Florham Park, NJ– With failure comes change.
Last season Brian Schottenheimer was exiled as the sacrificial lamb for the offensive failures of this team. The firing was completely justified, but clearly he wasn’t the only problem with this offense. After two straight AFC Championship game appearances, two straight years of missing the playoffs can’t be acceptable. Woody Johnson is known as an owner that may be more interested in headlines than winning, but don’t kid yourself, as well as the Jets have done in the headline making department Johnson can not be happy about the lack of winning over these past two years.
After years of watching the same exact offense trotted out, regardless of what best suited the talent at the time (Pennington, Farve and Sanchez ran identical systems, all very different quarterbacks), and seeing the same predictable plays ran over and over again with no success, because everyone knew what was coming, handing Schottenheimer his walking papers was long overdue. So it’s understandable that many people reached a point where they simply decided anyone else would be an upgrade over Schottenheimer, but it was naive to think swapping Schottenheimer with Tony Sparano would be the one move fix this offense needed. The problems with this offense over the past two years involve the offensive coordinator, but they run much deeper than that.
The offensive line was among the best in the league during Rex Ryan’s first two years and because of this the Jets had one of the best running games in the league, which helped make Mark Sanchez’s job a whole lot easier. Last year the line crumbled and this year it has been a roller coaster ride. They started out slow, especially in the running game, improved and then turned into a disaster once again last week with spotty performances mixed in throughout. The lack of depth (on both sides of the ball), the decline in the offensive line, the revolving door at receiver and a quarterback who was in over his head all contributed to the failures.
Firing someone after only one season always feels like a bit of an overreaction in the moment, but in many cases it’s the best move to make.
The biggest problem people have isn’t making an initial mistake, it’s continuing the mistake. Everyone makes mistakes, the key is to recognize and correct the mistake as soon as possible. The hiring of Sparano was clearly a mistake, this mistake needs to be rectified and not with the notion of ‘well anyone has to be better than him.’
This offense needs an offensive guru to take over if it has any hope to become a respectable unit anytime soon. It’s not all Sparano’s fault, as detailed above, he wasn’t exactly given a lot to work with, but he continually failed to establish any type of rhythm with this offense and just like Schottenheimer did last year, he failed to stick with a successful running game, instead choosing to keep Sanchez throwing in a close game when it obviously wasn’t working. If this offense is going to improve next year, it starts with bringing in a strong-minded offensive guru and letting him map out his plan for the offense.
For most people Norv Turner is the first name that comes to mind and that’s for a good reason. Turner has failed as a head coach, but is a phenomenal offensive coordinator who could be trusted with building a respectable offense from the start. He’ll need changes in player personnel, but he’d also need a say in said changes. Turner has said he’d accept an offensive coordinator job and seemed to suggest he’d be open to that job being with the Jets. All indications are that the Jets will indeed fire Sparano, if Turner really would come here Woody Johnson needs to make that happen. If not Turner, it can’t be a failed retread like Cam Cameron or Mike Mularkey (rumors are circulating he could be fired from Jacksonville), it must be a strong offensive mind who has a clear vision for how to run an effective offense.
No matter who the offensive coordinator is they’ll need help by way of roster changes, which leads us to the door of GM Mike Tannenbaum. The GM is the one ultimately responsible for the roster and if fielding this offensive roster isn’t a firable offense, than what is? Considering the decision to stick with Wayne Hunter and not address the offensive line concerns, the wide receiver decisions and extending Sanchez this past offseason, there’s just not any type of case to be made for Tannenbaum to keep his job and the early reports are he won’t be keeping that job. Johnson has a really close relationship with Tannenbaum so the rumors of Tannenbaum being demoted but staying on staff could definitely play out, but it seems impossible that he could salvage his job.
The next GM can’t be a cap specialist, he has to have a strong track record of drafting, finding and developing talent. The Jets have all types of offensive issues, but they all stem from a lack of talent. It’s the GM’s job to recognize and find the talent for the team, the Jets need someone who knows what they are doing and has proven it, it’s the only way this defense doesn’t get wasted and years pass before the Jets sniff the playoffs again. There’s some well known names that would do fine at the top of the Jets wish list, but take a look around the league and pay close attention to the teams that have done a great job of finding talent, both in the draft and free agency, developing that talent and building a complete roster.
Teams like San Francisco, Houston, Seattle, Baltimore just to name a few all have done an incredible job of finding exceptional talent over the years, find out who in their scouting departments are responsible for many of these decisions and offer them a promotion.
As for the coach, the only unit on this team to show some type of consistency has been the defense, which is why Ryan should stay and get at least one more year. Last season was the worst of the four defenses Ryan fielded as coach of the Jets, the biggest problem was with the play of the safeties. This offseason Ryan addressed those concerns by signing LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell and both have been great additions to this defense and are a huge part of why the secondary was able to play so well even after they lost Darrelle Revis. Unlike the offensive problems that weren’t addressed Ryan was able to identify the problems with his defense and offer up a viable solution to fix those problems.
Add in the past two first round picks of Muhammed Wilkerson and Quinton Coples and it’s clear that Ryan has a vision for this defense and with a few changes (mostly at linebacker) this defense is right back to being the dominating unit Ryan dreams of. Firing Ryan and bringing anyone else would change the direction of the defense and the defense is the only unit on this team that has promise right now, canning the guy with the upward trending vision for this defense does nothing to help this team.
Fire or demote Tannenbaum, replace him with someone with clout in the scouting/player personnel department, fire Sparano and replace him with a strong offensive mind with a plan all mapped out and let him have control over running the offense. Keep Ryan as the head coach, in control of all things defense but concede he has no clue about offense so he’ll just stay out of the way. Ryan can still handle the media and the press conferences, fans and reporters are tiring of his schtick, but the players love it because ultimately he’s putting all the pressure on himself.
There are a lot of things wrong with the Jets organization at the moment, but the defense isn’t one of them and based on the roster moves over the past few years it seems that this defense will continue to trend upwards as long as the Jets stick with the road map Ryan has laid out. But as for GM and offensive coordinator, it’s quite obvious the Jets need to move in a new direction, a direction that offers a promising destination.
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