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I’m going to mix things up this week and and list all my buys and sells under the umbrella of a much larger general investment strategy. That strategy is one that the New York Jets incorporated this offseason in an attempt to generate much larger returns for the 2012 season. That strategy is simple:
SELL – Brian Schottenheimer
BUY – Tony Sparano
That’s not to say that all things Sparano brings are wonderful and the offense will automatically be a juggernaut, because there are certain aspects of the offense I am still not sold on. Likewise, not all things Schitty (that’s a typo, I swear!) brought to the table were awful. There was some good, I just don’t know what they were. Actually, forget I said anything; Brian Schottenheimer sucks. Anyway, I think the general theme of selling on Schotty and buying in to the Sparano era is going to be profitable for the Jets offense, and not just because like many Jets fans, I thought Schottenheimer was awful (I even wrote a whole column about how the Jets hired him to sabotage their QB’s with his incompetence), but also because Sparano brings a sorely-needed fresh approach. One play last year summed up Schotty’s offense and his reign as coordinator perfectly: 3rd and 6 against the Patriots, pivotal point in the game, needed a first down. This is what he came up with:
That’s right. Five receivers doing 4-yard curls on 3rd and 6! Needless to say, they did not pick up the first down. The Brian Schottenheimer Era, ladies and gentlemen!
Further evidence of how he repeatedly hamstrung the offense can be found in this excellent piece by Jenny Vrentas, found Here. If you read between the lines of the players’ quotes, you can tell they couldn’t stand working within the confines of the his offense — it was too complicated, too restricting, too dumb, and too inflexible. He drew up bad game plans, confused his players, and couldn’t adjust when he had to. Against the Raiders, they threw him a curveball by switching to zone defense when all week the offense had prepared to face man coverage. That was apparently too much for Schotty to handle as he couldn’t –or wouldn’t– adjust, the offense collapsed, Holmes fumed, and the Jets lost. Mercifully, the book has closed on the Schottenheimer Era, and there’s a new hope for Jets fans.
Let’s take a look at what we should be buying and selling when it comes to Tony Sparano:
BUY- Tony Sparano the Play Caller and Line Coach – Contrary to popular belief, Sparano did not call plays in Miami. He did however call them in Dallas during the 2006 season when long-time bench warmer Tony Romo took the reigns and played very well. The offense finished 5th in the NFL in total yards, at 360 yards per game and 5th in passing with 239 per game. They also scored the 4th most points in the NFL. (If you want a good laugh, check out the ranks Schottenheimer has had during his career.) As the offensive line coach, he also built one of the best lines in the NFL during his tenure in Dallas. Solid players like Flozell Adams and Andre Gurode became Pro-Bowlers. Marginal players like Kyle Kosier and Marc Columbo became very dependable starters. Quite simply, Sparano has a history of success, and a proven track record of being very good at certain things. We can expect him to bring those things over with him to New York and improve parts of this offense.
BUY – Tony Sparano’s Attitude and Demeanor – Tony Sparano is a no-nonsense kind of guy. He’s loud, he screams, he curses, and he isn’t about to take any crap from the players. When asked about last year’s Holmes debacle, he said how he was a head coach and he knows how to handle problems. Reading between the lines, he was saying pretty much that that stuff isn’t going to happen this year. The Jets offense needed a swift kick in the ass heading into 2012, and Sparano is the exact kind of guy to deliver it.
BUY – Shonn Greene and the Run Game – I know there has been lots of debate lately about Greene and what kind of player he is after Evan Silva tweeted some less than flattering things about him. Why we are taking evaluation seriously from a guy whose job appears to be highlighting things beat writers tweet about, click “copy”, and then paste them on Rotoworld.com, I don’t know. I’m a believer in Greene and think he can do some great things when given the opportunity, but even his biggest supporters would admit he’s not a superstar. He’s just not that kind of player, but then again, you don’t need an Adrian Peterson to win a Super Bowl. That’s not to say Greene can’t carry the load and help this team win games though, because he can. Joe gave us a great look at Greene’s career and his production earlier today, and provided some valid observations, but there is plenty to be said in support of Greene, as well.
First of all, the new “power” system Tony Sparano brings with him is going to help Greene immensely. Last year Greene at times was the victim of thinking too much on the field instead of just hitting the hole and going, which is what he’s best at. He was also victimized by horrendous line play early in the season, as Nick Mangold went down with an injury and was slow to recover. Brandon Moore also started the season slowly as he was recovering from surgery. Once the line got it together, Greene took off in the second half of the season in a big way, despite not being used to his full potential and still finished with 4.2 yards per carry, which is very solid. Shonn is a streaky runner, so it was maddening to see him get on a role during games the past two years and then the team curiously going away from him for large stretches. Sparano has made it clear he’s going to ride his hot hand, so that shouldn’t be an issue this year. Greene also improved his receiving ability a great deal last year, as he caught 30 balls, which doesn’t make him Marshall Faulk, but it does make him more of a two-way threat.
The other important thing to keep in mind about Greene is that he offers great value to the Jets, and an awful lot of bang for their bucks. He is scheduled to make just under $800,000 this year which allows the Jets to allocate their salary cap dollars elsewhere (ahem, Revis), and with free agency around the corner, you better believe Greene is going to show up in shape, motivated, and ready to put up big numbers. I don’t believe investing big money in your backfield is the way to operate, but rather to have a few low-cost backs who can all get the job done, which is what the Jets have done. Greene may never be the “bell cow” Rex Ryan proclaimed him to be, but in a platoon with a guy like Joe McKnight, he can –and will– be extremely effective. We’ve seen what he can do when used properly, and I look forward to seeing more of it in 2012.
BUY – Mark Sanchez – Yes, I’m going to keep beating the Mark Sanchez drum. Sparano has had lots of success with quarterbacks in the past. I touched on Romo earlier, but he also did very good work in Miami with inferior talents to Mark Sanchez. Chad Pennington (not the Chad we all love from 2002, but rather the guy whose arm was hanging on by chewing gum and paper clips in 2008) finished 2nd in MVP voting. Average talents like Chad Henne and Matt Moore put up some very nice numbers. Mark Sanchez is better than all of them, and now that he’s been freed from Schottenheimer’s stale offense, we can all expect big things.
BUY- Jeremy Kerley and John Conner- Look at the way Davone Bess and Lousaka Polite were used in Miami, and it’s easy to see Kerley and Conner being big contributors this year. As a slot receiver, Bess recorded 54, 76, and 79 catches his first three years with Sparano. Look for Kerley to blossom in that role this year. As for the Terminator, I hope he’s ready for lots of short yardage work, because along with Tim Tebow, they’re going to be pounding lots of balls right up the middle on 3rd or 4th and 1’s.
SELL – Wayne Hunter – I’m sorry, but I’m just not buying all the “New and Improved” Wayne Hunter stuff. Yes, he will likely improve in this new blocking scheme but that’s kind of like saying you went from being the dumbest kid in class to the second dumbest. There’s only one way for Hunter to go, because he can’t possibly get worse than he was last year, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to all of a sudden be good. He’s more likely to get Mark Sanchez’s #6 jersey imprinted on the MetLife turf after he gets him flattened by Mario Williams than he is to become a very good starter.
Like I said, it’s not all flowers and rainbows with the Jets offense all of a sudden just because Sparano is here and Schotty is gone, but things are looking up. I’m buying the Tony Sparano Era. I hope we’re all cashing in in January.