By Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — Losses happen, often without concrete explanations. Just simply having a bad day also happens. Bad calls and freak occurrences that lead to excruciating defeats happen.
But being non-competitive doesn’t just happen. It usually takes quite a while to manifest itself.
That’s where the Jets are now.
I was asked Sunday night if I felt the Jets’ 34-0 loss to San Francisco was as bad as the 45-3 loss up in New England in 2010, or the 9-0 home loss to Green Bay that same season. My answer was it was worse than both. I say this because despite those humbling defeats the Jets were still 9-3 and you knew what they were, as they proved in the playoffs when they went back to Foxborough and won.
Sunday’s loss reminded me of Thanksgiving Day of 2007. The Jets went to Dallas against the 9-1 Cowboys and were ripped 34-3 on national television. They went on to 4-12, much like they could very well end up this season.
For the first time in Rex Ryan’s three-plus years as head coach the Jets are in worse shape than they were before he got here. They are an embarrassment to the Tri-State Area. They have absolutely no idea what they are doing and there appears to be no hope that they will turn things around any time soon.
And if you have to put a face on it, Ryan’s certainly a culprit, but he’s not the kingpin.
This past offseason a crime was committed against this fan base. Coming off an 8-8 season that featured a trademark debacle in December, one would have figured the Jets would have been hell-bent to fix their problems in an attempt to get back to the type of play that made them so exciting to watch in both 2009 and 2010.
This was, after all, a team filled with veterans with plenty of legs left. The Jets needed to be tweaked, not remade. Great teams have taken steps back in the past, only to recognize their vulnerabilities and make corrections.
If the current Jets ever had the potential to be truly great, the odds are we’ll never know now.
That’s because general manager Mike Tannenbaum, in all of his infinite wisdom or for reasons that defy explanation or are hidden deep beneath the surface, did basically nothing to improve this team. God’s honest truth. Look at the roster and tell me what he did short of signing LaRon Landry to bolster the safety position.
Instead, the Jets pumped up their draft until the cows came home. They swore up and down that they recruited impact talent that would make their names known sooner rather than later. They pushed the younger and more athletic angle. They pushed the return to Jets family values with the now-defunct “ground and pound” mantra. They said Shonn Greene was poised for a monster season. They intimated that Mark Sanchez was ready to take the next step toward living up to the promise that came along with being the No. 5 overall pick in the 2009 draft.
They waxed poetic about new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano and how his approach would make everyone forget about the often maddening blueprint under Brian Schottenheimer. Sparano, we were told, was the perfect guy to work under Rex because they were cast from the same mold and had the same philosophies.
Little did we know that executing on offense was another way of saying let’s get the defense back on the field, or let’s turn our skill position players and offensive linemen into cornerbacks and linebackers as the ball goes in the other direction.
All of that offseason stuff was, at the time, the world’s most orchestrated public relations put-up job. The truth is the Jets sold everyone a bill of goods, basically forced everyone to take them at their word. In short, they told you they knew what they were doing. Ryan even came out and said this may be the best Jets team he’s ever coached.
Then the actual games started. Do you honestly believe anything Rex says anymore?
Now, the Jets apologist will hit you with a series of counter-attack ads, supposed explanations for why what you have seen will not be a true indicator of what you will ultimately get. They’ll demand you look at the standings, where you will see the Jets still in first place in the AFC East at 2-2, thanks to the combination of their 2-0 divisional record and the fact that New England may not be what it once was, or was before it dropped 45 points on Buffalo in a spectacular second-half display on Sunday.
The apologist will put another big chunk of its argument behind Darrelle Revis’ season-ending knee injury, which, while an understandable blow, doesn’t explain why the Jets had very little depth in their secondary in the first place (Monday’s signing of corner Aaron Berry notwithstanding), or reveal the truth behind why the Jets are currently allowing more than 170 yards per game on the ground, good enough for 31st overall in the league. They’ll also use Revis’ injury as the reason why the Jets have managed just five sacks in four games, with no actual signs that all of this youth and athleticism will add up to anything tangible.
And now, going forward, they of the green shades at night and pom-poms by day will use Santonio Holmes’ injury as the scapegoat for why Sanchez will struggle, ignoring of course the fact that the Jets’ other three everyday wideouts have about 20 minutes of combined experienced in the NFL. The fact that Holmes is not out there will also somehow be a reason why the Jets have no running game in execution, due in part to horrendous run-blocking and the fact that if you add all of the guys who carry the ball together you still won’t get one premier or even top 10 running back.
All of this is a joke, a comedy of errors created by Tannenbaum. And short of the now-undermanned and completely lost Jets pulling off the greatest in-season turn-around the NFL has ever seen — of course not technically but more based on simply looking at the mess and conjuring some sort of miracle — this general manager must go as soon as the season ends.
Back in the preseason, when the Jets couldn’t score and everyone was on the ledge, owner Woody Johnson was asked about the job security of both Ryan and Tannenbaum. He gave Rex a vote of confidence but pleaded the Fifth on Tannenbaum, which to me suggested in no uncertain terms that Johnson, too, wasn’t going to stand for another year of going in the opposite direction.
Yet his team, once soaring and fun to watch, is now grounded and likely will be pounded throughout the upcoming weeks.
The Jets simply don’t have enough talent to pull off a crazy about-face. What kind of season-altering trade could Tannenbaum make to save this team and himself? Even if by some act of God the Jets do manage to Scotch-tape this thing together and get to 9-7 and into the playoffs what would they really have accomplished?
If it’s not about winning championships, what the hell are we all here for?
And in the tradition of completely turning heel, I’m done with Sanchez. He just doesn’t have “it,” regardless of what your definition of “it” may be. The Sanchez apologist, of which the numbers are dwindling exponentially as you read this, will point to my earlier observation that Tannenbaum did a terrible job of giving this quarterback weapons. They would be right, but they also would be overlooking the fact that we’ve seen Sanchez fail just as miserably with proven veterans out wide. And while I still do believe this kid can be the quarterback we’ve seen in the playoffs in the past, there’s just so many 13-of-29, 103-yard , turnover-riddled performances a fan of any longevity can be asked to accept.
Sooner or later a quarterback has to make the best of situations. This quarterback does not, but then has no problem being the happy-go-lucky “What, me worry?” guy in the locker room afterwards.
But since Sanchez was given a ridiculous contract extension and the Jets seem to have no intention of ever letting the world see if Tim Tebow’s magic can work here, they’re stuck with him.
Tannenbaum has had some very good moments as Jets GM, but even his supposed crown jewel, drafting Revis, has been under scrutiny because many believe Eric Mangini was the true orchestrator. Instead of hearing and reading about everyone’s faith in “Mr. T” to get the job done, which was certainly the case back in 2009 and 2010 when he was acquiring the likes of Braylon Edwards, LaDainian Tomlinson and Holmes, we’re now hearing more and more about how he’s not a very good talent evaluator.
Which is it? It would be difficult to defend him based on what we’ve seen over the last year-plus.
The Jets are spiraling out of control and their commanding officer appears to be powerless to stop it. The buck has to stop with Tannenbaum. Make no mistake, Rex will take several bullets if this thing truly heads south, but he’ll likely avoid taking the fall.
But the one thing to remember is if Tannenbaum does go, Rex could very well be kicked to the curb with him, because the next general manager will almost certainly want to install his own head coach, that is if he’s concerned with his legacy, something you better take into account if you ever dare to take control of the Jets.
So, in other words, if the Jets want to avoid regime change, they have 12 games to show everyone that the vast majority of their fans are nuts and overreacting.
I say good luck with that because from what I’ve seen, the sky isn’t falling, it’s already landed.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet
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