“That’s the way this game should end. That’s the way the Jets season should end. Ugly and a loss.”
Mike Tirico couldn’t have said it any better.
Before Monday night’s humiliating loss in Tennessee, the Jets were the NFL’s version of The Walking Dead. After 15 weeks of play that fluctuated between hideous and atrocious, somehow, someway, they were still alive in the AFC. They even had an outside chance of making the playoffs.
If they did run the table and managed a Wild Card berth, I can assure you that there would’ve been an outcry against the worst 9-7 team to ever make the playoffs.
Call it justice from the NFL gods that the Jets have been eliminated and call it poetic that their season ended in such pitiful fashion.
With 47 seconds left to play, on the Titans 25-yard line, down four, the Jets coughed up the ball by completely botching a shotgun snap. Even if you don’t know what a shotgun snap is, all you need to know is it’s one of the most elementary of plays in all of football.
This isn’t even the most inexplicable part of the game for me. What’s worse is that the Jets were miraculously given a second chance by the Titans. After going three-and-out, Brent Kern muffed the punt for only 19-yards.
You could almost feel the jubilation on the Jets sideline.
And then, in an instant, it was over.
The reaction from Trent Dilfer after the game was visceral.
“I think it culminates in one giant toilet-bowl experience when dysfunction starts in the offseason," Dilfer told ESPN’s Stuart Scott, “You're left with an undeveloped, non-directed, untalented offense that cannot survive big-boy football. I'm not taking the blame off Mark Sanchez - he's been pathetic the entire year – he’s mainly culpable, but a lot has to do with how [the Jets] raised him.”
Dilfer continued, “It is justice. It’s NFL justice that the Jets aren’t going to the playoffs because the playoffs don’t deserve that type of football team.”
I won’t spend this article condemning Mark Sanchez. It’s essentially beating a dead horse and, honestly, what more can even be said? He has regressed so dramatically that he’s become the team’s primary impediment.
But it’s also really difficult to argue with stats. This season, Sanchez has a 55% completion percentage, 25.0 QBR and more turnovers (24) than touchdowns (13), including 17 interceptions. Over the past two seasons, he has turned the ball over 50 times, a league-high.
Rex Ryan announced Wednesday that Jets fans long national nightmare is finally over. Greg McElroy, the lone hero of the appalling game against the Cardinals, will get his first NFL start Sunday against the Chargers.
But there are much larger problems for the Jets - one that is outside of Mark Sanchez’ metrics. They may be able to fix the mess they created in 2012 and start fresh in 2013, but it will take the following steps to stop the bleeding -
1. Tebow time is over. The Tebow experiment has failed, miserably. The Jets have to accept it, part ways and move on. What was the team’s single biggest distraction in the offseason (mainly for them) has produced absolutely nothing positive in return.
The idea of a successful hybrid offense between Sanchez and Tebow is absurd at best; their techniques are so categorically different that the team would need two separate offenses to accommodate them both.
Tebow is certainly a confidence-killer for Sanchez. That’s no secret. But he’s also a momentum-killer. When an offense gets into a groove (and for a team like the Jets, those moments are fleeting), abruptly changing the tempo is disorienting, distracting and erases the progress just made.
There are plenty of teams around the league that are so desperate for a quarterback, any quarterback, (Arizona, Kansas City, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Buffalo to name a few) they would happily trade for Tebow.
When you can get players and/or draft picks in return for Tebow’s services, get rid of him. It’s a better prospect than continuing the current dog and pony show.
2. Fire Mike Tannenbaum. The Jets touted themselves in the offseason as a team to be feared but instead they deteriorated into the league laughingstock.
This season, the Jets are ranked 30th in offense (302.1) and turnovers (33) and are 28th in points per game (18.2). There are few words to describe just how dreadful those numbers truly are.
The man calling the shots is general manager Mike Tannenbaum. He’s made bad decisions this season and those decisions should cost him his job. Giving Sanchez a contract extension last March, despite his poor play in 2011, has put the team in an almost untenable situation. Cutting him now puts the organization at a financial disadvantage.
The same can be said for WR Santonio Holmes, currently on injured reserve. Former Super Bowl MVP or not, there’s a reason Pittsburgh let him go. He’s a liability who triggers dysfunction in the locker room and last season was no exception. It’s unthinkable that Tannenbaum rewarded such behavior with a contract extension in the offseason (five-year, $45 million) with $7.5 million guaranteed in 2013.
Coming into this season, the Jets had blatant weaknesses at key skill positions (most notably wide receiver) yet Tannenbaum never addressed these problems.
Without belaboring the Tebow debacle any further, a trade led by Tannenbaum and owner Woody Johnson, how do the Jets fix their glaring problem with Sanchez?
3. So long Sanchez. While it was always noble that Rex Ryan stuck with Sanchez, even when fans and the unrelenting New York media called for both their heads on a silver platter, it’s time to part ways with their “franchise” quarterback.
Not for one game, or the rest of the season, but for good.
Undue and unnecessary pressure was put on Sanchez, from Ryan’s needless blustering (which put a bullseye on his team) to the trade for Tebow (even though it’s obvious they have even less faith in him than they do Sanchez).
Now they’re left with a shell of a quarterback who can barely function on the field. Sanchez needs to try his luck somewhere else because its run out in New York.
Sanchez’s contact extension lasts through 2016. He’s guaranteed $8.25 million in 2013. Even though it’s tough to stomach the loss financially, they would be doing themselves a favor in the long run because the Mark Sanchez era is over.
There is a stark comparison here. One that I think is often overlooked but should be a valuable lesson to the Jets.
In 2007, the Giants franchise quarterback, Eli Manning, was a major liability. He too was in his fourth season and faced the same scorn Sanchez is experiencing right now from fans and the press. The Giants, however, took a different path when they reached that fork in the road. They built a solid team around him and developed his strengths. The organization nurtured him and carried him when needed throughout that season. They did so by the strength of a seventh-ranked defense and a fourth-ranked running game.
The result? Super Bowl XLII. Giants, 17 – Patriots, 14.
The Jets once had that philosophy. They called it “ground and pound” and it took them to consecutive AFC title games. But they abandoned that mentality and now have nothing to show for it.
Instead, the 2012 New York Jets became a car accident, train wreck and three ring circus rolled into one bloated, overhyped green and white package.
It truly is NFL justice.