The Jets' playoff chances ended mercifully on Monday night in a 14-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
It really couldn't end any other way, right? The 2012 New York Jets were a mess pretty much from the start. On Monday, they ended in a mess with their playoff chances dying a slow, painful death in Tennessee, the final nail coming on a botched snap-fumble from Mark Sanchez, with the ball being kicked around and bounding along the ground ending up in the opponents' hands. The Titans defeated the Jets, 14-10, and we may look back on Monday's disaster as a turning point in the franchise.
Twice now, coupled with Thanksgiving night's horrifying blowout to the Patriots, the Jets have been embarrassed twice on national TV late in the year. Owner Woody Johnson is a guy who craves attention and is dying to be loved, and with two high-profile embarrassments and a likely under .500 record, you can be sure that changes will be made. Whether or not the changes are going to be made with the right nuance and with the correct reasons in mind will dictate where this franchise goes from here. But make no mistake about it, last night was the point where it became abundantly clear that this team needs a new direction, new leadership and a new vision. Before we tackle that monstrosity of a task, we'll look back at last night's debacle.
The Jets' defense played well enough to win the game. They've had a nice stretch for the past three games (albeit against poor offenses), allowing just 30 points total. On Monday, the Jets gave up two big plays all day, and they directly resulted in the Titans' 14 points. Outside of those plays, the defense was great. Quinton Coples appears to be improving by the week, and there's just zero reason - with the season now dead - for him not to start and play 85% of the snaps in the final two games.
I'm not sure why the Jets abandoned the running game so quickly last night. They carried it 30 times for 146 yards. Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight all averaged far over four yards per carry. Even Tim Tebow had some success in the Wildcat, with 15 yards on three carries. With the game in reach throughout, the Jets should have continued to run the ball.
Unfortunately, when your offense is as putrid as the Jets' offense, your defense needs to pretty much be perfect and the Jets' D wasn't on Monday. Now, as I said before they played well enough to win, however, they did allow a 94-yard touchdown run by Chris Johnson in the first half, which is the second time in a calendar year that Rex Ryan's defense had allowed a 90-plus yard TD that had a direct hand in ending their season. Most teams don't give up 90-plus yard touchdowns in a decade. On top of that, after the Jets took a surprising 10-7 lead, Jake Locker took the Titans right down the field like it was 7-on-7 drills, eventually running for a touchdown to give the Titans a 14-10 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
The Jets dressed six wideouts last night. This is one of the worst passing teams in the league, and a team that doesn't even want to throw the ball. When asked about it after the game, Ryan didn't really give any sort of answer. That's because he didn't even know why. The disorganization is startling.
-On their third series, the Jets went with Tim Tebow at quarterback. They ran five plays and punted. It was revealed after the game that this was the plan all along, going into the game. Let me repeat, or make it clearer. The Jets, whether it was Ryan, Tony Sparano, Mike Tannenbaum, Woody Johnson, or all of them, decided that Tim Tebow was going to play the third series of the game, no matter what. While I'm being radical, this is a fireable offense for whoever's decision it ultimately was. You do not, and simply cannot, win in the NFL making decisions like this.
-Mark Sanchez really shouldn't take another snap as a Jet quarterback. He's simply shot as a New York athlete and as the quarterback of this team. The four picks, the fumble, the listless postgame reaction all adds up. He just seems like a beaten guy and on top of that, just simply isn't good enough anymore to warrant being given another chance. The benching he received a few weeks ago was the last resort, the one thing left to do to try and wake him up and get him to play better and it didn't come close to working. If I'm the Jets, I do what a lot of MLB teams do when a guy is struggling - make up an injury and deactivate him for the rest of the year. Honestly, there is no reason for Sanchez to even be around this team for the rest of the year.
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Starting him next week at home against San Diego is actually cruel to the guy. If he actually starts, he will get totally destroyed by the fanbase. They'll literally boo him for three straight hours. I would contend that it would be so bad that even if Sanchez threw or ran for a touchdown next week, he would get booed. There's no point. Tell him to go home for the year and start reevaluating what to do at the QB position right away.
-But again, while Sanchez was miserable all year and played his way out of a career, the blame for the Jets' season goes all around this organization and that includes Rex Ryan. Ryan's steadfast faith in Sanchez, his hiring of Tony Sparano, the overall defense-first approach in a league that is so clearly going the other direction are all reasons that the Jets have fallen to this point. The roster's deterioration is part his fault but mostly general manager Mike Tannenbaum's fault, and you'd have to figure his days are numbered.
The most logical thing for the Jets to do the next two weeks is start Greg McElroy at quarterback. Sanchez is done here, and Tim Tebow is a sideshow who won't be on the roster next year. You need to find out if McElroy can be your backup next year - I'm being as realistic as possible, not like the many Jets fans who have a pipe dream that McElroy will be "Our Tom Brady"...please - and the only way you do that is play him the next two games. And how about this? How about you let the guy throw the ball down the field a little bit? You're games are now meaningless, enough with the ball-control, running game, try-to-finish-as-high-as-possible-in-defensive-ranking crap. It's over.
We'll have the coming days, weeks and months to figure out what the Jets should do next year. The changes are coming, and they have to be sweeping ones.