When the New York Jets visit the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, they'll be looking across the field at a man who became the scapegoat for the team's 2011 meltdown. Rams Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer led the Jets' offense for six seasons before the team let him go last offseason in hopes that their offense would turn around and that their quarterback Mark Sanchez would take the expected leap with new leadership. Tony Sparano took over, but the results have been the same - if not markedly worse.
The Schottenheimer storyline is an interesting caveat in this game, a needed one given that there isn't much left to play for for either the Jets or the Rams. The Jets have dropped three straight and are 3-6, with a statistical chance of making the playoffs just north of one percent. The Rams, aren't faring much better, only a rare tie last week with the San Francisco 49ers gives them an edge record-wise over the Jets at 3-5-1. St Louis' offense isn't much better than the Jets' ranking 24th overall in the league. So while this season has shown that Schottenheimer wasn't fully to blame for the Jets' offensive woes the past few years, he hasn't exactly lit it up in The Lou.
Rex Ryan has remained steadfast in his support of embattled starting quarterback Mark Sanchez. That might be more of an indictment on Sanchez's backup, Tim Tebow, who the coaching staff clearly does not believe is better than the incumbent. Sanchez certainly has played poorly enough this season to merit a benching, but that's only if the other option was clearly better. For all the hoopla and popularity of Tebow, the thought that he'd turn the Jets around and make them truly better is misguided. So once again it will be Sanchez, for now.
At this point, most of the Jets' players and coaches are really playing for their jobs. A win against a lowly Rams side isn't going to do much in terms of keeping the Jets' scant playoff hopes alive, or rally the team to a point where they'll be ready to go on a roll. You never want to play six meaningless games in a season, but chances are the Jets are already there. The real show is probably the ever-evolving battle at quarterback and whether Sanchez can hold on t his job, not only this season, but beyond.