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All Wrong: The Terry and Herm Regime in Retrospect

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by JetMoses
JetNation Columnist

I’ve never been able to figure out Herman Edwards and Terry Bradway. When they took over in 2001, did they think this was a “win now� team? There are things they have done that would indicate they did, such as re-signing Curtis Martin and Wayne Chrebet to long-term contracts. Or did they think this was a “rebuilding� team? There are things they have done that would indicate that, too: gutting the O-line and secondary, implementing new systems, replacing DC Mike Nolan and OC Dan Henning, and experimenting with players in new positions. From these mixed signals, I can only conclude that either they didn’t know what they were doing, or they were trying to be cute and have their cake and eat it too. Rebuilding on the fly is a precarious undertaking for even the savviest NFL minds; for two inexperienced, novices it was pure folly.

I don’t think HC Herman Edwards and GM Terry Bradway have ever been on the same page. In retrospect, I can look back to the halcyon days of the Bradway/Edwards regime and see that Herm had some specific ideas regarding personal philosophy and the direction he wanted to take the team. Bradway (and Tannenbaum), on the other hand, was obsessed with the salary cap– all personnel decisions were made with that as a priority.

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There was nothing wrong with the team that Terry Bradway and Herman Edwards inherited. Al Groh and his coaching staff were not fired– they quit. The systems that they used were fine. This was a team that was one John Hall shank away from making the playoffs. This was not a train wreck that needed an overhaul. All they really needed was a WR to replace Keyshawn Johnson (who was traded in 2000) and a veteran coaching staff that had the experience and wisdom to not screw things up.

It is clear that both the GM and HC agreed that this was a “win now� team.

But Terry Bradway was faced with a salary cap mess that had to be addressed. Their initial folly was convincing themselves that they could piecemeal gut the roster but continue to be competitive. I believed then that the best course of action would have been to completely blow up the roster, resulting in a losing season or two. Time has proven the pragmatism of that objective, but what made me believe it back then? Several reasons. If your subjective beliefs convince you that you have a “win now� team (fans, media, NFL personnel all believed the Jets were a legitimate SB contender in 2001), then you do not bring in a rookie HC and an inexperienced GM to guide it. Once Herm and Terry were given the job, then all expectations to contend for a title should have been removed, but they were not. Herman Edwards was eager to feather his cap and definitely wanted to make an immediate splash in the NFL. He was given the keys to the kingdom- very rarely does a rookie HC get an opportunity to take over a competitive football team (unless he is already on the staff).

They had one of the best offensive lines in football; they had two young, dynamic bookends at DE; they had a future HOF RB; they had a quality secondary; they had a plethora of linebackers: Roman Phifer, James Farrior, Mo Lewis, Marvin Jones and Bryan Cox. They had a QB of the future in Chad Pennington.

Owner Woody Johnson elected to go with a raw GM and HC who decided to try and win right away with somebody else’s team, but with their own system- a system that only worked in Tampa Bay because they had a HOF DT, a HOF LB, and a defensive coordinator who knew what he was doing. The Jets had none of that.

Terry Bradway began to make personnel decisions based on the information Herman Edwards was feeding him. In essence, the Jets began the process of removing all the players that didn’t “fit� Herm’s new system instead of retaining these players and keeping the original system. By Terry’s way of thinking, it was killing two birds with one stone, as his priority was cutting salary. At times, I’m sure Terry had designs to cut a particular player, but elected to cut somebody else because Herm wanted to keep the other player.

Think about what is going on here: Herman Edwards and Terry Bradway agree that this is a “win now� team, yet they implement a new system on both sides of the ball and get rid of all the players that were responsible for making the Jets a “win now� team. But wait, it gets worse. They retained key players from the old regime, and signed them to huge contracts which defeated the purpose of all the salary cap cuts they were simultaneously making. Prior to the 2001 season, Bryan Cox and Roman Phifer were released (along with Rick Lyle, Anthony Pleasant and Jerome Wiggins: they would go on to win a championship with the Patriots that same season).

In 1997, Bill Parcells took over a 1-15 team and in two short years had them 30 minutes away from the Super Bowl. His drafts were not the greatest, his contract negotiations were suspect, his decision to release Glen Foley and replace him with Rick Mirer as a backup to Vinny Testaverde was regrettable, but–BUT–the man was obviously doing something right. The reason why Bill Parcells was successful as HC of the NYJ is because he had a foundation based on proven principals that he employed in his system. Bill Parcells was able to maximize the potential of all of his players. He was adaptable and was able to improvise. The man assessed the talent of his team, and he and his staff created schemes in which they could compete, thrive, and sometimes dominate their opponents. The circumstances under which Parcells resigned as HC and became GM are dubious. The decision to retain Parcells as GM was made by owner Woody Johnson. This was not a good choice. Parcells was a proven HC, but was less than average as a GM. Nonetheless, the 2000 New York Jets, lead by HC Al Groh, managed a 9-7 season.

If not for one missed Jon Hall FG against the Lions, and/or a mindless INT thrown by Vinny Testaverde against the Ravens, that team would have assuredly made the playoffs. It would be Al Groh’s only season as HC, and Bill Parcells’ last as GM. But before leaving the team, Parcells drafted Shaun Ellis, John Abraham, Lavernues Coles, Chad Pennington, and Anthony Becht. A successful foundation was in place. All Woody Johnson had to do was hire somebody with a little common sense who could maximize its potential.

Herman Edwards had no previous HC experience and had been fast tracked up the ranks via the NFL minority coach program. Edwards and new OC Paul Hackett and DC Ted Cottrell could not have properly evaluated the talent on the team, because if they did they would not have tried to implement schemes on both sides of the ball that did not maximize the potential of the players. Amazingly, they did the complete opposite.

Herm came in with the attitude “this is how we did it in Tampa Bay.� He was convinced a three gap defensive line and cover two secondary, which required linebackers to maintain “gap discipline,� would be the way to go. The strength of the defense- the linebackers- were basically neutralized in this new system. For proof of that, just watch a tape of Herm’s coaching debut; the Jets vs. Colts. James Farrior, Marvin Jones, and Mo Lewis were completely humiliated in that game.

All during Herm’s inaugural training camp, red flag after red flag kept going up, but Herm was convinced that his Tampa Bay system would work. The moment I became convinced that Herman Edwards was either too stubborn or too foolish for his own good was when NT Jason Ferguson was lost for the season due to a torn rotator cuff. There was still time to switch to a two gap; the Jets had the personnel (Abraham, Lewis, Farrior, and Jones) and a coach (Ted Cottrell) to run it effectively. But Herm was determined to move forward.

DC Ted Cottrell was a willing dupe. A proper assessment by Cottrell would have easily led to the conclusion that the strength of the team would have been maximized in a two gap defense/man to man secondary.

From the word “go� Paul Hackett refused to work with Vinny Testaverde. Hackett convinced himself that the success of the offense was completely dependent on cutting down Vinny’s INT. With these ideological blinders on, Hackett succeeded in cutting Vinny’s INT’s down, but in the process, completely neutralized Vinny’s strengths.

The Jets still won ten games and made the playoffs that year, in spite of a flawed defensive front that ranked dead last against the run. The following season, Herm remained stubborn and convinced his defensive scheme was good, he just needed a new batch of “ the right players�. Player turnover continued, but the results didn’t change. After two years, the entire 2000 secondary –Corwin Brown, Aaron Glenn, Marcus Coleman, and Victor Green- and LB’er James Farrior were all gone. The Jets finished 9-7 in 2002, off the sensational debut of Chad Pennington. In pre-season of 2003, Chad was injured in the final minutes of the first half. A rookie FB, BJ Askew, missed a blocking assignment.
Chad missed a few games that year but was rushed back, to no avail. The Jets finished 6-10. Last year, the Jets finished 10-6. What progress has this team made in five years? Really, all they have done is tread water and the core players are all aging rapidly. This team is on the verge of collapse. Don’t believe me? Then you must have your head in the sand. Chad Pennington is done. Say what you want about the strength of his arm, but that guy was a quality NFL starter. Guys like that don’t grow on trees. Look around the league. He’s not easily replaced. RB Curtis Martins long term contract was a gamble by Terry Bradway. Since the Jets in 2001 were a “win now� team, it made sense. In 2005, it no longer makes sense. But Martin’s contract is nowhere near expiration, and even if it was, replacing him, like Pennington, is not as easy as waving a magic wand. Long term planning and some of these dilemmas could have been avoided. But Herm and Terry have never demonstrated any stability.

All of Terry’s draft picks have been “panicâ€? picks– players drafted for need, as opposed to taking the best available player. Santana Moss is perplexing; they draft a WR who can spread the field out, while establishing a west coast offense that features a lot of underneath stuff. They draft a punt returner while implementing a defense that never made the other team punt. Bryan Thomas was another panic pick. The year before, Herm moved Shaun Ellis from DE to DT, but then after Bradway fills the position, Herm has Ellis move back to DE. Even this years draft pick, K Mike Nugent, had implications of an ulterior motive. Bradway insists he was the best available player on the board, but the pick was undoubtedly a symbolic gesture towards Doug Brien, as if he alone was the reason why the Jets came up short in Pittsburgh last December. But anybody paying attention could see that there were several moments of chaos prior to Doug’s kick. We saw the same thing against the Giants in 2003. We witnessed this chaos as recent opening day, in Kansas City, when James Reed punched Jonathan Vilma in the eye. Game day during Herm’s tenure has been wrought with chaos, indecisiveness, an inability to understand the rules, play clock meltdowns, and mindless play calling.

Herman Edwards has had success. His teams have made the playoffs three out of four years, posting a post season record of 2-3. But this team has been too inconsistent; with the exception of the last three games of the 2002 season, they have never put together a stretch run where they were clicking on all cylinders. Herm’s apologists will say he’s never had Chad Pennington for a full season. But 2001 and 2002 were by design. The one year where Chad did start the season, 2004, the play calling was so conservative and the offense didn’t look that impressive anyway. It was the defense that was responsible for the 5-0 start.

The QB and RB are finished. The 0-Line is a shell of its former self. All those players have to be replaced, and it’s going to take years for this team to be competitive, again. Herm has had five years to get it done. He got the best five years out of the careers of Kevin Mawae, Curtis Martin, and Chad Pennington. He squandered them. It’s time to give somebody else a shot at HC.

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