Remember this time two years ago? When the Kool-Aid flowed like wine, Mark Sanchez’s career trajectory had some resemblance of an upward trend, and January football had already become an expectation for a long-tortured fan base that had the new-found appetite of a starving fox released into a cockfight?
I have written two articles in the past about the New York Jets, one after Rex’s third season and the other during this past year. This time, however, rather than explore the team’s route to underachievement (or achievement, depending on how far back your Gang Green past stretches) or contributing reasons for Mark Sanchez’s stunted development, I simply wish to reflect on why the Jets have become a team that merits no success in the near future, nor loyalty by their fans when this latest period of doldrums finally ends.
We know why Mark Sanchez is still a Jet (cap reasons), but why is Rex Ryan still his coach? I don’t buy the argument that he is not head coach material. His success in his first two seasons invalidates that argument, regardless of his respective shortcomings. Instead, the team is in complete rebuilding mode, save for him (and the quarterback position, for now). With the playoffs realistically out of sight for at least the next two seasons, Woody Johnson would seemingly have every reason to find a new coach with a different philosophical approach.
This did not happen, however, because while Darrelle Revis packs his bags, the starting quarterback options for next season are Mark Sanchez, David Garrard, and Kevin Kolb (more on this atrocity in a moment), and Mike Goodson will be expected to take the reigns as the team’s new lead rusher…(hahahahahahaha…ok, let’s continue), this roster competes with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders for the least talented squad in the league.
This current team has no discernible poster player, let alone face of the franchise. As a result, the front office will rely on Ryan to provide off the field entertainment, while the team struggles on the field, more than ever. Like him or not, he has become one of the city’s most recognizable sports figures over the past four years and, as a result, his sound bites will serve as one of the most worthwhile features of the franchise this upcoming season.
Since he entered the league, Sanchez needed a lot around him to post league average stats. The talent plummet at the skill positions and offensive line in the past couple of seasons has been the largest reason for his decline in performance. Dustin Keller’s absence throughout much of last season paved the way in Sanchez’s career trend from stagnation in year three to full-blown regression in his fourth season (check his stats with, without Keller). The Jets let Keller go south to division rivals Miami because A) Sanchez is officially a bust, so why keep his favorite player? B) Who needs homegrown talent, amIrite?
It actually got so bad last season that Ryan had to sub Sanchez for McElroy so people wouldn’t start thinking that he has Sanchez jersey body art or something equally unbelievable. McElroy was able to lead the drive that led to the Jets’ only touchdown in a horrific game against the Arizona Cardinals, but he was pretty awful when he got a chance against the Chargers at the end of the season.
The Tim Tebow experiment was a failure on all accounts, besides the fact that he increased ticket and jersey sales. We all know how much of a failure Sparano’s gimmick Wildcat ended up being, but Rex Ryan’s refusal to play Tebow showed him to be a guy who was primarily looking out for his own neck and, as a result, refused to give Tebow any opportunity to play, even after all playoff hopes had withered via Mark Sanchez’s fumble in Tennessee.
If there was a situation to see how Tebow can perform as starting quarterback, it would be now, but it will not happen. He probably has the most to offer out of the three, it would excite at least some of the fan base, and worst-case scenario would be that the Jets win 3 games instead of 4, but Rex Ryan will never start him, so there’s no point in saying any more about this.
So Sanchez shouldn’t start because he’s useless, McElroy won’t start because he’s the backup dammit, and Tebow won’t start because it’s all Mike Tattenbaum’s fault. The next step for any rational front office, according to Max Weber, would then be to sign a 35-year old who hasn’t competitively thrown the ole pigskin in two years and to show serious interest in an injury-riddled quarterback who might be as good as Jeff Garcia someday possibly. You know, for extra competition. Whoever can throw Santonio Holmes the most accurate seven yard slant routes will probably get the starting job, but who even knows.
The zinger is that they are all terrible players. Rex Ryan and Mike Tattenbaum opted for the short route at every fork in the road that they encountered, and that has screwed them now, whether you’re looking in terms of the cap or the on-field product. Surrendering draft picks was a stable of the Tattenbaum era, and now players who he traded up/gave up picks for have either found new homes, fell short of expectations, or both (Dustin Keller, Shonn Greene, Santonio Holmes, John Conner, Mark Sanchez).
The Revis situation is a microcosm of this fiasco: front-loaded contract, keep him happy for now, worry about the future later. Well, that future is now, he’s pissed because the team did not efficiently communicate their desire to trade him, and he’s all but out the door. I agree with trading Revis at this point, but giving up one of the best defensive players for likely less than his maximum value will be another tough pill to swallow for Jets fans, especially as they watch Kyle Wilson getting burned on stop-and-go routes next season.
Whether it be the departed Mike Tattenbaum, Rex Ryan, or Mark Sanchez, each figure could be seen at their worst throughout last season. In a perfect world, all three would be gone, but since it’s the Jets that we’re talking about, that would never be a viable solution, for one reason or the other. For now, there’s nothing to cheer for, and it’ll probably be that way for a while.