By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork/WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — Woody Johnson better know what he’s doing.
When the Jets announced Monday that offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was expected to return in 2012, you could hear a collective gasp throughout the Tri-State Area. You could also hear chuckles from places like greater Boston, Western New York and South Florida.
Since we’ve already touched on the “Sunshine State,” let’s move north from Miami approximately 340 miles to Jacksonville, where Shahid Khan, the man who will take over complete control of the Jaguars this week after buying the franchise from long-time owner Wayne Weaver, is expected to eventually interview Schottenheimer for the team’s head coaching position.
If that process goes well and Schottenheimer is hired, Santa Claus is expected to call a press conference to announce that Christmas will make an unprecedented return to both the New York City and Jacksonville areas to kick off 2012. Sources say Santa will also unveil his new Polar Express train, which will be pulled by thousands of green and white reindeer. The jolly old fat guy, likely wearing “Fireman” Ed Anzalone’s helmet, will then dump millions of presents on both municipalities.
I mean the vast majority of Jets fans will be just absolutely giddy.
Of course, there are those, myself included, who think that Schottenheimer is only partly to blame for the Jets’ archaic approach to scoring points. However, popular opinion often reveals the truth and in this case, as I’ve tried to state countless times, the other, as in non-playoff, football team in the Tri-State Area needs to take a fresh look at its offensive philosophy and, more importantly, needs to find a way to make quarterback Mark Sanchez become all that many still believe he can be.
As it stands right now, Schottenheimer is still property of the Jets and if nothing changes will remain in his current position until the end of the 2013 season.
Again, Mr. Khan, the Jets’ fan base would have absolutely no problem blowing away your asking price. They’ll even throw in a lifetime gift card to the new Apple store inside Grand Central Terminal if you’ll just do the one thing the Jets hierarchy is either too stubborn or too afraid to lose face to do.
General Manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan spoke at a rather surreal press conference inside the Jets’ Florham Park headquarters on Monday. They did their best to defend Schottenheimer, but the one key accolade, if that’s what you want to call it, to come out of the question and answer session was Tannenbaum calling his beleaguered coordinator’s service of late “credible.”
This for a team expected by many to get to the Super Bowl this season off two consecutive AFC championship game appearances, the way paved mostly by defense mind you, that finished 25th overall in total offense, led the NFL in points allowed off turnovers and ended up 8-8 after losing its last three.
And of course there was the Sanchez maturation process, which, granted, was as much the quarterback’s fault as it was the offensive coordinator’s, but was never rectified, despite him throwing for a career-high 3,474 yards and 26 touchdowns.
To the Jets, all of this, coupled with the fact that the Sanchez experience will continue in some form no matter what, was enough to bring back Schottenheimer. Perhaps Tannenbaum and Ryan were taking their cues from owner Johnson, who has rather quietly become fiercely loyal to not only his own employees but also to NFL lineage. I don’t know if Johnson is tight with Marty Schottenheimer, the former longtime NFL coach who experienced far more success than failure during his solid career, but he certainly respects both father and son.
If Brian Schottenheimer is not scooped up by any of the teams currently with head coaching vacancies, Tannenbaum’s job this offseason will become harder than it’s ever been before. That’s because the Jets, with a few tweaks on the offensive line and at the skill positions, could be a highly productive unit next season with a more forward thinking coordinator, like Josh McDaniels or others who have yet to be named. (Norv Turner, the most attractive potential guy for the job will return as Chargers head coach, the team announced Tuesday afternoon)
But if Schottenheimer returns, Tannenbaum can’t just tweak and pray. My opinion on the Schotty-Sanchez relationship has not changed and probably won’t unless those two guys unzip themselves and come back as different people next season, and right now there’s no indication either will.
Does anyone have any real confidence that Sanchez will make this quantum leap in the cerebral aspects of playing quarterback? We know he has the physical tools, but with a coordinator that seems either unable or unwilling to teach him all the other stuff it just seems like an awfully big risk to pair these two together for even one more game, let alone another season or two, which is what they both have left on their respective contracts.
If this is Johnson playing the loyalty card, then shame on him. And if Tannenbaum and Ryan had other ideas but didn’t fight more vehemently, then shame on them, too.
On the other hand, if bringing Schottenheimer back is based on some shot in the dark gut feeling that both coordinator and quarterback will eventually get on the same page and be able to work side by side to make the Jets less reliant on defense, all I can say is if it fails Johnson’s competence as an owner must be questioned and his GM, head coach and every other coach on the staff should go.
Jets fans may be overly reactionary, emotional like teenagers with early curfews and often fair-weather, but they aren’t stupid. They can see right through this and not because they know the true reason why Schottenheimer was given a vote of confidence, but because they’ve been through so many coaching disasters throughout the decades they are almost Nostradamus-like in predicting what’s to come.
Tannenbaum is now charged with fixing a broken team, but unless a Pakistani-born billionaire steps in and saves the day, the Jets’ GM, as far as I am concerned, should just turn to the Army Corps of Engineers to shore up the defense.
Because unless there’s a miracle — and it would be a true post-Christmas miracle in Jetsland — a Schotty and Sanchez-led offense in 2012 may even give the Mayans a moment of pause.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini
Do you think the Jets will ever improve offensively with Schottenheimer and Sanchez working together? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.