5 Reasons the New York Jets Are Rebuilding
5 Reasons the New York Jets Are Rebuilding
The New York Jets have a history of ups and downs which were present from the start. Following several mediocre seasons as the New York Titans a name change took place. Immediate results were similarl as the Jets became a franchise. A lack of identity was present while this team played in the crumbling Polo Grounds. Fortunes changed in 1965 when Alabama star quarterback Joe Namath stunned the football world by choosing the Jets who belonged to the upstart AFL, and passing on the NFL.
His dynamic personality complete with fur coat and GQ cover appearances fit well with a city that loves characters. Of course football fans know how Namath and the Jets stunned the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Fast forward 45 years and New York is still trying to bring home a second Lombardi Trophy.
Sometimes it must feel like fans will have to wait another 45 years. It is always strange how quickly fortunes can change. This pertains to sports just as much as regular life situations. The Jets as it is now widely known are in a situation where they are basically starting over. Many veterans have already left and the off-season has really just begun.
Of course the Jets didn’t get here overnight. A number of factors led New York to this point from consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances to once again being a laughing stock. Being in the constant spotlight that comes with playing in the New York area often leads to panic moves. There is a path that helped spell the end of Mike Tannenbaum and could ultimately be the end of Rex Ryan’s time. It began almost six years ago.
What Could Have Been
Expectations were high for the Jets entering the 2007 season. Former New England Patriots defensive coordinator Eric Mangini had just led them to a playoff appearance in his first year with the team. Of course these hopes were dashed. Then starting quarterback Chad Pennington suffered a leg injury as New York was destroyed by the Patriots in their opening day contest
This pretty much set the tone for what was to come. In Week 17 the Jets defeated the Kansas City Chiefs (who also finished 4-12). At the time it was a boost beating former head coach Herman Edwards at home. What was not known at the time changed history. Had New York lost that game they would have finished with the third overall pick that year instead of the sixth selection.
Future Franchise quarterback Matt Ryan went to the Atlanta Falcons while New York’s pick was workout warrior and bust Vernon Gholoston. Ryan has thrown for 127 touchdowns since 2008. While there is no way to know what would have happened if he had ended up a Jet, chances are there wouldn’t be this mess at football’s most important position.
Brett Favre's Great Start
Staying around the same time frame here, the Jets made another move that shaped their future. Coming off the heels of this disappointing 2007 campaign they wanted instant results. After witnessing the cross-town rival New York Giants win a Super Bowl owner Woody Johnson set out to make sure his team no longer was perceived as “little brother.”
What followed was a shopping spree including veteran defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, outside linebacker Calvin Pace, and guard Alan Faneca. These additions among others prompted this organization and some members of the media to believe a post season return was possible. Of course their largest move was yet to come.
Capitalizing on the bitter breakup between the Green Bay Packers and legendary quarterback Brett Favre, New York acquired the future Hall of Famer for a conditional pick in 2009’s draft. True to his form Favre led New York to an 8-3 start and talks of a Super Bowl. What happened was a tear in his right biceps tendon. Favre and the Jets stumbled to a 9-7 finish, and Mangini was fired. This initial record is important because it raised expectations to an unfair level for Mangini. The team went from a struggling franchise to an organization in win- now mode. He paid for an injury with his job, which of course set in motion current events.
Rex Ryan's Over Confidence
It was important to Woody Johnson for the next head coach to have a dynamic attitude. His former coach was a person who did not conduct the most entertaining press conference or have the most outgoing persona. Johnson also felt that he needed someone to light a spark. Enter Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.
Ryan immediately endeared himself with fans beginning with his famous (or now infamous) " I didn’t come here to kiss Bill Belichick's rings” comment. He was the jolly big man who was not afraid to speak his mind, and players loved him for that. An appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” offered a look into Ryan’s second training camp. This upfront approach won many supporters, and critics too.
These bold antics, like consecutive Super Bowl victory guarantees, were great while the team was winning. At first, Ryan’s guarantees allowed pressure to be placed solely on him. Essentials such as talent and chemistry began to erode over time. In the end over confidence in his specialty helped lead New York to where they are.
Known as a defensive guru, who he is for the most part, Ryan started to believe that he could win games while focusing mainly on one side of the ball. His lack of involvement in the offense is self-admitted. The belief that great defense could override anything was evident in both the “Ground and Pound philosophy” and the personnel present this past season.
The Mirage of Mark Sanchez
When Ryan took over as head coach in 2009 the first order of business was to find a quarterback. This was imperative given Favre’s retirement, ( before he signed with the Minnesota Vikings,), as well as the clear lack of a long term solution.
A Draft Day trade with Mangini led to the selection of USC stud signal caller Mark Sanchez. Sanchez had it all. He was athletic, had a pretty good throwing arm, and already played in the mega market that is Los Angeles. It also didn’t hurt that his popularity on USC's Pro Day resulted in him being swarmed by teammates. Like Namath, Sanchez immediately took to life in the Big Apple appearing on the cover of that same GQ Magazine. Sanchez overcame a rough rookie regular season (12 touchdowns 20 interceptions) to lead New York to their first AFC Championship Game appearance since 1998.
He did it again in 2010, but mental weakness got the best of him as criticism, along with a high turnover rate, helped lead to his downfall.
Mike Tannenbaum's Overspending
It is easy to go back and criticize one’s decisions after the fact. Mike Tannenbaum meant well at the time. In the Summer of 2011, Santonio Holmes was given a five year contract worth just under $60 million. Holmes is a good receiver, and recently agreed to restructure his deal, but at the time Tannembaum felt pressured to keep him.
David Harris, a very good middle linebacker, was given a contract that pays him over $10 million a year. Harris plays with a high motor, but also serves as an example of bad contracts that have happened under this regime.
The most obvious move was the extension of the embattled Sanchez. This decision was an olive branch for New York pursuing Peyton Manning. As a result, Sanchez was given $8.5 million guaranteed for the 2013 season. His cap hit, if released, would be $17 million meaning for better or worse he will most likely be on the Jets’ roster for at least one more season.