Trust me. I might be a journalist, but I know this feeling. You don’t write about sports without having diligently followed them for years. Whenever a team enters a crisis, the fan gets especially frustrated because the solutions appear to be so utterly obvious.
Why can’t the dilemmas be fixed? When one is an outsider, the complex issues facing other people are simplified. Allow me an article to relate. It probably resembles a model like this:
Choose Your Own Adventure, Jets! [yeah! High Five!]
You are a second year quarterback plying your trade in world’s biggest and most famous city, attempting to reverse the fortunes of a long suffering franchise. While your flashes of brilliance temporarily satiated a fan-base thirsting for success, a potential heart breaking finish to this campaign will leave many searching for a scapegoat. Being the most recognizable face among mainstream followers, you will no doubt be targeted should this situation continue spiraling out of control. What can you do?
- Get it together. Regain faltering accuracy. Fix haywire footwork. Manage the game, instead of forcing passes, searching vainly for success now appearing increasingly elusive. Regain inexplicably vanished psychic chemistry with Dustin Keller.
- Continue trending downward. Maintain that distressingly poor body language. Embody all the inconsistencies currently blocking any legitimate hopes for a championship.
- Go halfway. Look phenomenal at times, fallible during others. The most likely path.
- Flip back thirty or so pages to the start of your journey, during this heavily anticipated second season. Give your General Manger a phone call, assume a serious tone. Tell him that it may sound crazy, but in spite of strong additions, including headline names like Santonio Holmes, the running game will still determine the fate of the Jets. With this in mind, remind him that everything, absolutely everything should be done to preserve the elite level which the offensive line achieved in ’09. Kindly suggest it was the one facet, on that side of the ball, where the team truly possessed a distinct advantage over opposing outfits. Hey, you are a very young quarterback. Full of potential sure, but still bound for unavoidable mistakes. Should so much be laid upon your shoulders?
You are a second year coach facing your toughest challenge. A team you have personally hyped for months, without the slightest pause or reflection, stands, well, staggers really, toward the brink of brutal collapse. With two brutal road games ahead on the schedule, it is your primary job to rediscover your team’s lost identity.
This whole tripping scandal has been an embarrassment. Not the type of scandal worthy of serious leadership questioning, but a stain all the same. The character of this entire organization has been placed under fire, and rightfully so. Simply goes with the territory. Sure, it’s no Spygate, but it is an unnecessary distraction at a most inopportune time. Your offense can’t score in the first quarter, reflecting negatively upon preparation. A veteran leader seemed displeased with your defensive assessments, voicing his opinion after a crippling defeat. What can you do?
- Present a sturdier façade to the viewing public. While veering between wildly braggadocios to borderline sullen, the team will no doubt take notice. Sure, what you show to the media may not correlate with your private handling of players and practices, but it seems your emotional nature is liable to spill over to the players. Calmness would be required, but that’s already out the window. If you have been a confident, borderline zany personality throughout the season, abandoning such an approach at this crucial, defining juncture would be tantamount to an admission of confusion. Adjustments may have to be made, but sane, successful organizations execute these changes within a reliable framework. This creates an underlying sense of logic behind every action, instead of revealed panic. Don’t radically change on an emotional level, because external scenarios and perceptions have altered. Former Yankees manager Joe Torre was a master at this strategy, until he too became a victim of panic, penciling his best player to hit eighth during an elimination playoff game. That was in 2006. He was hired in ’96. It took a long while. A head coaching tenure built upon quick burning passion and instant headlines will surely fade quickly in this city.
- Continue on this current path. Perform grandiose actions, such as burying footballs, instead of facing reality and attacking team weaknesses. Express genuine befuddlement after humbling defeats, claiming the team looked great in practice before getting absolutely annihilated before a National audience. Threaten your starting quarterback with benching during a press conference, instead of behind closed doors.
- Return to the beginning of your journey, all the way back on page one. Change a few actions, over these accumulating months, to reflect a more humble approach. Believe it or not, it’d have undone most of the impending damage, should an incomprehensible slide become the conclusion to 2010.
You are the New York Jets offensive coordinator. Within the world of professional football, a realm inhabited by players, coaches, and executives, you are no doubt a respected individual. Not to take away the merits of this achievement, but the simple fact is; anyone who has reached your position is given proper due by a majority of his contemporaries. These jobs are not easy to come by, no matter what your last name may be. Unfortunately for you, New York Jets fans do not view the sport through this same prism. Fair or not, they blame the coordinator for everything under the sun, in times good and bad. Paul Hackett may be a revered name among men who have earned a living studying the fine art of quarterbacking, but his play-calling was loathed among Green and White loyalists for years. It’s a familiar tale of cognitive dissonance: When someone is perceived as incompetent, every instance of failure can be credited to his malfunctioning thought processes. When you, the New York Jets Offensive Coordinator, assumed this post, you were assuming this burden. Sure, the opinion of the fans may be irrelevant… in most cities. Not in New York, though. They buy the tickets, the newspapers, pay for parking, feeding the sports monster with incredible enthusiasm. A huge population, obsessed with athletics… it’s a dream scenario for owners; however, it also breeds an irresponsible perspective. Frustrated fan-bases are ignored throughout the country; here they can become a factor in personnel decisions. “Can a guy handle New York?” It’s an idiotic question to many, especially those who believe established performances deviate only under tangible variables, but executives here take it seriously.
The criticism of a coordinator may be wholly irrational. After all, when a guy is calling plays and directing personnel, for his livelihood, a pragmatic perspective accepts he at least has a decent idea of what the hell’s going on out there. I know I don’t, compared to guys who spend hours watching film. Doesn’t matter… fans are irrational. And when they are given legitimate evidence to support their reactionary theories, watch out.
Jets fans have plenty to be grumpy about. The quarterback who displayed so much potential last January has not taken a giant leap forward. The running game, previously vaunted, has regressed. The first quarter, where the offense usually follows scripted, prepared plays, has been an utter nightmare. When the criticisms of a coordinator become reasonable, that is the precise moment where his job security becomes just a little tenuous. So, what can you do?
- For heaven’s sakes, give the ball to Shonn Greene and—
- Stop relying so heavily on LaDainian Tomlinson. The latter has done a fantastic job, no question about it. But he is aging, undeniably, and cannot be depended on for sixteen games of high level production. Greene, so spectacular during the postseason, should not be pushed aside. And Tomlinson, at this stage of his career, need not be taxed so heavily.
- Opt for shorter passing routes early in the game. Execute this plan with the wide receivers. The Jets appear uniquely obsessed with throwing to halfbacks. Sanchez would benefit from completions to his wide-outs early in the game, quick strikes which can prop up his obviously sagging confidence. It’d also help establish a rhythm.
- Stay with this current game-plan. And if so, um, good luck on ye Adventure!
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