The NFL season is starting up again. For most football fans, this is a cause for celebration. For me however, as a Jets fan, it’s complicated. Another season of Jets football means yet another five month glass case of emotions to deal with. With year after year of hollow promises and disappointing finishes, it’s a rough existence. I will say though that my allegiance to this team has helped me to better cope with most of the crushing disappointments I experience in life.
These Rex Ryan-led Jets in particular have been quite a trip, trending downward over the last couple of years. Will this season be a return to form of their first two seasons, or the the final crash after the heroin-injected high of back-to-back AFC championship game runs?
Most would say the latter, and they are unfortunately probably right. This team has holes all over the place (defensive line, offensive line, wide receiver, linebacker and so on,) and has been a largely neglected, mismanaged franchise for almost half a century, having won its last and only Super Bowl in 1969 and stringing together only a handful of what could be considered notable seasons.
But, that does not mean that there are no interesting story lines to follow as the season begins to unfold. In fact, there are some story lines that have implications on the team’s very future. After all, these are the New York Jets, kings of the New York Post back page, for all the wrong reasons.
Storyline 1: Mark Sanchez vs. Geno Smith: Showdown at the Below Average Corral
For a player whose career, at least as a Jet, will probably be remembered for fumbling the ball after having his face slammed into the ass cheek of his own lineman, Mark Sanchez started things off pretty damn well. While he wasn’t spectacular nor without his flaws, he was the quarterback on a team that twice made it to the AFC title game, doing his part (especially in the playoffs) to manage the game and at least not lose it for the team. But, the pressures of a new contract extension, suspect protection from the offensive line and the Jesus-sized shadow cast by Tim Tebow, have seemingly gotten to Sanchez. He’s led the team to increasingly disappointing 8-8 and 6-10 seasons, while leading the league in turnovers over that span.
And now, his job is in jeopardy, because here comes Geno Smith, drafted by the team in the second round of the draft. Smith is ostensibly next in line to be the Duke of New York football (Eli Manning still being the reigning quarterback monarch in all the tri-state,) though he will definitely have to almost earn it, at least to a point where the team won’t be criticized too much for throwing him in there.
The fact is, Geno is going to have to make a huge jump, both in terms of learning all the plays and intricacies of a new style of offense he has no experience with and just the speed of the game at the NFL level. Taking the majority of your snaps from under center, instead of in the shotgun, while genetic freaks try to tackle you, instead of communications majors, is quite an adjustment. We will see upon whose shoulders the starting quarterback job will fall by the time the season starts, god willing before the final preseason game. Sanchez has been decidedly Sanchez in the first two preseason games; not awful, but still not doing enough to take the starting job away from Geno, who has seen little in-game action, has a sprained ankle and has had a practice worthy of being called “brutal” in a press conference. Still, I will be surprised if the team does not give Sanchez a chance to succeed under this new offensive regime. Speaking of which…
Storyline 2: A Functioning Offense??
Last season’s “offense” was “operated” under the “pretense” of “ground and pound,” even though the team did not have the personnel to ground nor pound. It was also supposed to have a triple secret wildcat formation centered around Tim Tebow and his certain set of skills. To say that this did not work out would be an understatement, because I’m pretty sure they never attempted to “use” it. Tebow finished the year with 39 passing yards on six completions, 102 rushing yards and one dropped pass, before being released (and then picked up by the Patriots where he’ll probably end up revolutionizing the game of football, or something.) In conclusion, Tony Sporano should not be your offensive coordinator.
Marty Mornhinweg is the new offensive coordinator. You may remember him from such head coaching stints as the 2-14 2001 Deteoit Lions. In all seriousness though, Mornhinweg has been coordinator and coach to some of the league’s best quarterbacks of the last 15 years, including Steve Young, Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb and (the criminally underrated) Jeff Garcia. He should give this Jets team, at the least, a stable offense.
All of this is in theory of course, as the receiving corps is led by Jeremy Kerley, (who I think is great and has great initials, but is not at the #1 option level,) and includes an aging Braylon Edwards, a stone-handed Stephen Hill, and Kellen Winslow Jr. (I’m going on parenthetical record to declare that I’m not a fan, though maybe Mr. Junior can turn me around. Right now, I’m hopeful for a lot of Jeff Cumberland.) This is all not to mention the lack of a proven, reliable running back and a questionable offensive line. Offense has never been the hallmark of these Rex Ryan teams, but it would still be nice to have one that is competent and functional.
Storyline 3: Replacing Revis, or, Destroying a Career Before it Begins in 3 Easy Steps
Darrelle Revis and Revis Island, which is a stupid but accurately descriptive nickname thing, are gone. They’ve been hitched to another ship, you know, the one that sits in the Buccaneers stadium. Seriously, there’s a pirate ship in there. Replacing someone recognized as the league’s premier shutdown corner is a task that even the most dedicated of fanboys would not wish on his team’s most hated rival. But, to continually reiterate, here are your New York Jets.
Left to form some other metaphorical, isolated land mass are Antonio Cromartie, Kyle Wilson and first-round pick Dee Milliner. Cromartie, despite his reputation and character flaws, has actually been very good at corner at the times when Revis was out with injury, so I’m actually not too worried about him. Wilson has shown that he can be an effective defensive back in this league, but has also gone through stretches where you’re like, “him?”. I’m kind of worried about Wilson, though he will most likely be used as an extra defensive back anyway, ceding Revis’ old spot to the guy I’m mostly worried about, Dee Milliner.
As a rookie this season, Milliner is essentially replacing the greatest Jets player of the last five years (even though the first-round pick they got in the trade was technically used on Sheldon Richardson.) While Milliner was regarded as the top corner in the draft, to say that he has been very injury prone would be quite the understatement. He has already amassed five surgeries, his most recent being his second shoulder procedure (on different shoulders, but still.) Obviously, there should be concern. (Plus, as we have previously established, the jump in terms of game speed from college to the pros is HUGE.) Combined with his status as a first-round pick, Milliner is going to be put under a tremendous amount of pressure, stress and scrutiny. If he does not perform right away, all the reactionary Jets fans will be calling for his head by Week 5. To paraphrase the great Mike Ehrmantraut: “Just because you get drafted to replace Darrelle Revis, don’t make you Darrelle Revis.”
– Chris Ivory, if he stays healthy, should actually be a reliable option out of the backfield; he always was the best 3rd/4th string running back in the league when he was on the Saints.
– Quinton Coples has gone down with a fractured ankle. This does not bode well for the Jets pass rush, which has been lacking for quite literally years.
– The most randomly hilarious moment of this off season by far, is the Jets letting Laron Landry go and signing his brother, Dawan Landry, to play the same position.
– The Rex Ryan job security watch beings… now!
Now, what is the point of writing all of this? Well, typically I find that I fall in and out of writing stuff on this “blog” rather easily. Therefore, I decided to intentionally put myself into a corner where I would commit to writing about something on a weekly basis, so if I gave up I would feel like a quitter and a failure FOREVER. These are two feels I would rather not feel for the remaining duration of my time on Earth.
Right now, the plan is to write a season prediction after the final preseason game in two weeks (you don’t need my thoughts on individual preseason games,) and then write something up every week after that. I’m not really sure of the exact shape this will take, in terms of game analysis versus predictions and prognostications versus a study of my relationship with the team. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, we’ll learn how to spell Mornhinweg without the aid of Google, we’ll seriously contemplate becoming Giants fans. It should be fun.