Underwhelming. Disappointing. Shocking. Abysmal. Pathetic. Disastrous. Calamitous.
Those are just a few of the words that could be used to accurately describe the season endured by the New York Jets and the franchise’s fanbase.
After an off-season that included a slight flirtation with Peyton Manning, a mega contract extension for Mark Sanchez and a trade for Tim Tebow, the Jets ‘enjoyed’ a regular season that featured plenty of Sanchez interceptions, a lisfranc foot injury for Santonio Holmes, a torn ACL for Darrelle Revis and no berth in the playoffs. Fittingly, the Jets’ season ended on a bad snap from center Nick Mangold against the Tennessee Titans when they were on the precipice of sneaking into the AFC Wildcard round. It made sense that Mangold was the player who combined with Sanchez for the Jets’ playoff push’s final act, because Mangold was one of the players who makes Jets’ fans so proud of their team. At least, he used to. Mangold snapping that football to Sanchez was a proverbial passing of the baton.
All of that led to quarterback Greg McElroy getting the start this weekend against the San Diego Chargers, in a move that likely ends the era of Sanchez as the team’s starter, despite his large cap hit for next season. With Sanchez likely on the way out, many now expect the Jets to completely clear house from top to bottom. That would mean that general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan would be looking for new places of employment over the coming months. Tannenbaum has no real argument against his dismissal.
The only person that he can blame is Woody Johnson, the Jets’ interfering owner who lords over his employees. Typically blaming your boss for your failings won’t get you very far. Tannenbaum can’t argue that he has put in place the pieces to win a championship team, which would heap the scrutiny on Ryan’s ability to coach, but if he is to make some legitimate argument he could point to the fact that the Jets lost their most talented players on both sides of the ball, Holmes and Revis.
That really isn’t a plausible excuse. Tannenbaum built his reputation on drafting stars in the first round such as Revis, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Mangold and David Harris. However he never truly built a roster that could sustain long-term success or overcome injuries to key players. His late round picks were never overly impressive or consistent, while his willingness to part ways with picks for short term trades were short-sighted. Tannenbaum isn’t the man to retool the Jets’ roster, but Ryan may still be the man to be the head coach.
Coaching in New York isn’t easy, but Ryan’s boisterous approach has made him fit in like a jigsaw piece. Ryan’s coaching philosophy and ability to handle players on the offensive side of the ball is lacking to the extreme. His run based offensive approach is archaic and can’t succeed at this level without an explosive playmaker at the quarterback position, Russell Wilson in Seattle, or some creativity from the coaching staff, Kyle Shanahan in Washington.
That said, Ryan is the complete opposite on the defensive side of the ball. Even though his defensive unit ranked 20th in the league this year, once Revis was lost he was working with very few pieces and a complete lack of depth. Ryan is a creative defensive coordinator who players love to play for, his ability to create a dominant defense does not hinge on having superstar players, but the Jets didn’t even give him good players to work with this season. In spite of that, Ryan never lost his whole team. Despite dealing with more media attention than the 31 other teams combined, as well as an impending quarterback controversy at every moment, the Jets’ players played hard all season long for their coach. Considering the talent that was available to them, being 6-8 with two weeks left in the season should be considered a major achievement for the head coach.
Ryan is not the man to develop a new quarterback or implement an offense that could compete in today’s NFL, but if the Jets were to bring in an offensive coordinator, such as Norv Turner, in the off-season who could completely take over the offensive side of the ball, much like Sean Payton and Gregg Williams did in New Orleans all those years ago, the Jets could have a formula for success in the long-term.
You can follow Cian Fahey on twitter @Cianaf