By Jeff Capellini
Losing two of your top four projected cornerbacks on the same day of training camp is a justified cause for hysteria, considering just how much of a passing league the NFL has become.
But with the Jets and their fans, what happened over the weekend up in Cortland was viewed more like an end-of-the-world scenario. Depending on who you can bare to listen to for more than 30 seconds, the Jets’ secondary has been built with Oak Tag rather than reinforced steel, and because of that only an act of God will save Rex Ryan’s job.
General manager John Idzik has done a lot of really good things since last season ended, but many fans and several members of the media haven’t forgiven him for his decision to go in another direction at corner, and likely won’t any time soon considering what went down Sunday.
The reaction to the season-ending knee injury suffered by third-round pick Dexter McDougle and the high-ankle sprain that likely will keep last year’s first-round pick, Dee Milliner, sidelined into the regular season was swift and ferocious. A lot of people now really want Idzik’s head on a stick. I even read one column that suggested — on Aug. 10 mind you — that if Ryan does indeed get fired after the season ends — roughly five months from now — Idzik should also be fired.
Like I was saying, total and complete hysteria.
The Jets decided not to get involved in the insanity that can be Darrelle Revis and his contract and had seen enough of a decline in Antonio Cromartie’s game not to consider bringing him back either. They then refused to pay what many considered to be B-level free agents top dollar just because they were the top names on the market this past spring. Rightly or wrongly, the Jets did all that with an eye on the future more so than on 2014.
But for whatever reason, a faction of the fans and media has this insane fascination with cornerbacks all the time, as if there is absolutely no chance the Jets can win unless they have Revis and several of his clones patrolling the secondary every season.
It’s getting to the point where it’s a wonder the Jets actually need talent anywhere else. As long as they have Superman on one side and Iron Man on the other, they’ll be a playoff team.
C’mon, folks. Enough already.
How about the Jets, for once, actually take some of the pressure off their defense by becoming at least a middle-of-the-road team on offense? Is that asking too much? I believe it would ease this obsession with the secondary rather quickly.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Do you know how many times the Jets have been in the top 10 in average points per game over the last 15 years?
Twice — and one of those times was in 1998 when the Jets had one of their best teams in franchise history.
The other time happened in 2008, the year before Ryan arrived. That team finished ninth in the NFL, averaging 25.3 points per game, mostly because Brett Favre, in his lone season with the Jets, threw the ball all over the place, allowing the Jets to score points in some cases by accident. It didn’t matter, though, because that team finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs.
Those aberrations aside, the Jets have been mostly a sorry team on offense for a very long time. If you don’t believe me, please take a look at their scoring averages dating to ’98:
2013 — 18.1 points per game, 29th overall
2012 — 17.6, 28th
2011 — 23.6, 13th
2010 — 22.9, 13th
2009 — 21.8, 17th
*2008 — 25.3, 9th
2007 — 16.8, 25th
2006 — 19.8, 18th
2005 — 15.0, 29th
2004 — 20.8, 17th
2003 — 17.7, 23rd
2002 — 22.4, 15th
2001 — 19.2, 17th
2000 — 20.1, 17th
1999 — 19.2, 19th
*1998 — 26.0, 5th
And let’s be thankful I didn’t decide to go even further back in time. The Ken O’Brien years were actually good on the offensive side of the ball, but in the time between O’Brien’s departure in 1992 and Bill Parcells’ arrival following the joyous 1-15 1996 season, the Jets’ offense played revolving quarterback and at times looked downright high school-like.
So for basically the past two decades the Jets have been pretty inept when they’ve had the ball, and this is with the NFL becoming a much more pass-oriented league over the last several years. What’s even more mind-boggling is the fact that the past 15 years have arguably been the unofficial golden age of Jets football. Think about it: seven playoff berths and three AFC title game appearances. You won’t find a better stretch in the franchise’s 54-year history. And it was all done with very little on the offensive side of the ball.
So with all that said, I’m tired of hearing about cornerbacks, Rex’s “mad scientist” schemes and how the world will stop rotating if Ryan doesn’t have the toys he needs to guard opponents’ top receivers.
Enough already. Try scoring some damn points for a change.
This season shouldn’t be about Milliner, McDougle, Dimitri Patterson, Kyle Wilson, Darrin Walls, Ellis Lankster, Johnny Patrick, Ras-I Dowling, Brandon Dixon, or anyone the Jets move around or acquire to solidify the cornerback position going forward. It should be about Geno Smith (and/or Michael Vick), Marty Mornhinweg, Eric Decker, Chris Johnson, Chris Ivory, Jace Amaro and a mostly veteran offensive line. It should be about a balanced offense that finally makes the Jets competent on both sides of the ball.
The biggest criticism of the Jets’ defense is that it is not the best defense in the league, as if that’s some kind of a crime. It’s an extremely unfair condemnation because the unit is almost always good enough to help lead the Jets into the playoffs — with the key word here being “help.” But because the offense is rarely good, many in the Jets’ fan base ratchet up expectations on the defense to a point where it can’t help but be deemed overrated.
It’s not fair to ask the defense to dominate for 60 minutes, considering its overall talent, but it is fair to ask that it be a top 10 unit, which it has been consistently under Ryan.
I have no reason to doubt Rex when he says his defense will be good, as he assured reporters Monday in the face of the Black Sunday corner debacle, because year after year it is good, regardless of the personnel.
But I have plenty of reason to doubt Smith and Mornhinweg, because despite vibes that are trending upward there isn’t an overwhelming amount of recent history to suggest the offense will be better than it has been in the past. It’s more or less about taking what we’ve been told on faith.
As if historically that’s proven to be a prudent thing to do.
The Jets simply have to score more points than they are accustomed, which is why if anyone should be on a hot seat this season it should be whoever is playing quarterback and calling the plays. Smith and Mornhinweg hold the key to the defense living up to its realistic potential and, ultimately, whether Ryan will be back for a seventh season.
It’s time we see new-age offense. If we don’t, it won’t make a damn bit of difference who is playing where on defense, let alone at corner.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet
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