It’s been a tumultous season for Rex Ryan’s Jets. After flirting with Peyton Manning, the Jets signed Mark Sanchez to a three-year, $40.5 million contract extension. Sanchez had two years remaining of his rookie contract, so the move was surprising. However, the Jets made the most puzzling move in franchise history a few months later. The Jets sent a fourth round pick to Denver for Tim Tebow. The looming presence of Tebowmania was evident as Sanchez’s clearly looked uncomfortable in the pocket. The offense’s production went from ‘bad’ to ‘worse’ as Wildcat guru, Tony Sparano was signed as offensive coordinator. Ryan was hellbent on getting back to a ‘Ground & Pound’ offense that he overlooked the offense’s biggest problem–Sanchez’s inconsistencies as a passer. Sparano’s offense is predicated by a hard-nosed ground game and accurate throws down field–two facets the Jets simply don’t have. Sanchez was booed to the bench and
Tim Tebow Greg McElroy took over. McElroy isn’t the long-term answer, but the thought of McElroy starting seems like blasphemy.
While the offense’s on-field play was a downright disgrace, injuries clearly affected production. Santonio Holmes suffered a season ending foot injury and Stephen Hill and Dustin Keller couldn’t seem to stay healthy. Practice squad fodder (e.g. Chaz Schillens, Mardy Gilyard) became Sanchez’s go-to receivers. One could argue that Sanchez played so poorly that it didn’t matter who was on the field. Still, every team must overcome injuries and the Jets didn’t do it.
The defense has always been the Jets’ strength, so this year’s statistics were downright pitiful. The Jets have the NFL’s sixth worst run defense, yielding 135.3 yards per game. Of note, the 49ers gashed the Jets for over 250 yards, which Ryan coined as his worst performance ever. Bart Scott looked old and simply couldn’t defend tight ends. The Jets lost Darrelle Revis early in the season, but the pass defense did not miss a beat. Newcomers, Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry secured the safety positions and Antonio Cromartie played at a Pro Bowl level. The Jets were the NFL’s second best pass defense, yielding just 187 yards per game. Kyle Wilson started in place of Revis and was always picked on by opposing quarterbacks.
Special team’s coordinator, Mike Westhoff, will retire at season’s end. Known as the ‘Creator of Special Teams’, Westhoff experienced many highs (and lows). The Jets scored (and gave up) two special teams touchdowns, but suffered numerous gaffes. Tebow was placed on the punt team and made his share of mistakes.
Overall, it was a terrible season for the Jets. Ryan’s pre-season assertions about his team’s talent level were downright comical. Still, Cromartie made the Pro Bowl and Muhammad Wilkerson is beginning to play like an All-Pro. If Revis fully recovers from his ACL injury and Bell and Landry re-sign, the Jets will have the league’s best secondary. The Jets are encouraged by the play of Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, so the defense can return to its dominant ways if adds a few pieces.
On offense, the Jets need a new offensive coordinator. The Jets are stuck with Mark Sanchez, so they need a coordinator that can help develop him as a passer. Norv Turner and Charlie Weis have track records of fixing quarterbacks, so they may be options. Ryan does not know anything about offense, so he needs a strong coordinator that can fully take over. Dustin Keller will be a free agent, so the Jets need to make a decision. Still, the Jets will hope the injury gods shine more favorably upon them next season.
The Jets should give Rex Ryan one more season. The Jets will likely have a Top 12 draft pick and the return of some key pieces will help. In addition, the Jets will play a 3rd-or-4th place schedule next season, which should pad their win total. Ryan’s defense can regain its dominance, but the offense desperately needs a strong coordinator. Tebow, Sparano, and Mike Tannenbaum should not be brought back, but Ryan should be given one more chance.