Panic! That’s the general sentiment around the Jets these days. Rex Ryan went from being one of the league’s best young head coaches after going to two straight AFC title games to being a floundering blowhard. Mark Sanchez went from being a clutch QB on the rise to one who might be dumped (that’s the weakest stuff I’ve seen from Florio this season; even the final line here from Gregg Rosenthal is absurd). Two straight terrible losses in a row when the playoffs were attainable will certainly do that to you. And in New York, you know the perpetually angry media is just waiting for you to slip up.
Back in September, I predicted some struggles for the Jets. There were too many changes. The offseason wasn’t productive. Yet I still thought the playoffs were attainable. I didn’t think the collapse – their only “good win” was a lucky one against Dallas – would be this dramatic, though.
As for Sanchez, as I noted after the difficult-to-swallow Denver loss, they absolutely need to examine him for one more year – but only if it is under a different offensive coordinator. Schottenheimer is a horrible offensive coordinator, there is no way around it. He got lucky they retained him last year when the Jets’ snuck into the playoffs and got to the AFC title game, but they won’t be as fortunate this year. It’s still unclear why, against a weak Giants’ rushing defense, in a close game throughout, the Jets ran the ball 25 times and passed 59 times. (That is not to absolve Sanchez – in Romo-like fashion, Sanchez he fumbled a snap on the 1-yard line, then took a safety when the Jets trailed by six in the final quarter.)
Eli Manning got a new OC after his 3rd season and he’s been a completely different QB since (other factors were at play, obviously). I hope that is the situation with Sanchez. For the moment, I refuse to entertain any silly Peyton Manning discussions. He’s still a Colt. They don’t even have the No. 1 pick yet. Nobody knows the situation with his health. He turns 36 in March and for all anyone knows, he might retire. [Note: If he becomes available, based on what Sanchez reportedly will make in 2012, you'd have to think Manning will be in play. I don't love the idea of another Brett Favre, one-year stopgap.]
What is worth talking about is this scenario: The Jets get a new offensive coordinator (Norv Turner? Todd Haley? I’ll all ears) and Sanchez shows no improvement in 2012 and the Jets don’t make the playoffs/look like a title contender. In that case, they won’t extend Sanchez, and I can see them cutting him before the final year of his contract. Here’s why: The 2013 draft probably will be a better draft for QBs than 2012.
Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia – All you’ll hear: “He’s only 6-foot-1″
Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas – I think the Razorbacks are a Top 5 team in 2012
Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee – Probably the highest ceiling of any QB in the 2012 draft, Barkley included
Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma – needs a bounce-back year
Barkley, Jones and Wilson will definitely be drafted. It’s unclear yet if Bray and Murray will leave school early.
It’ll be easy to tell if the Jets’ want Sanchez to stay: 1) will they replace the OC? 2) Will they draft a right tackle to replace the terrible Wayne Hunter? [Aside: Don't get me started on the poor decision not to bolster the OL when injuries took their toll early in the season. Should we blame cheap Woody Johnson?] 3) And will the Jets’ beef up the WR corps with a legit No. 2 receiver? Plaxico Burress isn’t one, and Jeremy Kerley is a solid No. 3. Losing Braylon Edwards was huge – he caught five passes of 40+ yards in 2010; in 2011, Plaxico Burress has zero. Edwards is younger, had over 25 games more worth of chemistry with Sanchez, and was the deep threat the Jets’ lack this year. Yes, Plaxico is more effective in the red zone, but Edwards caught seven TDs last year; Burress has eight this year. I put no stock in Edwards’ abysmal 2011 – new system, new team, injuries – when comparing him to Burress.
* See the note on Peyton Manning.