By Tyson Rauch
After 12 weeks of the NFL season every team has gone through their ups and downs and are finally showing their true colors. After a Thanksgiving Day loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Jets are now 2-9 and hopes of salvaging the season are falling to the wayside. As the Jets continue their descent lets look back at some possible lessons learned from the first 3 quarters of the season.
#1 My Way or the Highway: Coach Eric Mangini will continue to implement his systems and strategies regardless of the personnel on his team. Mangini’s rebuilding of the Jets has long-term goals and is willing to endure short term speed bumps. This plan looks to take five years to complete, the only question is will “Mangenious” be around to complete it?
#2 No more Mr. Nice Guy: Chad Pennington is no longer the franchise quarterback of the New York Jets. Over the years Chad has given his heart and soul to the Jets organization but unfortunately his body could not handle the grind of the NFL. In addition to Pennington’s body wearing down, his arm strength limitations could not beat the New Age NFL defenses leaving him a very strong backup quarterback at best. Here is hoping Chad gets a fresh start somewhere else next year where he can be an asset to a winning franchise.
#3 New Leader of the Pack: For the past three years Jonathan Vilma was the leader of the Jets defense both on and off of the field. Jonathan endured a season ending injury, forcing rookie David Harris into his role. The results have exceeded expectations and it appears likely there is a new sheriff in town with Harris taking over the role of power and playmaker on the Jets defense. Mr. Vilma will be finding a new role on the Jets or a new franchise to play for.
#4 Just Say No: In the past 2 years Coach Mangini has tried a revolving door approach with his linebacker platoons incorporating special team players into defensive schemes. This strategy has failed as players like Matt Chatham and Brad Kassell continue to come up short when it comes to making plays. There are reasons why individuals are labeled “special teams players” and Coach Mangini should realize this.
#5 Numero Uno: Coming into this season the Jets wide receiving corps was considered to be a strength of the team. Upon further review the Jets have one legitimate go to guy in Laveranues Coles, followed by a nice second level complimentary receiver in Jerricho Cotchery. After Cotchery the Jets mix and match group of receivers either drop too many passes (McCareins), need substantial development (Brad Smith) or need to get healthy (Stuckey). You do not need an all star cast for a wide receiving corp (see the Packers) but you do need guys that understand the position and what it takes to be successful.
#6 Money Talks: Be weary of players that have not accomplished much in the NFL prior to putting up big numbers in their contract year. Both Bryan Thomas and Jerricho Cotchery were given substantial contracts after having their first “big” year. Since the contracts have been signed, the productivity has gone down. Coincidence?
#7 Bend it like Beckham: Coming into this season the New York Jets kicking game was considered to be above average. Well after 12 weeks this appears to not be the case as the unit has struggled. Punter Ben Graham is shanking too many punts, leaving the defense in vulnerable positions. The field position battle is crucial for successful teams and this area needs to be re-evaluated. Place kicker Mike Nugent has struggled as well with several missed kicks at crucial times changing momentum in games. Granted Mr. Nugent improved his kickoffs, which was a problem last year, but kudos are not given out for accomplishing what you are getting paid to do.
#8 Patience is a Virtue: The New York Jets have handed over the quarterback duties to 2nd year quarterback Kellen Clemens. As with every other young quarterback Kellen is going to endure substantial growing pains as he goes through the NFL learning curve. There will be highs and lows but it is going to take game experience to truly identify the type of player Kellen will be. Unless the Jets are willing to bring in a veteran quarterback with a championship pedigree sit back and relax Jets fans, success will not come overnight.
#9 Same old Jets…fans: Over the years Jets fans have been labeled many things; obnoxious, angry, negative, skeptical, pathetic. There could be a case made that Jets fans often act like the deplorable Detroit Lion fan base. Once again this year Gang Green fans are showing their true colors. From cheering a Chad Pennington injury, to selling their tickets to opposing fans in embarrassing numbers. Now they are attacking a second year quarterback with three games experience. Where does it end Jets fans?
#10 Money talks: Since taking over the Jets Woody Johnson has been successful at doing one thing…making money. Increased ticket prices and increased game day costs while conservatively spending on front office staffs and personnel. There have been several rumblings of Mr. Johnson’s frugal nature when it comes to spending on his NFL team, which could be a problem with the Jets having substantial cap space in 2008. Hey Woody you are a team in major NFL market why not act like one?