Dec 15, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan tight end Zach Sudfeld (82) on the sidelines in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

New York Jets: How the Season Slipped Away



2013 New York Jets:  Stick a fork in them.  They’re done.  This season was over for the Jets by about midnight Monday, December 16, when the Baltimore Ravens beat the Detroit Lions and eliminated the Jets from playoff contention.  But the Jets signed this bill of lading months ago when a combination of ego, impulsiveness and stupidity caused them to foolishly wreck Mark Sanchez’s season and force Geno Smith into a starting role he was clearly not ready for.

So let’s take them one by one.

Culprit?  John Idzik for thinking he could waltz into New York and duplicate the success he had just been a part of in Seattle — especially in the personnel department.  Thing is, Idzik is a cap guy.  Evaluating talent is a completely different skill set.  For some reason Idzik thought Geno Smith would be the second coming of Russell Wilson.  He is not.  And his season has been mostly a disaster.  Full disclosure, I was never on the Geno Smith bandwagon.  I think it was huge waste of a draft pick.  The Jets knew they were in a rebuilding season.  They should have hung with Mark  Sanchez and Matt Simms and added pieces to the offense.  I would have even traded down to acquire more picks and bring them all to training camp and let the chips fall where they may.  Who knows?  Maybe you discover a diamond in the rough.  Or even if you cut someone with promise, perhaps you can pick them up as a last minute free agent.  Both options might have allowed someone from the later rounds to blossom. 


Cheap and motivated players with something to prove.  Always a win-win.  Then Idzik whiffed on David Garrard — Garrard was never viable as a backup.  When all parties eventually admitted the truth, that he couldn’t physically perform, they should have had a reliable experienced back up in the wings.  Oh wait … that person was Mark Sanchez, out for the year with a shoulder injury. 

(If I was Sanchez, I’d be laughing all the way to the bank.  But I bet his take on the whole season is one of regret.  I’m sure he thinks he would have been able to steer the Jets to the post season.  Sanchez will be elsewhere next year.  I’ll do a full breakdown of that in the coming days)

Unsolicited advice to Idzik:  whether Rex Ryan stays or goes, no high picks in the draft for the defense.  In fact, I’d go straight to OC Marty Mornhinweg (assuming he is retained – which he should be, although if there is a head coach change who knows?)  and turn the draft over to him.  Let him select who he wants to go after to run his offense.  The Jets desperately need (and it should be noted that this is in no particular order because their offensive needs run so deep):  Offensive linemen, tight end(s) RECEIVERS!!! And some option besides Geno Smith at quarterback.  I’m ok with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell as the RB combo.  It ain’t Emmitt Smith, but maybe with a better o-line, they will be able to produce more.  In any case, they weren’t the problem this year.

Culprit?  This falls squarely on Rex Ryan.  When the pundits rake over the smoldering coals of this regrettable Jets season, they will likely focus on the losing record, Geno Smith’s disappointing rookie season and an overall anemic offense.  Ryan should take partial blame for the offenses woes, but it is unclear how much hand he had in picking the personnel on that side of the ball — and he must be given credit for getting much more out of this team than anyone had a right to expect.  But, as always with Ryan, the good is accompanied by a headslapping decision so bad and impulsively thoughtless it leads to disaster. 

Putting Mark Sanchez in to try to win a meaningless preseason game against the rival Giants was so stupid it almost cannot be overstated.  That is kind of forgotten now, but it shouldn’t be, and here’s why:  It’s Ryan’s job to think about the big picture of the team.  As such, he should have known what the rest of the Jets coaching staff knew coming out of training camp: Smith wasn’t ready.  Not by a long shot. 

Remember the embarrassing gaffe Smith made in the preseason backing out of the end zone causing a safety?  This after coming off his college wrap-up performance in the Pinstripe Bowl where he took not one, but two safeties.  Complete lack of situational awareness.  Although, I have never been a fan of Smith, in fairness to him, he was never ready and should never have started.  You can’t go from three years running a spread offense to just switching right over to a pro-style West Coast offense that relies heavily on footwork, rhythm and timing and expect to set the world on fire.  Smith has tools, he has a nice, although somewhat scattershot arm (especially under duress) and he can run out of trouble; not bad attributes, but he needed a full year of seasoning on the bench.  

Imagine how much improved he would be in his second season.  So Ryan, inadvertently ruined not one but two QBs.  First Sanchez, who to this day I am sad did not get a chance to show what he could do in Mornhinweg’s offense.  Whatever you think of Sanchez, he had the footwork, experience and familiarity with the Jets skill players that might have given this team at least two, maybe three more wins.  And what if Smith had unexpectedly thrived?  Well, you lost out on an unbelievably valuable trade chip when Sanchez went down.  Midseason, there were a couple of teams that I am convinced would have paid any price to acquire Sanchez to hold down the fort while their starter(s) recovered from injury.

Sep 8, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan and New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) on the sidelines during the fourth quarter of a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium. The Jets won 18-17. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Culprit?  Everybody, and not just limited to this season.  The past few years the Jets have not built their house upon a strong foundation.  You know what happens when you don’t do that?  I bet there is a super religious ex-Jets QB who could explain it to them.  Win-now is a tricky proposition.  Its allure is undeniable.  But if it doesn’t work, the rebuild is painful; you’ve mortgaged the future for the present.

That’s exactly where the Jets are right now.  Hamstrung by foolish contract extensions, disregard for how important all three phases of a football team are at the expense of promoting the defense and making splashy headline inducing moves that didn’t pay off … it’s all come home to roost.  The mirage of success at the bye week has faded. 

The Jets are what we thought they were: an undermanned squad with huge holes on the offense and unresolved questions at quarterback.

It’s too bad.  I feel for people like Nick Mangold, Jeremy Kerley and Nick Folk (BTW the undisputed MVP of this team).  There are not a lot of seasons to get it right in the NFL — the Jets just wasted another one for these fine players.

The drumbeat for next year will start soon with 2013 almost in the rear view mirror.  But I don’t think the drama is going away any time soon.  With nothing but turmoil and uncertainty in the future, the only way to sell tickets is with hope.

Just wait until the New York media starts ginning up the “Draft Johnny Football!”  stories.  It’s coming.  The Big Top will come down in a few days, but the circus isn’t going away.


Tags: Geno Smith Mark Sanchez New York Jets NFL Rex Ryan

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