During the 1982 strike-shortened NFL season, the New York Jets made it to the AFC Championship Game for the first time since 1968, when it was known as the AFL Championship Game. After a 14-year wait, the Jets faithful were treated to a five interception performance by QB Richard Todd against the Miami Dolphins as the team saw its Super Bowl hopes sink and disappear deep into the Orange Bowl mud.
It would be another 16 years before the Jets would make another appearance at the AFC’s big game. During the 1998 season, head coach Bill Parcells and quarterback Vinnie Testaverde would lead the Gang Green into Denver’s Mile High Stadium for yet another low point and disappointing effort against the Denver Broncos.
This time, taking only 11 years to recover and revisit the AFC Conference Championship, the Jets would once again play in the 2009 AFCCG against the Indianapolis Colts, who ended up beating them soundly and moving on to the Super Bowl. Ironically, the only reason the Jets were in the playoffs was because of a gift from the Colts in the regular season, where the 14-0 team pulled its starters in the third quarter against the Jets. He who giveth, taketh.
The Jets would give their fans a bonus the following season in 2010, as they would once again play for a Super Bowl berth in Pittsburgh. The result was once again the same as the previous three visits as a poor start against the Pittsburgh Steelers once again sent them home packing from the Steel City, one game short of the Super Bowl.
Two years removed from the 2010 Championship game appearance, the Jets once again find themselves at a crossroad with a team that has gone on a rapid decline. To say this was unexpected would be to deny Jet history in how often it has continued to repeat itself. Fans who say they have been blindsided by the Jets’ latest demise are obviously not students of the team’s roller coaster history.
Having traded away numerous draft picks and leaving the roster as thin as a razor blade, the team is once again facing a huge uphill struggle to respectability. So, where do they go from here? Is it possible to pick up the pieces while once again asking the fans to remain patient for multiple seasons?
In a refreshing deviation from the lack of honesty that has surrounded the Tim Tebow signing, Jets owner Woody Johnson has made no secret of the fact that every single member of the team is under critical review. At 5-7, the Jets’ playoff hopes are fading quicker than the setting sun over the western New Jersey horizon. Decisions will have to be made that will be a lot less prettier than a Mark Sanchez GQ magazine spread.
Heading up the line to the chopping block appears to be Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum. It is looking more and more that the Jets’ two consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances were more the result of the previous regime (GM Terry Bradway and Head Coach Eric Mangini) than they were Tannenbaum’s doing.
Tanny’s chicks are coming home to roost faster than a wired roadrunner attempting to escape the clutches of Wile E. Coyote. It looks like the Jets may need to use an Acme bomb to blow things up and start all over again.
Getting rid of Tannenbaum may not solve anything if the Jets organization is unable to pick up a competent General Manager who is willing to come to Florham Park and clean up this green slimy mess. Let the truth be told, the Jets are a little short in the prestige department when it comes to such hirings.
The better GMs who are looking for work have their sights set on other teams instead of the Jets. Being in New York and having to put up with the incessant media assault is not exactly the dream job most GMs covet. That just describes the ones who are from New York. The party for the Jets is over and not many quality front office guys can be too interested to run in and clean up this devastation.
That brings us to the Jets head coach Rex Ryan. If the past couple of seasons have shown us anything, it is that Ryan is better suited at being a defensive coordinator than a head coach. During the recent slide, the players have not only given up on Ryan, as they did last season, but he has consistently shown he is unable to properly prepare his team for battle.
The team has been plagued with numerous execution issues on the field that can only be attributed to poor preparation. Even two consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances cannot sugarcoat the large chink exposed in Ryan’s armor. The Jets should offer Ryan the defensive coordinator position and if he does not accept, the two should part ways.
In today’s NFL, a successful team needs an offensive minded coach at the helm. The Jets made the mistake of employing two defensive minds and only one offensive mind in the coaching staff. With the league continuing to legislate tight and physical defensive play out of existence, two offensive minds and one defensive mind is more appropriate for today’s game. Whether or not offensive coordinator Tony Sporano hangs around should be completely contingent on who the next head coach will be.
From a player personnel standpoint, the Jets need a complete overhaul. Nothing short of moving mountains can resurrect a roster which has as much star power as a low budget movie featuring a bunch of D-Listers.
Keeping Sanchez around with his high salary contract extension now becomes a risky move. Even if Sanchez does break out of his funk and is able to improve his performance (a big “if”), the team may not likely show any significant improvement until his final contract years. If he continues to play with rebuilding teams, his body and his ego will continue to take a beating from an already impatient fan base.
Although Sanchez’ stock has plummeted significantly over the past couple of seasons, moving him out to Oakland to replace another USC quarterback, the fading Carson Palmer, may be the best solution for both parties. Being from California, Sanchez will have the best chance to be a successful quarterback in the Golden State, where the climate and the fans are a bit less harsh.
Another high profile player the Jets may look into putting on the trading block is CB Darrelle Revis. Although his stock has also fallen a bit due to injury, a deal for Revis could land the Jets future talent which they are in desperate need of. Keeping Revis around in what should still be his prime years with an inferior team makes little sense at this point. With the trading of important draft picks over the past few seasons, the Jets have been left with too many bodies to fill in key positions.
Johnson is at a very unenviable position as he attempts to pick up the pieces and reassemble a shattered team. With payments for a very expensive stadium also looming over his head, the task becomes even that much more daunting.
The Jets are once again at the same familiar crossroad the team has been at so often in the past. No matter which road they decide to take, one thing is for sure, it is looking like a long and bumpy ride back to competitiveness.