|Written by Michael Amato|
|Thursday, 20 December 2012 09:37|
The New York Jets loss to the Tennessee Titans on Monday night was a fitting end to an abysmal 2012 season. Mind you, there are still two games to play, but the Jets needed a victory to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. From here on in the team will be playing for pride only. A spectacle Jets fans have witnessed far too often in the team’s history.
Monday’s game was a microcosm of New York’s entire season. They hung around, but nothing ever gave you the idea they could actually pull it off. Despite repeated opportunities to come away with a victory, Mark Sanchez threw four interceptions and lost a fumble in the final two minutes to seal their fate.
Many wouldn’t have seen this coming from a team that reached the AFC Championship game in 2009 and 2010. With a solid defense and an offense with the ability to make some timely plays, the Jets looked to be on the cusp of emerging from the shadow of their neighbor, the New York Giants. Since then the Giants have captured another Super Bowl title and the Jets are now officially in full regroup mode. Not even Rex Ryan’s defiant confidence could save them.
Sanchez is going to take much of the blame for the Jets struggles, and so he should. He has been anything but consistent, plays the quarterback position in New York, and seems to have a knack for making Benny Hill like plays. He’s an easy target. Over his past two seasons Sanchez has thrown 35 interceptions and lost 15 fumbles. That’s a great way to lose a lot of games and get a coach fired.
Although Sanchez has taken the brunt of the criticism for the Jets recent failures, you could easily argue that his worst season as a pro came in 2009 when the team made the conference title game. Sanchez threw for less than 2,500 yards that year and had just 12 touchdowns compared to 20 interceptions. The difference that season was the Jets had the league’s top defense and were only giving up an average of 14.8 points per game. He simply didn’t have to do as much. Since then the Jets D has dropped to sixth overall in 2010, 20th overall in 2011, and once again they currently sit 20th in 2012.
The Jets run game has also started to slip considerably. In 2009 they led the league with an average of 172.3 yards on the ground per game and in 2010 they were still fourth in the NFL. This season they sit in tenth, once again putting more pressure on Sanchez. The running game is a quarterback’s best friend, but the Jets can no longer rely on it as much as they did during their playoff runs.
The addition of Tim Tebow this offseason also seemed to have a negative effect on Sanchez. Instead of creating healthy competition and some motivation, Sanchez seemed to be trying to do too much to keep his job and thus ended up making a lot of mistakes. He seemed to be forcing more throws than he normally would as opposed to checking the ball down for some easier completions.
If Sanchez was indeed worried about Tebow taking his job, those fears seemed to be unfounded. Ryan refused to play Tebow and at times it looked like he was doing so out of spite. Not towards Tebow, but to fans and media who could clearly see it was time for a change and hopefully a spark. With Ryan now announcing Greg McElroy will start this week against the San Diego Chargers, Tebow must realize he is not in the Jets future plans, and reports are he may seek a trade or his release at season’s end. He would probably have been more fortunate if he had gotten traded to the other team that was interested in him last offseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tebow is from Florida, the Jags need help selling tickets, and he would have surely gotten an opportunity to play. It was a win/win for everyone involved. If that door remains open is anyone’s guess.
While adding Tebow seemed to be an issue for Sanchez, losing some key players didn’t help matters either. Darrelle Revis tore his ACL in week three which made a good defense look pretty average, trusted receiver Santonio Holmes was lost after just a month with a foot injury, and Plaxico Burress wasn’t re-signed.
You can’t help injuries, but not holding on to Burress made little sense. He posted eight touchdowns in 2011, which was the third highest total of his career, and seemed to be a bit of security blanket for Sanchez and a real red-zone threat. Keep in mind he had been out of football for the two previous years also. Had he been retained, Sanchez and Burress could have potentially built even more chemistry together.
Worst of all, maybe the Jets were just a victim of their own expectations and overachievements. Ryan would tell anyone that would listen that his team was going to win a Super Bowl, even if those expectations were about as unrealistic as a Kardashian wedding. Making those two AFC title games could have been the worst thing to have happened to the Jets. They felt they were close and ignored a lot of glaring problems that faced the team. Success is a dangerous thing for a coach because once you have some, there is no going back.
Take the Tampa Buccaneers in 2010 as an example. After a 3-13 campaign the year before, the Bucs went 10-6 and barely missed the playoffs, with a weak schedule and some improbable victories. When they crashed back down to earth in 2011 and went 4-12, upstart coach Raheem Morris was canned. Tampa Bay was nowhere near a 10-6 squad, but expectations had been raised to an all-time high. Morris never stood a chance.
There is not one specific person to blame for the Jets fall from grace. It was a true team effort. Maybe one of the more cohesive things the team has accomplished in recent memory. The organization owes Sanchez $20M thanks to a less than brilliant idea of signing him to an extension last March, so he will probably be back in some shape or form in 2013, much to the chagrin of Jets fans.
Ryan, on the other hand, would still seem to have a bright future. Whether that is in coaching or broadcasting remains to be seen.
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|Last Updated on Thursday, 20 December 2012 09:44|