acquisitions.

Here are five lessons the Jets can learn from the Rangers:

Lesson 1: Patience

When the Rangers hired coach John Tortorella in the winter of 2009 after firing Tom Renney, the organization began to change its philosophy.  The changes were subtle at first, and they would take time to implement.  The first lesson the Jets could learn?  Patience. Tortorella knew that the roster he inherited in 2009 was not one that could win a championship. The goal was, instead, was to simply improve the team on a day-by-day basis, not only in hockey terms, but also in terms of how it was built (read: slowly, and through the draft). “One step at a time” might be the most insufferable sports cliche of them all, but it has become the Rangers’ mantra. Now in 2012, three full years later, they are seeing the results of that approach.

Lesson 2: Leadership

One of the organization’s goals was also to cultivate an internal leadership group among the players so that “the locker room could sustain itself,” as Tortorella likes to say. Sounds like the complete opposite of the Jets, doesn’t it?  One of the most direct comparisons between the two teams across completely different sports is the choosing of captains. Football has even gone so far as to copy hockey and put the letter “C” on the designated player’s uniform.  Tortorella’s choices for captains (one player gets a “C” and two get “A”‘s as alternate captains, for the uninitiated) were easy:

Ryan Callahan, captain – a player who embodies the Rangers’ aggressive yet responsible style of play and leads by example; 4th round pick (127th overall) in the 2004 draft.

Marc Staal, alternate – when healthy (he missed roughly the first half of the season with a concussion and is just getting his feet back under him after about 10 games now), one of the best shutdown defensemen in the NHL; 1st round pick in the 2005 draft.

Brad Richards, alternate – Richards was the Rangers big free agent splash last summer, but he played under John Tortorella in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lightning.  That team won a Stanley Cup; Richards was the playoff MVP, awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy. Tortorella felt that Richards was the perfect veteran role model that some of the younger Rangers needed to show them how to be a professional, on and off the ice.

Lesson 3: Identity

Perhaps what doomed the Jets even more than their locker room squabbles was the loss of their identity as a team that wanted to dominate the line of scrimmage, run the ball, and play great defense. Ground and Pound was forgotten. The Jets were all of a sudden slow at linebacker and were gashed by opposing running backs more than anyone could have predicted.  What could they learn from the Rangers in this regard?  Pick your style, embrace it, stick to it, and build your team around it.

The Rangers have become one of the toughest teams in the NHL to play against.  They’ve allowed the 2nd fewest goals in the league.  They are built from their net out, with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist providing the foundation that the team stands on. If quarterback is the most important position in football, goalie is that position in hockey. The Rangers are covered there, as Lundqvist is putting together another Vezina Trophy caliber season as one of the league’s best goalies.

The similarities between the teams are more obvious than you’d think. Neither the Rangers defense-first approach nor the Jets “ground and pound” mantra will consistently score style points or entertain the masses. They leave open the possibility of close, late losses, simply because the offense might not generate enough goals or points.  But they are both effective philosophies that, applied over the long-haul, can lead to consistent winning.

Lesson 4: Narrow the Focus

Earlier this week, Madison Square Garden Chairman James L. Dolan made a bold proclamation that the Rangers were “close” to winning a Stanley Cup. John Tortorella quickly fired back, calling that “a bunch of bullshit”. Tortorella wasn’t trying to embarrass his boss, rather, he was trying to keep his team’s focus where it should be: on the next game. Cups are not awarded in January.

Super Bowls are not awarded in June.  I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the Jets often let their focus stray too far down the road.  I’m not saying the Super Bowl shouldn’t be the goal every year, because it should be.  But it might be time for Rex Ryan to shelve some of his dramatic predictions (no matter what their motives actually are) and just focus on winning the next game.  In all professional sports, there’s an element of “grinding” through a long season to get to where you want to be.  The 2011 Jets were not a team that was willing to grind (their losses to the Raiders and Eagles are great examples of this, I think) through the less exciting parts of their schedule.

Lesson 5: The Right Amount of Swagger

There’s a fine line in all sports between confidence and cockiness. A team is in danger though, when it begins to believe its own hype. Part of what made the Jets successful in 2009 and 2010 was their brash, “we can beat anybody” attitude. The other side of that coin is the overconfidence that this cultivates, and results in a season like 2011.

The Rangers are never going to be guaranteeing victories in the media before games (unless Mark Messier laces ’em up again), but the belief in their ability is there.  The team plays with a quiet confidence. Young defenseman Michael Del Zotto has said repeatedly that coach Tortorella urges him to play “with swagger”.  The message is there, it’s just not broadcast.

So there you have it: five lessons that the Jets would be well-served to learn from their unlikely hockey counterparts before they kick off their 2012 campaign.  There are plenty of football-specific moves that need to be made, and will be discussed ad nauseum here and plenty of other places.

In the meantime, I urge even non-hockey fans flip on MSG (provided you’re not subject to the Time Warner Cable/MSG Network mess) and take a look at a team that has been New York’s most consistent winner since October. There’s a lot to like.

Nine Moments When You Knew This Wasn’t The Jets Season

The nine key moments when you knew 2011 wasn’t the Jets season

It was easy to remain somewhat optimistic all the way to the end of the New York Jets 2011 season. Despite their ongoing struggles, they remained viable playoff contenders all the way until the final minutes of their schedule. Yet, throughout the year there were ongoing moments, where you had to say to yourself “this just isn’t our year.”

1. Oh What A Start – Most people forget the Jets season started with Dallas marching right down the field on their defense and scoring a touchdown as Dez Bryant ripped a fade route away from Antonio Cromartie. Their first play on offense was then DeMarcus Ware ripping past Wayne Hunter and nearly killing Mark Sanchez. We should have known right there this defense would be a disappointment and Hunter would be a disaster.

2. Oakland Meltdown – The Jets were in control against Oakland week 3, up 17-7 and looking like they were headed to a 3-0 record. Yet, what followed was a complete meltdown which showed a mentally weak team that lacked character. Missed tackles. Muffed kicks. And just like that a 3 game losing streak was underway.

3. Accept Losing – The way the Jets locker room treated their week 5 loss to New England should have raised red flags. They sounded all too content to have lost a relatively close game. The confidence that they were better than New England was clearly gone.

4. Brady/Tebow – In retrospect, the Jets season was summed up by their two ugly losses in a four day span to New England and Denver in the middle of the season. There was something particularly soft about the way they went down against Denver that really drove the point home.

5. Pathetic Win – Considering how bad the Buffalo Bills were playing before their week 12 match-up with the Jets, it is was kind of embarrassing that they needed a late drop by Stevie Johnson to preserve a win at home.

6. No Show – How do you no-show in Philadelphia the way the Jets did with a playoff spot on the line? Calvin Pace thanked the Eagles after the game for showing mercy because he admitted the Jets had no chance of stopping them.

7. No Tackle – The Jets were in complete control of their game against the Giants until they failed to tackle Victor Cruz on a 8 yard out route that turned into a 99 yard touchdown. If you had watched this team all season, you knew the game was over after that play…and it was.

8. Bubby Brister – Anytime you throw not one, but two interceptions to a defensive lineman, in a single game…you aren’t a playoff team.

9. Quit – Captain Holmes wanted no part of the Jets come back.

New York Jets Locker Room: We Get It…

Like most stories around the New York Jets, the chemistry issue has been beaten to death

In case you haven’t received the memo yet, the New York Jets locker room was an ugly situation this past season.

We have heard the same story reiterated every three days or so since the season ended. Whether it is a current player, an anonymous player, or an ex-player. Everybody has come out of the woodwork to drive home how completely dysfunctional this organization is.

Does it not feel like the Jets went 2-14 last year?

Their locker has been portrayed as having been such a disaster scene that it is mind blowing to think they actually were 8-8. Could you imagine if Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes could move from being 2pac to Biggie to just a couple guys who generally didn’t like each other next year?

The point is that this story, like most surrounding the team, has been beaten to death. Chemistry was a major issue for the 2011 team but there were other problems, notably a lack of talent in certain key spots and questionable coaching.

Plenty will be made out of the Jets going back to Cortland this year as a team building exercise. I am sure Rex Ryan will be talking all the time about he feels the 2012 has improved chemistry and is getting along. You can already see the team motto being “One Team. One Direction” or something like that.

The reality is that unless they improve their safeties and linebackers, they won’t be able to stop New England and won’t win the AFC East. If Mark Sanchez doesn’t improve, along with the protection around him, and his running game, the Jets won’t be a playoff team even if they are having slumber parties and making popcorn together.

(Very) Preliminary Thoughts On New York Jets Off-Season

Some very early thoughts on the New York Jets off-season

At this point of the NFL season, it is still very hard to project exactly what type of direction the eliminated New York Jets will go in during the off-season. There are too many variables at play.

In terms of players, it is easy to throw around names off of free agency lists and throw darts at the board to come up with draft picks but it will take a little more time for real options to come into focus. There will be conflicting reports in the coming months about the Jets cap situation. I find a reliable source to be NYJetsCap.com, which is consistent in painting an accurate picture of where they truly stand.

As of right now, let’s look at what we know about the Jets needs in the off-season –

Offense

Right Tackle/Offensive Line Depth – The Jets depth will receive a boost if they get a healthy Robert Turner back. However, we all know they can’t get through another season with Wayne Hunter at right tackle. Based on the structure of his contract, it would be shocker if he wasn’t released. His play wasn’t up to par this year and cutting him will give the Jets some needed cap space. There are no reliable in house options as a replacement and the list of free agents isn’t particularly impressive. The Jets may be wise to bring in a stop gap veteran and draft a tackle in the second or third round to learn behind him and D’Brickashaw Ferguson. They should also bring other bargain basement free agent to provide additional depth, especially if Turner doesn’t come back.

Wide Receiver – Santonio Holmes isn’t going anywhere. It would be too much of a cap hit. He will be back as the Jets number one receiver and promising second year player Jeremy Kerley will be back as the number three. What the Jets need is a split end who can take some pressure off Holmes and create separation between the 20s, which Plaxico Burress couldn’t do. The exciting names on the market are Marques Colston, Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, and Brandon Lloyd. I don’t think the Jets will spend that kind of money however. A second tier receiver with potential to grow like Robert Meachem or Laurent Robinson could be a smarter buy, especially if he is paired with a speedy receiver in the fourth or fifth round to develop behind him.

Running Back – I don’t think anybody should be fully confident in a trio of Shonn Greene, Joe McKnight, and Bilal Powell leading the Jets run heavy, Tony Sparano approach. Matt Forte and Maurice Jones-Drew are probably pipe dreams at best but there are some other intriguing veteran options, namely Ryan Grant, Jason Snelling, Tashard Choice, Derrick Ward, and Steve Slaton. I also wouldn’t be shocked if the Jets considered adding Ronnie Brown on a veteran’s minimum deal, with Sparano now heading the offense. Mike Tannenbaum has also drafted four running backs in the past three years, so expect another one.

Quarterback – The Jets need a competent number two to push Mark Sanchez. Chad Henne is the name you will hear the most (outside of Peyton Manning, which I still say has about a 5% chance of happening), but Jason Campbell, Brady Quinn, and Dennis Dixon could be other good veteran options.

Tight End – The Jets will likely use Jeff Cumberland and Josh Baker more after they cut Matthew Mulligan but Tony Sparano may want to bring another blocking option in house.

Defense

Defensive Line – I don’t see the Jets doing much here outside of resigning Sione Pouha. There have been some rumblings about Mike DeVito potentially being cut to save money but I have hard time seeing that happen, considering how well he fits in Rex Ryan’s scheme.

Linebacker – Nobody would argue with Bart Scott or Calvin Pace being cut but the cap hit could be too much to eat. I still wouldn’t be shocked if Scott was cut regardless, but that means the Jets need an inside linebacker along with the outside linebacker they already need. I would expect the Jets first round pick to have a high probability of being an outside linebacker and maybe they can talk Bryan Thomas to coming back on a cheap deal to hold the spot while he develops. Aaron Maybin should be brought back and Jamaal Westerman is on the bubble.

Safety – The Jets probably need two new starting safeties but with all the other previously mentioned needs, how realistic is that? A few early mock drafts have them taking Mark Barron but who knows at this point? If they don’t take an outside linebacker in round one, it will likely be a safety and if they don’t take a safety in round one, they better take one in round two and then another one later in the draft. Have you seen New England’s tight ends lately? Cutting Eric Smith makes sense financially and on the field. Jim Leonhard could come back cheap to provide some veteran stability. LaRon Landry is the most exciting name on the free agent list but he could be too pricey.

New York Jets: The Art Of Exaggeration

There is no middle ground when it comes to discussing the New York Jets

Perhaps the market makes the New York Jets conducive to exceptional amounts of exaggeration surrounding their team. Maybe it is their coach. Their history. The media. Or their fans. Most likely it is a combination of all the above.

Whatever it is, there is no middle ground with this team. They are either world beaters or the sky is falling. You would swear from the conversations this past week that they went 3-13 this past season, not 8-8 and a handful of plays away from a playoff spot.

This season was a disappointment, without question. Yet, everybody is ready with the punchline that Rex Ryan will be on Inside The NFL instead of a NFL sideline by this time next year instead of a sideline as a head coach, when they forget a year ago he was being lauded for completely undressing Bill Belichick in a playoff game.

You have heard it all: Mark Sanchez is a hopeless failure the Jets can’t win with as a starter. By the way, his career record as a starter is 27-20. The defense is old and slow. The offensive line is awful. The receivers can’t get open and are plagued with the cancer of Santonio Holmes. The running backs are average. There is no depth throughout the entire roster.

All of the above concerns are very valid but they are frequently overstated. This isn’t the St. Louis Rams or the Jacksonville Jaguars. There is a quality base of talent on this team and they are a productive off-season away from being one of the AFC’s elite teams, which isn’t saying much these days in a conference that is suddenly watered down and wide open.

How about looking at the 2011 New York Jets like this? They underachieved and despite a toxic locker room, erratic quarterback play and playcalling, along with let-down seasons from about half the starters, they still managed to win 8 games. Imagine a little chemistry comes back to that locker room? Imagine a group of the starters respond with better seasons and the rest who struggled last year are replaced?

The Jets have money to spend this off-season and finally have a draft pick in every single round. They have already made the right choice by letting go of Brian Schottenheimer and bringing in a new offensive staff, led by Tony Sparano. Mike Tannenbaum is in need of a bounce-back year and if he could respond with a solid off-season there is a good chance Rex Ryan will be back to being adored by the same media members who tear him to pieces right now. The criticism of Mark Sanchez will subside and all of the sudden the roster, which still has players like Darrelle Revis, David Harris, Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Dustin Keller, and Brandon Moore won’t suddenly be so pathetic and talentless.

Step back from the cliff Jets fans, the Giants and Patriots season will hopefully soon be over and you will have an active off-season to look forward to. This team isn’t rebuilding and is closer to 11-5 than 5-11. And if that can’t cheer you up, remember this was only a year ago…

Nameless Criticism: What To Make Of Mark Sanchez

What to make of the nameless criticism coming from some of Mark Sanchez’s teammates

Mark Sanchez has taken it on the chin from a nameless selection of players in an article full of nameless sources that was somehow allowed to run in a major newspaper. It is an obviously cowardly move to throw somebody under the bus and then not put your name to it. Multiple teammates of Sanchez have since stood up to rebuke the article, most notably Nick Mangold, Dustin Keller, Antonio Cromartie, Matt Slauson, Sione Pouha, and Wayne Hunter. What is there to really make of the this situation?

First off, if I was to take an educated guess, I would say the player who gave these quotes was an individual like Bart Scott. A defensive player, coming off his own subpar year that is likely out the door after this season and knows it. For all we know, the quote could have came from somebody on the practice squad. To say that Sanchez has lost the locker room based on an anonymous source when other prominent players have stepped up to defend him is crazy.

What really hurt the credibility of the source was the assertion that Sanchez is lazy. I have never been inside the Jets locker room or Jets facility. Yet, I have read every word from every person who covers the team since he was drafted and by all accounts Sanchez is arguably the hardest worker on the roster and is constantly the first one in the building and the last one out. The lazy comments have been rebuked by a large group of media personalities around the team and from every player who has stood up for Sanchez.

I have been an ardent defender of Sanchez, who I do believe takes on way too much unfair criticism. People ignore the reality of his accomplishments through his first three years as a starter and how it compares to other currently successful quarterbacks in the league. Sanchez has started out his career identically to Eli Manning, except Sanchez has had more playoff success early in first three years. I am not saying Sanchez will ever be a top five quarterback in the NFL but to adamantly state they can’t win a Super Bowl with him, when he has already been within a half of the Super Bowl twice in his brief career is insane.

Could you imagine the ESPN orgasm if Tim Tebow threw 3 touchdowns, had zero turnovers and beat Tom Brady in New England this Sunday? Then could you imagine everybody acting like Mark Sanchez didn’t do the exact same thing exactly a year ago?

Sanchez is going to face excessive scrutiny from being a quarterback in New York. People will point to him doing magazine spreads and dating super models as an issue, but in reality that doesn’t affect his performance on the field. Critics like to ignore that Sanchez has been given a different pair of starting receivers every season of his career, a progressively weaker offensive line, and an incompetent offensive coordinator, that has been a factor in his performance.

Despite being a defender of Sanchez, I won’t put my head in the sand, hide behind a few statistics and say he improved from last year to this year because he didn’t. Sanchez played better in bigger spots in both 2009 and 2010, particularly in 2010 he was clutch when it mattered the most. This season he wasn’t that. He flamed out down the stretch and the issues with his body language, being skittish in the pocket, and being inaccurate were accentuated down the stretch of the season.

The Sanchez who spouts the company line to the media and is concerned about everybody liking him needs to go. The best quarterbacks can be assholes a large part of the time. It is time he demands more from himself and this offense. The scapegoat of Brian Schottenheimer is now gone and Sanchez will have more of a disciplinarian in his face with Tony Sparano and potentially Todd Haley. Sanchez needs to embrace this and become a more mature player and more mature leader.

The signs of leadership have been there in past years but just like his quarterbacking skills, it needs to be more consistent. We have seen Sanchez make every throw he needs to make. We have seen him lead fourth quarter game winning drives at home and on the road. We have seen him beat Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the playoffs. The skill set is there but now with himself pushed into a corner of a make or break season, Sanchez must truly take over this offense in 2012 or be sent to the curb.

If Santonio Holmes doesn’t want to show up to team meetings or wants to pout in the corner. Get in his face and demand proper behavior from him or tell him to get off the field, just like Wayne Hunter did in the Miami game. Sanchez’s teammates will respect the hell out of him for that.

Peyton Manning isn’t coming through those doors, Jets fans. Instead look for somebody like Chad Henne or Jason Campbell brought in to push Sanchez and provide a competent backup. Sanchez is the guy next year and if he rebounds from this past season, will be the guy for the long term.