The Jets haven’t scored a first quarter touchdown in nine games. When was the last time you heard a 9-4 NFL team called “free falling frauds?” If you thought the 45-3 loss to the Patriots was a disaster, just be happy you didn’t have to sit through Dolphins 10, Jets 6. Miami had six first downs (one in the second half) and 131 total yards. Chad Henne completed five passes. We’ve been cautiously optimistic about the Jets all year (preseason guess: 10-6, playoffs). At 4-1, some of their flaws were obvious. Even at 9-2, going into the Pats game, we could smell the serious potential of a late-season collapse.
For starters, we actually feel decent about their chances in Pittsburgh. (The line started at 6 and probably will end up around 8ish.) The Steelers, if you haven’t been paying attention, cannot move the football. (If not for a Steve Johnson drop or Troy Polamalu sack late vs. Baltimore …) The Jets’ defensive front seven is coming off its best game of the season (four sacks, plus one from safety Brodney Pool). The Steelers’ offensive line is mediocre. Ben Roethlisberger, who was sacked 15 times in the last four games, is on a bum wheel. We think the Jets’ offense is “due” for a good performance – hell, a touchdown – against an elite team. (Fun fact: The Jets are unbeaten … when they actually score a touchdown.)
Which brings us to the Jets’ offense, which is getting trashed from coast-to-coast today, and rightfully so. As impressive as Mark Sanchez was leading the Jets to late wins over the Lions, Browns and Texans (remember when he appeared on Peter King’s MVP list a few weeks ago? Good times), he’s been equally awful against the Bengals, Patriots and Dolphins. Yes, he was hurt by horrible drops Sunday. None was worse than Santonio Holmes in the end zone.
Three thoughts on the offense:
1) Mark Sanchez can’t play in the cold weather. He’s a SoCal kid! He can’t handle the cold and wind! You know who else is from California and won a Rose Bowl and plays in the cold? Tom Brady. Sanchez has struggled in his last three games – two at home, once in New England – and worse yet, trips to Pittsburgh and Chicago are on the horizon. There could be something to his cold-weather struggles, but we’ll reserve judgment until after the next few games. He did, after all, play great in a playoff win at Cincinnati last year in the playoffs.
2) The offensive line isn’t playing well. Woody got hurt. Brandon Moore was abused by the NFL’s best defensive end, Cameron Wake. Sanchez was under duress for most of the afternoon, which contributed to his 2nd or 3rd worst performance of the season (which felt like the worst, considering the opponent). Their run-blocking has fallen off from last year, too: 1st in the league in rushing in 2009; this year, they’re 5th.
3) Offensive coordinator issues. The offense remains predictable, something we’ve been saying all season. The Jets have some of the best weapons on the AFC – Holmes, Edwards, Cotchery and Keller are one of the four best WR/TE sets in the conference (Ravens, Colts and Chargers, all at full strength). Yet they aren’t using them because of the insistence that ground and pound is the answer. Why put Braylon Edwards in the witness protection program due to the emergence of Holmes? Edwards, who started the season strong, has five catches in the last three games.
The guess here is that Rex Ryan still doesn’t have faith in Sanchez, and he gives strict orders to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to go the conservative route and prevent turnovers in hopes that the defense will win the game. Well, Schottenheimer has to know that he’s playing for his job now – if if the Jets back into the playoffs again, he’s a goner (no way they’re canning Rex or getting rid of Sanchez). Rex is cut from his Dad’s defensive cloth (which I love) but at some point, he’s going to have to relax and open up the playbook. Hopefully, it happens this week.
We’ll toss out a few offensive coordinator ideas to ponder: Josh McDaniels (the most popular choice in an unofficial twitter survey). He led the Patriots offensive orgy from 2005-2008. Earlier this season, he had Kyle Orton tearing it up in Denver. He’s a Belichick guy though. Can you really trust anyone from that organization? I’m infatuated with Philly’s creative Marty Mornhinweg, but he’s more likely to get a head coaching offer than make a lateral move to the Jets. There’s some sentiment from Jets fans about promoting Bill Callahan to offensive coordinator. Never been a huge fan of his work, and he’s been around for awhile.
College coaches? Well, Boise’s Bryan Harsin is original and has done some neat things with the Broncos, but it seems unlikely the Idaho kid will uproot his family for New York. He seems like an heir apparent to Chris Petersen. I’m not a huge fan of Mark Whipple, the former Hurricanes offensive coordinator. Alabama’s Jim McElwain might be worth bringing in for an interview.
I’m all for taking a gander on a mid-30s college guy who likes to open things up. You’re building around Sanchez, he has weapons – find an offensive scheme in which he’s going to use them.