By Steve Lichtenstein
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Maybe the winds from Hurricane Sandy can blow the Jets out of town.
It can take them all, from the greedy and inept owner, to the general manager-coach tandem and their flawed plan, to the underperforming players.
That’s how I feel after Sunday’s dreadful 30-9 defeat to division rival Miami.
The Jets head into their bye week at 3-5, with a 2-2 record in their division. Their season is over. As professionals, I’m sure they’ll do their best to take advantage of opportunities to win a few more games against Jacksonville, Buffalo or Arizona, and it’s possible they may even pull out a game or two as road underdogs.
But what’s the point? It can only lead to false hope, like after the Jets’ resounding opening day victory over the Bills or the supposed return to ground-and-pound during their whipping of the Colts. The tease continued as the Jets discarded any momentum from their encouraging performance during last week’s overtime loss at New England. A few more wins might make owner Woody Johnson think, “Hey, we’re on the right track.”
No, this is a team that needs to be blown up. There’s not one position on the roster that I can say, “You know, I think they’re pretty much set over there.”
Starting with the quarterback. I’ve been as guilty as others in giving Mark Sanchez a bit of a break, believing that it was not fair to pin the entire blame on one player’s shoulders when the team was imploding around him. He has no support from a running game, no receivers with separation speed and a line that includes a couple of turnstiles.
But I can’t ignore that Sanchez has plateaued. He continues to kill his team with an unacceptably high number of negative plays. He often plays like a rookie, locking onto one particular receiver and with no feel for the pass rush. The poor field vision leads to poor decisions, whether it be bringing the ball down prior to the strip-sack by Miami tackle Paul Soliai in the first quarter that set up the Dolphins with a short field prior to their touchdown to take a 17-0 lead, or the third quarter red-zone interception by Chris Clemons that destroyed any hope for another Miracle at the Meadowlands.
In situations like these, teams often use the bye week to transition to a younger quarterback. The Jets have one, though Tim Tebow is only about 9 months younger than Sanchez.
Now I’m not a believer that Tebow will be able to perform another team exorcism like he did for last year’s Broncos. Different situation. I know Sanchez has accuracy issues, but Tebow is way worse. And it’s not like the Jets’ line will suddenly start knocking people off the ball to give Tebow a chance to succeed out of the Wildcat.
However, why not Tebow right now? I have no idea what the Jets expect from him. They have him as a punt protector, so they’ve snuck their way to a couple of extra first downs on fakes, but also have had two punts so far this season, including a devastating one in the first quarter yesterday. They’ve also lined up Tebow as an H-Back to block and run routes. Just what Sanchez needs—another eligible receiver who can’t get open.
Let him play quarterback. We KNOW what Sanchez can give these Jets, and it’s not anything close to Super Bowl material. If Tebow does somewhat well, maybe some other sucker will trade for him to get a short-term publicity boost. The last thing I want to hear out of coach Rex Ryan’s mouth is, “We’re gonna play the guy who gives us the best chance to win.”
Win what? A few more games that would accomplish nothing but drop the Jets in the 2013 draft?
It’s up to Johnson to ensure that the Jets think about the long-term picture. If general manager Mike Tannenbaum and Ryan are not on board, then they should be let go. That vision has to acknowledge where the NFL has settled in the early part of this century.
The best players on the best teams are the quarterbacks. Not one of the cornerbacks. Even the teams built with standout defenses, like Houston, San Francisco, Baltimore or Chicago, won’t realize their dreams unless their quarterbacks not only excel in game management during tournament time, but are able to lead their respective teams in tight spots with big throws.
There could be two minutes left and you need to go 80 yards without any timeouts to advance in the postseason. Think of the quarterbacks you want in the shotgun. Neither Sanchez nor Tebow should be on that list. That means the Jets will need a new one in 2013.
The offense should be built around a passing game. If offensive coordinator Tony Sparano and Ryan insist on the ground and pound, then they should head over to the college ranks where the talent discrepancies enable that to be effective for more than a couple of games.
The Jets have a glaring need for speed on both sides of the ball. Winning teams have big-play receivers, a bevy of cover corners and a feared pass rush. The Jets do not, which makes these areas as responsible for their record as Sanchez. The injuries to wide receiver Santonio Homes and cornerback Darrelle Revis further exposed the Jets’ lack of depth.
The one receiver they ordered in the second round of the 2012 draft, Stephen Hill, seemed to have all the tools but unfortunately the package arrived without a pair of hands. Watching 2009 first rounder Kyle Wilson trying to play press coverage is beyond frustrating. I haven’t seen the explosive pass rush expected from first-rounders Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, though I can’t fault Coples too much as he is tied for the team lead in sacks with a grand total of two in eight games.
These failures fall on Tannenbaum, along with his scouts, as well as Ryan, whose staff has not developed players effectively. Even Mike Westhoff, the esteemed special teams coordinator, looks like he’s ready for retirement after being forced to watch one of the most disgraceful performances he has ever scripted in his career.
Whether they return or not is up to Johnson, who seems to think that championships are won by media coverage instead of on the field. Hopefully he will conclude that the fans do not want the future to look anything like the present. Most fans recognized that this team was fundamentally flawed from day one of training camp. I guess the expected nature of this season is why I am usually in a much fouler mood after such a defining loss. If it leads to a rebuilding project, then some good can come out of it.
Demoting Sanchez would be the first step of a process that, considering the lack of talent on the roster, could take a couple of years — since he is not the only one I hope will be gone with the wind.
Have you given up on Sanchez? Be heard in the comments below…