Sports Opinion & Analysis

The Hot Mess Jets

In NFL on May 7, 2013 at 1:56 pm

By Chris Hallenbrook

In the week and a half since the conclusion of the NFL draft, a seemingly endless amount has been said and written about who “won” and “lost” on draft night(s), despite that fact that no championship has ever been awarded in the war room. Pundits have droned on about which picks were bargains, which were reaches, what players found good fits with their team’s system and who are automatic busts. But let’s be honest, we won’t know if any of that is right or wrong for at least two years, if not more. To assess the state of teams at the moment, we need to look at the longer term trends. On that front, let’s take a look at one team that hasn’t done itself any favors lately, the New York Jets.

After reaching the AFC Championship Game in consecutive years, it has been a long day’s journey into night for the Jets. The decline has been fueled in no small part by the franchise’s mastery of the art of the self-inflicted wound. This was perhaps most memorably, and most mockably, put on display last season with Mark Sanchez’s (in)famous “butt fumble” against the Patriots when he ran into the backside of his own lineman and fumbled the ball away for another Pats touchdown. However, the wounds that have been more damaging for the club’s long-term future have been inflicted not by the players, but by management.

At the top of this list is the Tim Tebow trade. While this trade could have been to the advantage of the Jets, it is clear now that Jets management never had a coherent plan for how to best utilize Tebow on the football field. As a result, his presence did little to make the team better, and they get nothing in return for cutting him, all this trade did was cost this team a 4th round draft pick and a 6th rounder. No big deal you say? They’re just mid-to-late rounders? The Jets certainly could have used this picks to acquire depth on defense, and let’s not forgot that Marcus Lattimore went to the Niners at the end of the 4th round. Sure the gruesome knee insure Lattimore suffered this past year makes it a chancy pick, but at #131 overall it is a calculated risk, and given the top two running backs on the Jets’ depth chart are Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson, it would have been a risk that could have aided the Jets’ offense far more than Tebow did.

The next wound is another blunder from the 2012 offseason, extending Mark Sanchez’s contract to the tune of an additional $40.5 million dollars, $20.5 million of it guaranteed. This was a puzzling move at the time, what with Sanchez already showing signs of being yet another USC QB bust and the Jets publically voicing concerns with the rate at which he was progressing. Now the move looks downright hideous given both Sanchez’s inept play and GM John Idzik acknowledging that the Revis trade came down to money. Revis was insisting on a raise of $4.5 million per year and just signed a 6 year deal with Tampa Bay, meaning that the extra money being thrown Sanchez’s way would have gone a long way towards keeping one of the best shutdown corners in the game in a Jets uniform. Instead, he’s in Tampa and the Jets secondary will have to move forward without a top talent who could have been an invaluable teacher for first round draft choice Dee Milliner. That makes this self-mutilation a two-for-one sale.

And then we have Idzik’s first draft, which, while marked with potentially excellent moves such as taking the aforementioned Dee Milliner at #9 overall, had a classic “you have got to be kidding me/leave it to the Jets” move in taking Geno Smith in the second round. Now admittedly I have not watched a lot of West Virginia football in recent years, so I do not consider myself qualified to speak to whether or not Pro Football Weekly was remotely near the mark when they called into question everything about Smith, from his talent to his leadership to his understanding of and commitment to the game of football. So let’s set aside that report and the claims that Smith is a diva. Instead, let’s simply focus on this offseason’s quarterback market. The Jets were far from the only team needing a QB going forward. The Bills had to acquire a new QB after cutting Harvard man Ryan Fitzpatrick, and with the ability to take any QB from the draft class they happily passed right over Smith. The Raiders passed on the draft entirely, instead making a trade to usher in the Matt Flynn era (although that may be a point for an entry on another franchise’s epic mismanagement). Most damning though when analyzing the Jets decision-making is the actions of the Kansas City Chiefs. Holding the #1 overall pick in the draft, the Chiefs had the ability to guarantee that they got their man to lead the franchise out the abyss. And yet they took one look at this year’s draft class and ran in the other direction, acquiring Niners’ veteran signal caller Alex Smith. Say what you will about Alex Smith, he’s a steady hand who isn’t going to lose you games, and a steady hand would be just what the doctor ordered for the Jets. The veteran Smith becomes an even more appealing option when one considers what the Cheifs gave up for him, a 2013 second rounder and a 2014 conditional pick. That’s right, the pick that was used on Geno Smith could have been turned into Alex Smith. Maybe Geno Smith has the higher ceiling, but what about the Jets’ recently history makes you think they are going to successfully nurture it out of him? So the Jets were the Jets and took the flashier player with more risk, and then, after having gone after a guy that every other QB needy team steered clear of, to add the icing to this self-destructive cake, what does Idzik do? He announces an open competition among all five quarterbacks who are left on the roster after the cutting of Tebow. (Why so many QBs on the roster? Who knows? But it makes the situation all the more comically absurd and apparently mismanaged.) So instead of creating an environment where Sanchez can help Smith adapt to the world of the NFL and warn him of the pitfalls that lie ahead, Idzik creates an environment where Sanchez and Smith have no choice but to view each other as obstacles and threats.

And there we have it folks. There may be a new GM in town for the Jets, and more coordinators coming and going then we can count, but when it comes to self-inflicted wounds, they are the same old Jets and there is little reason to believe things will improve in the near future. This is bad news for Rex Ryan, himself a symbol of the dysfunction, and one whose job security is minimal coming off a 6-10 season that many observers assumed would get him fired. My prediction: another losing season and the firing of Ryan, which itself won’t end the self-immolation of New Jersey’s #2 football team. So good luck Rex, and be sure to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings on your way out the door.

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