By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork/WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — It’s about to begin.
With all the political unrest in the United States, why shouldn’t it carry over to the sports world?
Born on Twitter, the “Occupy Florham Park” movement is a direct, as of yet non-violent, protest against the Jets and all they stand for when they have the football. Fans are tired of an offense incapable of supporting a defense that seemingly loses years off its life on a weekly basis.
A case can be made that the Jets have not had a vertical passing attack since the days of Kenny O’Brien, Al Toon and Wesley Walker in the late 1980s. What this team has put out there since has been a series of big-name players running in circles that rarely stretch more than 10 yards down field, under the guidance of one lacking offensive coordinator after another.
Since 2006 Brian Schottenheimer has been the man in charge of making the Jets go. The problem, though, has been this offense remaining in neutral far more often than it has ever gotten into any recognizable gear. “Schotty” has often been vilified in the stadium, in the media and online for being the furthest thing from an innovator. Some of it has been warranted and some of it has been the product of misdirected angst.
And while it’s true the Jets made it to the AFC Championship game in both 2009 and 2010 under Schotty’s tutelage, fans have never accepted him as one of their own.
And the reason for this is simple: The Jets always seem to need a month to do what other teams often do in a minute.
I was never a “supporter” of Schottenheimer. I just wrote and tweeted against people who always called for his head when they didn’t consider the circumstances — like injuries or game situations — or simply missed the boat completely as to why the Jets didn’t win.
This season I vowed to give Schotty the benefit of the doubt no matter what. I mean, he was given the keys to a year older and wiser quarterback in Mark Sanchez, was handed an offensive line that once again figured to be among the best in the NFL, was shipped not one or two, but three excellent wide receivers in Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason, and was already familiar with eventual Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson, sturdy and workman-like running back Shonn Greene and more than reliable tight end Dustin Keller.
I mean what was not to like?
When early season injuries and inconsistency plagued the offensive line, I urged caution instead of immediately lambasting the offensive coordinator. I said time and again, let the line get healthy before you kill Schottenheimer. If holes don’t open to run through and protection isn’t there for Sanchez, how could anyone in their right mind expect Schotty to game-plan any kind of offense that would score a slew of points and, probably just as importantly, attain any semblance of balance and rhythm?
Well, with the return of all-everything center Nick Mangold and some soul searching from right guard Brandon Moore and tackle Wayne Hunter, the Jets offensive line returned to form to some degree last Sunday against the Patriots.
But the passing offense was far less scintillating, a running theme in these here parts. Yes, I do realize Sanchez threw for around 700 yards in the Jets’ opening two games and both ended as wins, but I feel like Schottenheimer took shots down field in spite of himself. He couldn’t run the football due to the line’s blocking problems so he did the only thing he could do.
He turned Sanchez loose.
Fast forward three weeks to the New England game. The line was run-blocking well, but the shots down field disappeared — once again until the Jets were forced to do nothing but pass, down 13 points with a little less than a quarter to play.
And Schottenheimer has given no one any reason to believe that line of thinking and play-calling won’t continue until rapture or he’s let go and someone is brought in who understands that this is indeed the 21st century and in the NFL that means throwing the football in a manner that opens up the offense and makes life easier for the running game, not the other way around, as was the case for a great part of the 1960s and ’70s.
Schotty simply never gives you any reason to believe he’ll truly adapt to the new-age NFL or at the very least supplement the Jets’ “ground and pound” approach with deep passes to keep opposing defenses honest.
Now, whether or not you buy Rex Ryan’s missive that in no way did his trio of receivers come to him to complain about the play-calling, something happened. That’s the only real way to explain why a deal to trade Mason, a man with 935 career receptions and plenty of giddy-up left in his 37-year-old caboose, was reached late Tuesday night with the Houston Texans.
The Jets are now one receiver light and more responsibility has been bestowed upon the shoulders of one Jeremy Kerley. The tiny speedster can play the game, no question about it, but on a team built to win yesterday does it make a lot of sense to trust a pint-sized rookie over a hardened veteran like Mason? Especially when your passing offense is already extremely offensive at times?
And while I’m at it, I just wanted to let everyone know that the Jets’ problems are not entirely hinged on play-calling. Sanchez, when given the opportunity throughout his two-plus NFL seasons, has been hit or miss. Of course you expect a rookie or second-year quarterback to force the ball or get happy feet or eat a hot dog on the sideline. It goes with the territory of being young and occasionally clueless. But as a third-year guy, when the world expects you to man up and start to make that ascension into the league’s elite, you can’t have a quarterback who is still telegraphing his passes or locking in on the primary receiver without a bye or leave for his progressions.
Sanchez still does these things, but we forgive him because he’s, again, young and occasionally clueless. What we don’t forgive is Schottenheimer’s inability to fix the problems. I see no way Sanchez will ever become all he can be with Schotty as his primary on-field teacher.
So it really goes without saying something definitely stinks in the Jersey suburbs.
Enter “the movement.”
The fine people of Florham Park and the surrounding areas need not worry about noise or the protesters looking for handouts. We have no intention of turning our demonstrations into the circus that’s transpiring in Manhattan and in other municipalities across the country. We simply want an offense and we’re so determined to get one we’ll camp out for days, weeks and even months to see it done.
The idea of occupying Florham Park has been years in the making. Careful thought and preparation has gone into our decision. While we expect resistance from the security guards at the practice facility we have no intention of getting rowdy. You won’t catch me sneaking in to steal a shower or some practice shorts. Maybe we’ll just have a massive sit-in. Maybe we’ll picket. Perhaps we’ll sing songs about the “Sack Exchange” or re-enact Richard Todd to Jerome Barkum against the Fish at Shea. We may even invite Joe Namath along to run interference and hog all the interviews because, using my most colorful sarcasm, he seems to really believe he has the pulse of this franchise.
Regardless of how we go about our business, we’re going to get an offense.
We expect you, Rex, Mike Tannenbaum and Woody Johnson, to be listening.
Have you not learned anything from the likes of Paul Hackett? No? Well, what you trot out there every Sunday right now isn’t a whole hell of a lot better. The way I see it, the Jets owe us something. Could his name be Anthony Lynn or perhaps Bill Callahan? I don’t know. But as it stands, neither does anyone in the Jets’ braintrust.
We’ve set a date to begin the occupation. The “L7” tailgate crew from MetLife Stadium has already secured hundreds of tents, grills and Porta-Pottys, plus thousands of pounds of food and gallons of drink to last through the 2015 season. You have until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 17, to show us our offense. If not, we’re coming bright and early Tuesday morning.
You play the 0-4 Dolphins in front of a national audience on Monday night. You have a chance to prove to the world that Schottenheimer is worth Rex’s praise. While naturally the idea that night will be to win the game, I’m going to temporarily shelve my mantra that states there are no style points awarded for a victory in the NFL. On the contrary, under these special circumstances we want all the bells and whistles, plus plenty of touchdowns.
Give us a reason to believe our future is secure. I want to wake up Tuesday knowing I won’t have to watch 5-yard pass patterns run on 3rd and 6 anymore. I want peace of mind knowing you’ll try to set up a screen more than once per game. I damn near expect an occasional bomb. We’d all be really pleased if you did more no-huddle and ran more misdirection instead of trying to bash through the back of Mangold on nearly every first down.
I could go on and on and on.
So, our stance is clear. Give us our offense. Now.
Or let the takeover of Florham Park begin.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini
Do you think Schottenheimer needs to go? Or are the Jets’ problems bigger than one man? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.