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While the embattled Jets quarterback receives most of the blame, Gang Green's problems go a lot deeper - starting with the top of the organization.
We're not going to mention Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow very much in this piece. While the bloodthirsty media and unhappy New York Jets fans remain incessant in their support of a quarterback controversy, that's not what's going to be discussed here. There are a few reasons for that, one being that this particular writer believes there is no controversy. But more importantly when you begin to talk about the Jets' deficiencies - of which there are many right now - despite the popularity of bashing Sanchez, the Jets' problems run much deeper than simply who's receiving the snaps under center. Jets owner Woody Johnson most likely subscribes to the idea of trickle-down economics, so let's use a comparison that he should understand; trickle-down incompetence.
While we can bash Johnson for being the wrong type of sports owner (it's plainly obvious the Tebow trade was all Johnson, once again a money and attention grab), but general manager Mike Tannenbam and head coach Rex Ryan are the ones who, on a day-to-day basis, eat breathe and sleep this football team. Through five weeks of this season, it's plain as day that Tannenbaum and Ryan have put together a very flawed group, one that is fortunate to even be 2-3. This is Ryan's fourth year as head coach, and if the first two were successful and promising, last year and the direction this one seems to be going is a great cause for concern.
[Related: Woody Johnson thinks everything is just fine]
Back in 2009 when the Jets hired Ryan, the idea was that the Jets would always have one of the league's best defenses. You don't hire someone like Rex Ryan with any other intent. The Jets figured they would have a near-dominant defense just about every season, and if they could run the ball and be efficient on offense, they'd have the chance to go far. In 2009 and 2010, that pretty much bore out. The Jets of course went to the AFC Title game in those two seasons, buoyed by a defense that ranked among the league's best.
But last season things started to turn, and the boulder is continuing to roll down the mountain at a frantic pace. So far this season, the Jets are 20th in the league in total defense and a mind-boggling 31st against the run. They're 30th in the league with a paltry five sacks. Tannenbaum has let this defense get old and slow. In 2009, Bart Scott, Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas were all hanging on for the tail end of their primes. It's now 2012, and that's still 75 percent of the Jets' starting linebacking corps. Throw in an off season so far for David Harris - inexplicably the league's highest-paid linebacker - and you have a unit that will consistently get outplayed most weeks. The Jets have also spent their last three first-round picks on defensive players; cornerback Kyle Wilson in 2010, defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson in 2011 and defensive end Quinton Coples this past April, all of whom have been incredible disappointments. Either Tannenbam and Ryan keep whiffing on draft day, or Ryan and his defensive coaches simply aren't maximizing the talents of their supposed young core.
The offensive side of the ball is an abomination by today's NFL standards. The fact that Ryan touted this team as "Ground and Pound" is an insult given that they were going into the season with Shonn Greene as their starting running back. How Tannenbam and/or Ryan didn't recognize the need for more depth at running back, or simply a better starter, is a terrible error when you compound that with the hiring of running-game guru Tony Sparano as offensive coordinator. The Jets are dealing with injuries, but the fact remains that on Monday against Houston, Sanchez was throwing to people named Clyde Gates, Jeff Cumberland and Jason Hill. Yes, Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill and Dustin Keller are hurt, but you tell me if any good defense was shaking in their boots this offseason when sizing up the Jets' "weapons". In a league where the good teams seem to stockpile explosive offensive talent, the Jets went into this season with one playmaker (Holmes).
It's hard to pin a franchise's entire decline on one personnel decision or one offseason, but one really has to wonder what on earth the Jets were thinking after the 2010 season. They had just gotten back to the AFC Championship game with a second-year quarterback who had shown a marked improvement from his rookie season. More importantly, that quarterback had developed a rapport with his three receivers - Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery, and his tight end -- Keller. What was the reasoning behind letting half of that contingent loose going into 2011? Cotchery and Edwards haven't exactly lit the world up since the Jets let them go, but wouldn't Sanchez and the Jets have been better off trying to keep Sanchez surrounded with targets he had gotten comfortable with? Instead, the Jets signed Plaxico Burress.
But at the end of the day, Rex Ryan is the head coach of the Jets, and with Ryan as your coach you're supposed to have a great defense. Not only do the Jets not have a great defense, so far this year their defense is downright bad. If Ryan can't fix the Jets' defense, and quick, you can seriously start to realistically question Ryan's legitimacy as an NFL head coach. If your defense is crap, what's the point of Rex Ryan being your head coach? He's certainly not giving you any offensive advantage and he's still a questionable in-game manager. The luster of his bravado, trash talking and motivational tactics seem to have gown stale. If he's going to give you a middle-of-the-road-at-best defense, the question can absolutely be asked: Why is he the head coach?
Chances are, unless the Jets totally go in the tank, both Ryan and Tannenbaum will be back in 2013. Johnson loves them both - especially Ryan, who any day can turn the Jets into the biggest story in American sports. But so far based on this season, they haven't earned it. There's still time left, but just remember when the Jets struggle later this year, it goes far deeper than No. 6.