The New York Jets entered the 2012 season as a soap opera waiting to explode.
Would Tim Tebow unseat Mark Sanchez as the starting QB? Would Rex Ryan’s mouth continue to put a bounty on the team as a whole? Could the team steal wins against teams like the Patriots instead of headlines against teams like the Giants? The answers to these questions came crashing down on the NY Jets with their dismal loss at home to the Miami Dolphins.
The Jets' struggles in season can be traced to their questionable decision making last offseason and in the draft. Time after time, GM Mike Tannenbaum ignored the needs of the team in favor of inexpensive gambles and logic-defying trades.
First and foremost is the Tim Tebow elephant in the room.
No trade or free agent signing was met with more headlines and head scratches than when the Denver Broncos unloaded Tebow on to the Jets. The Broncos knew what the Jets are finding out now, which is that one very good Quarterback is better than two average ones. At best, Tim Tebow has been a distraction and a waste on the field. Other than a few fake punt conversions, he’s contributed nothing to the Jets offense. It makes no difference if his performance is a result of talent or scheme—the results speak for themselves.
Furthermore, if you examine how the Jets handle the use of Tebow in their offensive packages, it is clear that they are putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage. When Mark Sanchez lines up under center and Tebow lines up as a halfback or wide receiver, the Jets are effectively playing with one less man on the field. Defenses can focus on the Jets other skill players, which—let’s face it—are not all that skillful.
Next up on the firing squad is Mark Sanchez.
All the hype of Sanchez entering his fourth year and improving during the offseason is turning out to be a public relations mirage. Sanchez is the same QB he was in his first three years: inconsistent, streaky, inaccurate and a turnover machine. Mark Sanchez is the type of Quarterback who could have succeeded in the style of football played in the NFL when defense and running games ruled the day.
He’s at his best with a dominant ground game and the ability to throw out of play-action. Ironically, had he been the Baltimore Ravens QB when Rex Ryan was the teams defensive coordinator, the team may have won more than just one Superbowl. Perhaps Ryan's mindset is stuck in 2001.
The bottom line with Mark Sanchez is that when the pressure is on and defenses can play the pass, he crumbles. His lack of height leads to multiple tipped passes. His lack of arm strength leads to a failure to make big throws down the field. And perhaps most importantly, his lack of on-field awareness leads to multiple turnovers per game.
The exclamation point on the Mark Sanchez situation is that Mike Tannenbaum inexplicably gave him a multimillion dollar contract extension in the offseason.
The NY Jets leadership has not done the team any favors either.
Rex Ryan continues to ignite feuds with players from competing teams (Reggie Bush this week), which is unprofessional gamesmanship no other NFL coach gets mixed up in. Owner Woody Johnson seems completely out of touch with the pulse of the team, opting to talk about his backup Quarterback more than the general state of the team. Even special teams coach extraordinaire Mike Westhoff has seen his unit struggle, giving up two blocked punts and a blocked field goal this season.
The NY Jets are at another crossroads in their oft-troubled history. The promise of two consecutive championship games from 2009-10 is long gone and the reality of rebuilding an aging defense and vanilla offense is upon us.
The question for Woody Johnson is whether his current leadership team of Tannenbaum and Ryan are the answer moving forward. His answer, I fear, will be Tim Tebow.