By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork/WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — Only the Jets could force me to break my lone rule of column writing.
I have found that I need at least a few hours of sleep before tackling a pressing issue having to do with this forever enigmatic franchise. I do this because my emotions often get the better of me. I sometimes zig when I should zag or open up Pandora’s Box without any clue how to close it. A clear head is a must.
Well, I’m flying in the face of my own mantra because I’m fairly certain I’d be of the same opinion even if I had slept for a month. While it’s true the sun will be up soon, it may have already set on the Jets’ season.
And there’s no way Brian Schottenheimer and Mark Sanchez should be allowed to co-exist once the book on 2011 is officially closed.
While I have stated publicly on numerous occasions it would be wrong to blame either man exclusively for any one Jets loss this season, it’s readily apparent this team will not take the next step with them working side by side. To allow their courtship to continue beyond the next five or six weeks would be an act of sheer lunacy.
In fact, I think the Jets have regressed. If you need proof, watch highlights of last week’s loss to the Patriots and Thursday night’s obscene 17-13 defeat to the Broncos, setbacks that dropped New York to 5-5 and in serious danger of not making the playoffs on the heels of back-to-back AFC Championship game appearances.
Too much hinges on the offensive coordinator-quarterback relationship. I don’t care if the Jets think they are a run-first operation. Their approach each and every week this season has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt they have no idea what they are or want to become.
The Jets came into the season ready to turn Sanchez loose. Moves were made at the wide receiver position to bring in more proven talent. The run game was shelved somewhat so that Sanchez could begin to make that ascension to the next level that so many third-year quarterbacks have made in the past.
It had not worked out too well after a month, which is usually too short of a period of time to draw any concrete conclusions, but Rex Ryan did what he thought was a course correction anyway, and was applauded by countless thousands. The Jets wanted the world to believe that the running game of years gone by would suddenly re-emerge and get this team back to what it once was.
And while the running game has improved of late, or had improved until it was derailed a bit by injuries to its main two components before Thursday night was even a quarter old, the passing game was still supposed to be better, even if it was de-emphasized.
It’s not better. It’s painful to watch. Sanchez may indeed be on pace for his best statistical season, but it sure doesn’t feel that way.
I cannot put it any more plainly than this: Schottenheimer, for all his good intentions, is not an adept teacher of quarterbacks. And on a team that needs nothing but positive vibes and proper instruction whispered to its signal caller, Schotty’s approach, whatever it is, has not worked.
The Jets still do not throw the ball deep. The same predictable slant pass will be attempted in either Santonio Holmes’ or Plaxico Burress’ direction several times a game. The same check-down toss to a running back will inevitably happen, usually on third down and the play will end nowhere near the first down marker. The tight end, whose name I won’t mention because I’ve forgotten it, is used only sparingly.
It’s professional football played in medieval times.
Back then, heads came off when things didn’t work out. At least one head needs to roll now, too.
Now, yes, a lot of the reasons for the Jets’ offensive ineptitude falls on Sanchez. Schottenheimer is hardly the sole culprit in this mess. However, I have no faith, none whatsoever, in Schotty to fix his quarterback’s ills.
Just watching Sanchez Thursday night was like something out of “Final Destination.” You knew, inevitably, someone was going to suffer something sinister.
Sanchez looked and played scared all night regardless of the fact that he threw for 252 yards and completed 60 percent of his throws. I thought “Happy Feet” was a kids’ movie. Oh no, happy feet is what Sanchez uses to get around his pocket, which caved in at times against the Broncos, leaving a kid with no direction as it is doing nothing but running for his life or ending up face down.
But, that said, when Sanchez did have time to pass, which actually was the case more often than not, he looked like a rookie again — like a deer in headlights, terrified beyond most human comprehension.
Sanchez may have guts, but he has no one truly guiding him. Schottenheimer does not put his quarterback in a position to succeed, which, if you ask most anyone who has followed the kid’s career, means moving him out of the pocket or letting him improvise on the run. The reality is Sanchez often sits back there praying someone will get open instead of expecting someone to be open. That, my friends, is a product of terrible game-planning by the coaching staff.
I have plenty of friends in the media, several of whom cover the Jets on a daily basis. One of them, while responding to the madness on Twitter following Thursday night’s loss, said replacing Schottenheimer after the season would be a mistake because Sanchez would have to learn an entirely new offense. And considering Mark’s inability to adapt to certain game situations, it might be asking too much of him. I respect my friend’s opinion completely, but I disagree.
I like to joke from time to time about things having to do with the Jets to put readers at ease, because this fan base takes things very seriously. I once suggested Jets fans occupy the Florham Park training facility until the team gives its masses an offense it can be proud of. Many people got a kick out of that one, but there’s was a lot of truth in what I was complaining about. The Jets’ offense stunk then just as much as it stinks now.
And there’s a growing movement in social media and in households across the Tri-State Area, not to mention inside MetLife Stadium whenever the Jets play. The masses are quickly starting to turn on Sanchez. Some disliked him from the second the Jets traded up to get him with the fifth pick in the first round three years ago. Others have gone from taking a wait-and-see approach with him to flip-flopping and outright calling for his ouster. Sanchez’s sex appeal as far as football goes is waning big time.
But I can almost guarantee he’s not going anywhere. He will be the Jets quarterback for the foreseeable future. Since that’s going to be the case, and this team is showing no signs of developing an offense the fan base can get excited about, someone needs to be thrown to the lions. The lynch mob has to get someone, if only to quell the rebellion for a little while. I think if Schottenheimer goes the Jet fan would be more inclined to extend a new lease on life to Sanchez, because the majority of the fans know this kid played just 15 college games and never got a chance to sit and learn for a year watching a veteran NFL quarterback actually taking snaps. No offense, Mark Brunell.
Now you may think what goes on in fandom has no impact or bearing on what happens on the field each week, but I got news for you. Constant bashing from fans and media does, indeed, wear on the psyche of professional athletes, especially in New York. All of this negativity surrounding Sanchez has to force him to question if he really does have what it takes. Of course, he’s never going to publicly admit that, but he is human, can see what’s in print and certainly can hear what’s being said on television, on radio and in the stands every other week.
The Jets will need a lot of upgrades this offseason, but dumping Schottenheimer could very well be the perfect example of addition by subtraction. Whomever the next guy ends up being will be a very welcome addition, at least a far as the development of Sanchez goes.
This quarterback, at all of 25 years of age, is already at the crossroads of his NFL career. Someone needs to step in and prevent him from becoming a cautionary tale.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini
Would you extend Sanchez a lifeline or be willing to give him a clean slate next season if the Jets bring in a new offensive coordinator? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.