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Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Jets spinning out of control
Over the past few years, I’ve supported Mark Sanchez when others got down on him. Instead, I’ve blamed former Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and current offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, I’ve blamed the offensive line, I’ve blamed the receivers, I’ve blamed Rex Ryan.
And, a lot of the time, they’ve been the right people to blame. Schottenheimer was an awful coordinator who didn’t understand how play-calling worked and ran the most predictable offense in the league, while Sparano’s offense has been a total mess. The offensive line has also regressed the past few years. Despite that Nick Mangold is still arguably the best offensive lineman in football, D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s play this year is a far cry from his Pro Bowl days, and Matt Slauson, Brandon Moore, and Austin Howard are all mediocre at best, though still an improvement over former Jets lineman Wayne Hunter from last year. Then, just look at Sanchez’s receiving corps at the end of this past weekend’s game after Santonio Holmes got hurt: two guys named Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schillens.
What is this, a comedy routine? Even with Holmes, rookie Stephen Hill and tight end Dustin Keller all playing, there’s not much to get excited about. Holmes is glorified, but nothing more than a number two guy. Stephen Hill has potential, but is so raw that he could have a game where goes for 89 yards and scores 2 TDs (see week one) then has zero catches next game (see weeks two and three). And Dustin Keller’s scored just three TDs in his last 15 games. Guys like Braylon Edwards, Plaxico Burress, and Jericho Cotchery from years past weren’t big-time names either, at least by the time Sanchez was throwing to them.
Then there’s the absolute enigma that is Rex Ryan. Obviously you can’t knock a guy who’s been to two conference championship games in two of his first three years too much, but it’s tough to tell whether he’s actually improving as a coach, or whether his loudmouthed style is starting to lose its effect on players.
But if you’re going to play the blame game, there’s no way you can leave the quarterback out. Sure, there’s the lack of targets to throw to, but that doesn’t necessarily merit having the worst completion percentage of any starting quarterback in football. Sure, the offensive line can use some work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should be fumbling the ball like it’s your job. He’s starting to look like none other than Tim Tebow, who was crucified for his accuracy, but at least won games. I don’t necessarily think that there are too many quarterbacks with a worse offense than Sanchez, but it’s also tough to find someone who’s been as ineffective as Sanchez has this year and is still starting.
So who’s to blame? I think the simple, correct answer is that everyone’s to blame. Look at this team on paper, parse through the depth chart, and even if you include a now-injured Darelle Revis, they’re no more than an 8-8 team. No offense and an aging defense doesn’t get you very far in the National Football League.
Obviously, it’s the easy way out to blame the most visible player on the team, and doing so wouldn’t necessarily be the wrong thing to do. But before you call for Sanchez’s head, just take a look at the rest of the organization. Why did General Manager Mike Tannenbaum allow team cancers Holmes and Antonio Cromartie to stay, and then trade for Tebow immediately after signing Sanchez to a huge deal? Why not make changes after finishing 8-8 the year after coming one game away from the Super Bowl? Take a look at how Rex Ryan has babied and mishandled Sanchez over the past few years, calling him the team leader but never letting him throw the ball more than 10 yards; if your boss never let you do more than make copies after giving you a huge salary and naming you an executive wouldn’t you have some confidence problems?
Frankly, the talent isn’t there, management has done nothing to make them better, and the coaches don’t know how to respond. It’s not wrong to blame Sanchez, but football’s a team sport; just as an individual can’t take all the credit for success, one can’t take all the blame for failure either. That’s why the question of whether to start Sanchez or Tebow may be the least of this team’s worries.