Believe it or not, the Jets did not go 0-16 this year.
Obviously, the Jets didn’t light the world on fire either. With bold and brashness (specifically from the mouth of your head coach) comes high expectations, and when 6-10 happens, you get…. The Jets. There isn’t a quick fix with the Jets, the flaws are numerous and the cap situation is bad. But like we’ve seen time and time again: it all gets better with improved quarterback play.
Four critical plays come to my mind with this Jets season: a Mark Sanchez interception on the final drive against Houston, a Stephen Hill drop in New England, which left crucial points on the board late, a Mark Sanchez fumble in overtime in that same game, ending the game, and a Nick Mangold bad snap/Mark Sanchez fumble that ended the game (and season) in Tennessee.
I’m not saying the Jets win those games if those plays are avoided (especially Tennessee) or the Jets make the playoffs if those plays happen (the QB play was too bad), but you could argue 6-10 goes to 9-7 just like that. Unfortunately, those plays did happen.
Change comes from the top, and that change is in progress with the general manager position. Mike Tannenbaum did some good things for New York, his last two first round draft picks Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples seem like home runs, but bad contracts, signings, and trades have put the Jets in a bad situation. His firing was step one in a recovery process.
If New York does indeed land San Francisco’s Tom Gamble, it would be a huge win. Gamble has been key in building what may be the deepest roster in the NFL, striking gold with mid-to-late round draft picks at an abnormally high rate. If Gamble wants the job, snatch him. Do not hire Scott Cohen, a Mike Tannenbaum disciple. Go fresh.
It’s ridiculous that owner Woody Johnson would force a general manager with a head coach, but that’s exactly what he’s done. If a new GM wants his own guy, he should, but I guess that’s not the thinking of Johnson. Rex Ryan is a great defensive mind, but his loyalty and offensive handicapping is holding the Jets back. I’m not against Ryan staying, but there have to be major improvements for year five of the Rex Ryan project. The Jets will also look into a new offensive coordinator. Hue Jackson and Norv Turner should all be at the top of the list. I’d also be thrilled if Broncos offensive line coach Dave Magazu was listed as a candidate. Magazu has had success in Carolina and Denver in that position and has been tutored under some great offensive minds.
Time to cut bait with Tim Tebow. The Jets would save $1.05 million dollars if cut and I think it’d be in the right move unless Jacksonville wants to work out a deal. Personally, I’d sign Matt Moore and go with him to start the season. Moore is an unrestricted free agent and I would be surprised if he went for more than $3.5 million on the open market. Moore will come cheaper than Alex Smith and Mike Vick is… Mike Vick. He can be a dynamic playmaker but too often fails on basic reads, is a fumbling machine (sound familiar?), and gets injured too much. I guess when you phrase it like that he’s perfect for the Jets though.
The Jets should let Shonn Greene, Dustin Keller, and Matt Slauson walk in free agency. Greene was outplayed by Bilal Powell (among others) all season, Slauson was already splitting time with Vlad Ducasse (yes, rotating guards in the NFL), and Keller is nothing but an average tight end. Delanie Walker, Dennis Pitta, and Anthony Fasano could all be cheaper options at tight end and put up similar production. The Jets could give Powell the full-time starting role with Chris Ivory, Justin Forsett, or Isaac Redman playing second fiddle and giving out no more than $1 million/year. Brandon Moore graded out at +21.3 according to ProFootballFocus.com and played for a very reasonable $2.75 million this season. The Jets would be wise to bring back Moore on something similar to a 3 year/$11 million dollar deal. Starting right tackle Austin Howard is also a free agent, and I think taking a tackle in the second round, like Oregon’s Kyle Long, would be beneficial short term and long term.
The Jets defense ranked eighth in total defense despite having a slow linebacking core and losing Darrelle Revis. Antonio Cromartie played at an all-pro level and the Jets would be wise to see what Cromartie’s stock is around the league. Trading Cromartie for a second round pick with Revis returning wouldn’t be a bad move, as long as this team is taking on most, if not all, of Cromartie’s remaining $21.5 million dollars. To get under the cap, cutting Calvin Pace and Bart Scott must happen. Pace is pretty much useless at this point, and Scott has his moments but is two steps too slow to be a starting linebacker.
David Harris woefully underperformed this year and could use a new battering mate beside him. The Ravens Dannell Ellerbe is intriguing, but the Ravens will likely dish out more than what the Jets, or anyone, would want to pay. There are a few guys who had down years and thus might come cheaper like Manny Lawson, Lorenzo Alexander, and Keith Rivers. Obviously, there aren’t too many good ILB’s out there and second year backer Demario Davis might get the nod to start. Davis has the athleticism but struggled to get comfortable when given the opportunity this year.
The Jets will also be looking for two new outside linebackers. This should be addressed with the ninth overall pick, specifically Oregon’s Dion Jordan, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, or LSU’s Barkevious Mingo. My personal favorite is Jordan, who has unreal length and athleticism (he was a wide receiver and tight end before switching to defensive end). You can’t go wrong with any of these guys, however, and one of them will likely be on the board. I’d also address the other outside linebacker position by signing Paul Kruger. Kruger doesn’t get the credit he deserves from the national media, racking up 14.5 sacks the past two seasons. If the Jets don’t have the cap room for Kruger (I predict he looks for around ten million/year), Connor Barwin and Wallace Gilberry could be options.
I’ve already discussed The Revis-Cromartie situation, but it should be noted that if Kyle “finger wag” Wilson is starting as a number two corner, something went wrong. Wilson’s ability to locate the ball in the air is as bad as I’ve ever seen an NFL corner. Heck, I’ll take back Drew Coleman before I have to constantly see Wilson get beat deep again. Laron Landry and Yeremiah Bell were big upgrades at safety but are both free agents. The Jets likely won’t be able to retain Landry, but Bell should be affordable (two million/year) and the Jets could look to sign someone to the likes of Kenny Phillips or expand the role of Antonio Allen, who has shown promise and versatility.
But in what has become a trend in No Huddle’s off-season diagnosis, it comes down to the quarterback play. If Norv Turner does come in, maybe he can help correct Mark Sanchez, but probably not. Sanchez has very, very poor footwork and is so mentally fractured that it may be beyond fixable. Let Sanchez, Moore, and McElroy compete this training camp and have the best man win, which will be Matt Moore. A healthy Santonio Holmes, a (hopefully) improved Stephen Hill, and a dynamic Jeremy Kerley leave the Jets with an overall solid wide receiving core.
Finally, re-sign Braylon Edwards and Mike Devito if not for the simple fact that they actually like being Jets. How many people can you say that about? Tannenbaum severely overvalued the formula of “talent>chemistry” the past few years. Losing guys like Jerricho Cotchery, Tony Richardson, and Damien Woody have been bigger losses than almost anything.
I like Sanchez, but that doesn’t mean I think he is a good quarterback. I desperately want him to succeed but I don’t think he will. Two years ago the New York Jets were on the verge of a super bowl, yet somehow the window closed before it really ever opened. Only the Jets.