By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork.com
NEW YORK (CBS 2) — So, Rex, what or whom do you plan to bury this week?
As a glass is always half-empty Jets fan, I broke from character this season and tried to fight the good fight and remain positive. I invested a ton of emotional trust in Rex Ryan, because last season he gave me a reason to believe that things would be different going forward. He kept telling me the Jets were coming, that one day they would be meeting President Obama at the White House. He even went so far as to say it would happen this season.
Silly me. When will I learn? I’ve written so many positive things on the Jets only to be smacked upside the head yet again by a franchise that does nothing more than taunt and tease its exasperated fan base. I take full responsibility for my stupidity and urge everyone to read what I wrote last week about how the last quarter of the season would be a referendum on Ryan’s tenure. If you can, forget all the other things I’ve said, because there’s no question I was duped.
As were many of you.
I’m actually shocked I made it through the first 12 games, whistling as I walked without a care in the world, thinking that no matter what happened in December the Jets under this regime would find a way to avoid the ghosts of the past. It turns out I should have known better. There are a lot of people out there who are going through their mundane tasks this Monday morning with the same look on their faces as I have had ever since the clock ran out on Sunday’s abysmal 10-6 home loss to Miami.
Sure, the Jets are 9-4 and probably just need one more win to clinch a playoff spot. They showed last season that they can summon what’s needed to win on the road in the playoffs. All is currently not lost, despite the fact that they have publicly embarrassed themselves the last two weeks. They can still make something of this season of promise that is losing altitude by the second.
There I go again, dreaming that impossible dream. I’d be better off just going to a meeting and standing up in front of a group of total strangers and saying, “Hi, I’m Jeff, and I’m a supporter of the New York Jets.”
Last week I wrote in this very space how the fans would learn everything they needed to know about the Jets early during the matchup with the Dolphins, who at the time were a .500 team that scared absolutely no one. I typed all that completely mindful of the past, totally aware of 1986 and all the other years the Jets had a winning record heading into December only to collapse in a fashion that only they have mastered. Yet while writing I kept convincing myself that Ryan is a different kind of coach, one who holds his players accountable and is intelligent enough to make the types of adjustments that can turn that which looks like losses into wins.
I don’t know now. And what’s worse, Ryan sounded an awful lot like Rich Kotite in the postgame press conference as he talked about how some of his players played well and how certain aspects of the team did certain things right.
Spare me, Rex.
Even the greatest Jets optimist out there, of which there are now a dwindling few, cannot in good conscience honestly believe the Jets will do enough over their final three games to instill any confidence that they can make a run in the playoffs. We’ve gone from seriously believing this team could secure homefield throughout to praying they even get into the tournament. And trust me, if there is a way the Jets can miss the playoffs they have given you every indication that they will explore it the rest of the way.
Give the defense credit for realizing the urgency of the situation on Sunday. Granted, the Dolphins are a terrible offensive team, but the Jets did pretty much what one would expect their quality unit to do against a team it is supposed to do it against, allowing just 131 total yards and six first downs. Chad Henne, who has often looked good against the Jets, completed just five passes. The Dolphins got their field goal and touchdown off Jets turnovers in their own end.
What is apparent and no longer open to any kind of debate is the fact that Brian Schottenheimer is not the right person to lead this offense. He may be a good guy who says some funny things on camera, but as far as constructing an offensive game plan that gets the most out of the Jets’ talent and accentuates the positives of second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez, “Schotty” has proven to be shoddy. In their four losses, the Jets have scored a grand total of 18 points. And even in the games where the Jets scored 20-plus, they often did it in dramatic fashion, relying more on individual player’s talents than any 60-minute blueprint put together by Schottenheimer and his positional coaches.
There currently is no running game to speak of. LaDainian Tomlinson hasn’t broken down like many figured he would. He’s instead been asked to run the ball up the middle. And Shonn Greene, a player who has the ability to sustain drives by himself, rarely sees the football with any consistency. I mean a low-scoring defensive struggle in bad weather and your bulldozing running back gets a grand total of eight carries, while your quarterback throws 44 passes? Really?
It would be easy to kill Sanchez for his recent performances, but Schottenheimer has not found a way to make his talented quarterback’s life easier. So what if tight end Dustin Keller is being taken away by opposing defenses. It’s the offensive coordinator’s job to find a way to get him the ball or to come up with alternate plans that go beyond running the football up the gut and sending receivers four yards over the line of scrimmage.
I’m all for replacing Schottenheimer with Bill Callahan right now, but I have no idea if the Jets would risk upsetting their apple cart with only three games remaining and the playoffs still a very real possibility. Maybe that type of coaching shakeup would snap this offense out of its doldrums. I can’t imagine Callahan doing a worse job.
If you believe in karma, the Jets have none right now. Between Schottenheimer and Sanchez’s struggles, Ryan looking and sounding like disastrous Jets head coaches of the past, and team personnel thinking it’s okay to trip opposing players, there’s nothing positive about this team that would lead you to believe it will turn things around.
This is a disaster in the making, a horror show unfolding in front of millions. But then again, it’s nothing new.
It’s the Jets, the team that rarely gets it right, no matter how often the names on the backs of jerseys and faces under the helmets change.
Good luck next weekend in Pittsburgh, boys. It should be a real hoot. I mean if Mike Tomlin decides to rest Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison and James Farrior, you’ll have the Steelers exactly where you’ll want them.
And even if the Jets win, I’ll know better.
Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me for 40 years, shame on me.