Looking at Mark Sanchez and his Potential Impact on Others as a Starter


This Monday night will begin one of the more interesting stories in the NFL when Mark Sanchez takes over the quarterbacking duties for the Philadelphia Eagles. I find it fascinating because Sanchez’ performance will likely have consequences far reaching beyond just his own career, impacting the opinions and futures of people  across multiple organizations.

There were certainly high expectations surrounding Sanchez when he came into the NFL as the fifth overall draft pick in 2009. The Jets traded up with the Cleveland Browns to nab Sanchez and by the summer Sanchez was anointed the starter of the team. The Jets were highly successful in Sanchez’ first two seasons in the NFL, earning a trip to two AFC Championship games including road playoff wins against Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Phillip Rivers.

Though Sanchez was efficient in those games, nobody will argue that he was the catalyst for those wins nor that he was a good player in those years. Like most young players he struggled and the Jets struggled with a balancing act of developing a quarterback while competing for a championship. Still, in this age where playoff success means everything for a QB, Sanchez got almost no credit for his work as a Jet.

Sanchez was immature in his time with the Jets not really understanding how to handle the bright lights of New York and a media ready to pounce on him. It didn’t help that the loudest voice in the NY metro area held a grudge against the Jets and drew added attention to any shortcomings with the team. The hot dog incident, the prepared speech, the numerous women, photo shoots, and on and on…Mark gave critics every reason to hammer him.

The Jets development of Sanchez left a lot to be desired. As a rookie they began using a series of color coded cards to remind him when to be extra careful with the football. They would devise strategies where for weeks he was asked to throw the ball to win and then, when the coach got annoyed, completely abandon the pass. Mark was lost in a sea of voices and unhappy players in 2011.

In 2012 things peaked when the Jets were unsuccessful in getting Manning to sign as a free agent, so they turned around and extended Sanchez.  Though the contract was by no means outlandish (in essence the contract was giving them salary cap relief in 2012 for guaranteed salary in 2013) it was enough to bring fan scrutiny to the highest levels. Then the Jets traded for Tim Tebow and the Tebow circus that followed him. It was a nightmare that culminated with the “butt fumble” and Rex Ryan coming up with a plan to keep Sanchez from playing before a ultra negative home crowd at the end of the season.

Sanchez’ lack of development and crash of 2012 saw GM Mike Tannenbaum fired and replace by John Idzik, who immediately drafted a quarterback, Geno Smith, to eventually replace Sanchez. Sanchez outplayed Smith in the preseason but was told that the competition was ongoing. For some strange reason the Jets decided to put him on the field in garbage time of a preseason game and he injured his shoulder and was done for the year. The Jets would release Sanchez in 2014, letting him twist in the wind for a few weeks while all the NFL jobs dried up. Sanchez signed for pennies with the Eagles to backup Nick Foles for one season.

So now Mark is a few years older and in a new environment. For the first time since 2010 he has a tremendous support system around him. Those voices that rallied against Sanchez in 2012 are now on his side as his doing well just adds more fuel to the dumpster fire that is the Jets 2014 season.

So let’s look at who his play impacts moving forward:

Mark Sanchez– When Mark took the job with the Eagles it was in part to work with someone considered a good offensive coach and in part because the other jobs did not exist. A player of Sanchez’ pedigree at the worst will usually earn a few million in free agency to be a backup. In a league where Andy Dalton makes $16 million a year and people believe Brian Hoyer should earn $10 million a season, Sanchez can earn some big dollars if he is successful. If Sanchez gets back to the playoffs with this team his skillset should translate into a very nice contract.

If he fails?  Well then he has to decide if he wants a career earning the minimum as a backup or calling it quits and falling back on whatever money he banked off his rookie contract with the Jets. Most likely if he fails it gives a strong possibility that he is done with the NFL.

Rex Ryan– The current head coach of the Jets consistently gets a pass because he has never had a quarterback to work with in the NFL. Since he has been the coach of the Jets he has had games started by Sanchez, Smith, Vick, Kellen Clemens, and Greg McElroy.  If you throw Tebow in the mix that’s actually three players selected in the first round (though Vick was selected an eternity ago) and two second rounders, so the argument against Rex is that he gets nothing out of potentially talented players.

For the first time ever fans will get to see if Rex really never had a QB all this time or if he simply failed to develop the talent he had. If Sanchez is successful it would probably be the blackest mark on Ryan’s resume and reinforce the label that he is a great defensive coordinator with limited ability to work with the offense.

Chip Kelly– Right now Kelly is pretty much all the rage in many circles around the league. People love that he is not the traditional system coach and the fact that he avoided a second year collapse has brought his system much more validity than many other flash in the pan coaches. If Kelly can succeed with Sanchez the QB guru/offensive system label is going to stick forever. If Sanchez fails it’s going to be a ding on his record with critics looking more at the talented Eagles roster as a reason for his success rather than Kelly’s ability to get every ounce of talent out of a prospect.

John Idzik– Though Idzik’s mantra has been “competition” since day 1, whatever happened in 2013 did not look like a fair competition and he threw Mark out without any competition in 2014. His replacement, Vick, looked disinterested in even playing while Smith flamed out. Idzik’s rebuilding effort with the Jets has been a disaster and it’s quite possible the best QB he had, he ran out of town without a real opportunity to succeed. Idzik needs Mark to fail to at least fan some of the flames currently surrounding him.

Nick Foles– There have been many that have said Foles 2013 season was more a byproduct of luck and coaching than skill, and if Sanchez succeeds that group will grow larger. Foles had struggled at times this year and may find himself in a position where Sanchez never gives the job back to Foles. Foles inherited the starting job because of injury last year and the head coach had no intention of naming Michael Vick the starter again after that. If Sanchez is successful there would be no need to go back to Foles as Sanchez has a higher upside.

Because Sanchez is on a one year contract Foles would be in a very bad spot if the team signed Sanchez long term following the season as it would likely block him from starting again. For Foles that would be catastrophic in an attempt to cash in as a free agent in 2016. He would then be looked at as, at best, a high end backup, earning $4 million or so a season rather than the double digit APY he may have been looking at on an extension after this season.

Jeremy Maclin– Maclin is having a ridiculous season and is looking to cash in big in free agency this offseason. He was the favorite target of Foles, averaging over 10 targets a game. The big question when it comes to valuing receivers is how much of the production is the QB and how much is the receiver. If Sanchez is successful but spreads the ball around much more it can hurt Maclin’s value. If Sanchez completely bombs then a team should question what benefit the receiver truly brings at those costs. He needs Sanchez to play well with a majority of those passes coming to him to continue to solidify that value.

Mike Tannenbaum– Despite  taking over an old team with salary cap troubles and  finding a way to make the playoffs 3 times in his first 5 years, the big knock on Tannenbaum was that he was not a “football guy” and was never going to be successful long term at picking players. The back to back picks of Vernon Gholston and Sanchez high in the draft pretty much cemented his fate, but he now has a chance to say that the pick of Sanchez wasn’t as bad as people thought. Tannenbaum’s resume does include picking Darrelle Revis, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Muhammad Wilkerson, and David Harris and if Sanchez can do well that’s going to make his top line picks look very impressive to a team considering hiring him as a General Manager.



Why Rex Ryan Should Go Regardless of the Next 7 Games


I often get asked about Rex Ryan and John Idzik and thoughts on the future of both, which I’ve discussed in detail here before. But I wanted to expand some thoughts on Ryan in light of his recent comments which essentially said to judge him on his next 7 games.

If the Jets need these 7 games to make a decision, one way or the other, the organization is lost. Ryan has been the head coach of the Jets since 2009. He has coached 89 games. To think that these 7 games should mean anything is absurd and to turn it into meaning something is ridiculous.

Ryan’s coaching career can basically be broken down into two periods- with Revis and without Revis. By no means do I think that Revis was the catalyst for success and failure its just that Revis’ season ending injury in 2012 coincided with the changing of the Jets roster construction.

Rex took on a talented team with a mix of veteran players and younger talent when he became coach of the Jets in 2009. That team began changing in 2011 but by 2012 it was clear that the roster was turning over. Revis landed on IR, players like Bart Scott were on their last legs, and countless others had been released. Though the team did its best to try to piece things together it was clear that they were at a cross roads between rebuilding or doing things with their contracts to try to return to prominence via free agency.

When Mike Tannenbaum was fired and the Jets avoided free agency in 2013 it was clear that the rebuilding approach would win out. Ryan was selected to lead the rebuilding effort by owner Woody Johnson despite the hiring of Idzik as general manager. To say the last two years have been a disaster is probably the understatement of the year.

Ryan is given a number of excuses for failures of the team over the last three years. The most prominent excuse deals with the quarterback position. Certainly Ryan’s quarterbacks have not been a positive for him or the organization. But we also should not forget that Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow were both first round draft picks while Geno Smith was a second round pick. The head coach has to take some responsibility in the failures of his quarterbacks and offense, which is now on it’s third offensive coordinator.

The QB excuse has more or less never saved a head coach through multiple draft picks. 9 times out of 10 the coach gets the ax along with the QB. They don’t get the benefit of the doubt. The last time I can recall someone getting as much leeway as Ryan with bad quarterback situations was Brian Billick of the Baltimore Ravens. Billick wasted years of a good defense by attempting to develop Kyle Boller before finally getting his veteran QB in Steve McNair. Billick was eventually fired.

Ryan will also get an excuse for the lack of draft picks.   Former GM Mike Tannenbaum was known as “Trader Mike” and he did give a number of picks away. But were those picks high projection picks?  Not really.

We all know that most drafts produce little in the way of true talent the deeper and deeper we get into the draft. While it’s nice to have a shot at those players many don’t even make the roster for more than a handful of games each season. Since 2010 Ryan has had six first round draft picks, four second round draft picks, and four third round draft picks in five seasons. Those are the selections that usually make the most impact and he is not really lacking by any means in that regard. He’s had one additional first rounder and one less in the other two rounds than an average football team.

That’s not terrible and while many of the picks have flopped for a variety of reasons some of that has to get pinned on the coach for the development of talent. He’s gotten very good production out of Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson and very questionable results from pretty much everyone else.

When these are the results you have to question the front office but also the guy who is coaching the players. This is basically years of disappointment across two general managers. There is almost no logical reason to blame the failure solely on the strategy of the GM. I mean if we are blaming Ryan’s failures on a lack of draft picks how can you logically blame his failures on an excessive amount of draft picks in 2013 and 2014?

The are clear red flags with Ryan that have existed for years and these next 7 games will do little to change those things.

One of the marks of a good head coach is the ability to win within the division. Rex himself seem to like to put a great deal of stock in his tough games with the Patriots in recent years, but the fact is he is just 3-8 against them in the regular season. Granted New England is an exceptional football team so it’s hard to expect a great record against them, but he’s also just 4-6 against Miami, which is the worst performance within the division against the Dolphins. Overall Ryan is 14-18 against the AFC East, which is tied with Miami and 3.5 games better than Buffalo over that same stretch. Since 2012 the Jets are tied with Miami for the worst divisional record at just 5-9. That doesn’t cut it.

One of the things that has certainly saved Ryan’s job is the goodwill he bought by winning those road playoff games and cementing the fact that he can win big games against quality opponents. We didn’t apply that logic to Sanchez, who was the quarterback of those games, but it gets applied to Ryan. The problem is in the regular season that ability has not really translated to wins.

The Jets have been a bottom feeder under Ryan, specifically in the post-Revis era. When we look at 6 years worth of data we can get a pretty good idea of who Rex does and does not beat. I wanted to break the Jets opponents up into 4 tiers. An elite team I would define as a team that wins more than 11 games (Super Bowl favorites). A high level team is a team that wins between 9 and 11 games (basically a playoff quality team). Mid tier teams range between 6 and 8 wins while low quality teams are those at 5 wins or less (top drafting teams). Here are Ryan’s results vs those teams season by season:


You won’t find a bad team that Ryan can’t beat but you won’t find many good teams he can beat either. What’s an alarming trend is that Rex’s record against the mid tier teams has fallen from 13-9 to 5-11 since the move to a “rebuilding” phase. Outside of those first two seasons he has really done nothing against better quality teams- he’s 1-11 since 2011 against elite teams and 2-7 against high level teams. That’s Herman Edwardsesque with records heavily reliant on a schedule.


Perhaps more alarming  is the amount of blowout losses that the Jets have experienced under Ryan. In 2009 and 2010, 8 of Ryan’s 12 losses were by a touchdown or less. Only 3 losses in that period were by more at least 14 points and just once were they completely wiped out (the 42 point massacre in 2010 at the hands of the Patriots). When the Jets won they often won handily. It was a very strong effort.

Since 2011 ended the Jets have been a disaster. A majority of their wins are by less than a touchdown. Nearly 58% of the Jets losses have been by at least 14 points.  38% of losses are by more than 20 points. It’s brutal. Here is how the wins and losses broke down in those three year periods:

SeasonsLT 3 WinsLT 8 wins10+ wins14+ wins17+ wins20+ wins30+ wins
SeasonsLT 3 LossLT 8 Loss10+ Loss14+ Loss17+ Loss20+ Loss30+ Loss

These are non-competitive games that the Jets are playing in. That’s an embarrassment. It’s a lack of talent, preparation, and adjustments in a game.   Have you ever heard the coach say anything is wrong after these games?  Not really.  Just that he’ll get things fixed and they are trying hard. If this is trying hard I’d hate to see what not trying is like.

There is no way to spin these numbers as being good. I wanted to compare the performance in losses to that of the Raiders and Jaguars over the same 2.5 year period. Those two teams were essentially considered the bottom of the barrel of the NFL over the post-Revis timeframe. They have both gone through coaching changes and front office changes.

Margin of LossRaidersJaguarsJets

What separates the Jets and these other teams is the fact that the Jets have won some close games in the last few years while the Raider and Jaguars do not. Other than that the Jets are at the same percentage or worse than both teams. On a percentage basis the Jets are less competitive than Oakland. In terms of total number of blowouts they are pretty much worse off than the Raiders once you get beyond the 10 point loss margin. The Jets have 5 losses at home by 20 or more points over the last three years. That’s brutal.

Give Rex all the credit you want for beating some bad teams in 2013 to get to 8 wins, but there is almost nothing to indicate that he’s putting forward these valiant efforts when they lose. They basically roll over and play dead.

It’s been an awful three year stretch for Ryan. If you take out the two playoff runs at the start of his career it would be a no brainer that he would have been run out of town long ago with no defense from anyone. But Ryan has appeal to everyone from the brash attitude and early success and it blinds us all to the fact that he is not going to fit as a head coach of the Jets moving forward.

Whether or not we agree with the path Idzik has chosen or the job he has done, the fact is he has taken the Jets deep down the path or rebuilding. There is no quick fix for this mess through free agency because there is no real talent base that you can build around the way the Jets did when they used their resources in 2008-2010 to build those playoff teams.

I may not trust Idzik to make a draft pick but I also can’t trust Ryan to coach a team of young men learning how to exist in the NFL. If Idzik’s goal was to see how Ryan could do without decent veterans on his team these last two years, well mission accomplished. It’s awful play, bad losses, non-competitive games, and a lot of meaningless football. Its about as bad as things get in the NFL.

The Jets can’t make this about 7 games. Look at the way the team has fallen apart the last few years and realize that Ryan is not the coach who is going to be part of the solution here. Maybe there is a place where he can be part of the solution where the situation resembles the Jets of 2009, but the 2015 Jets won’t look anything like that and will never get back to that level if Ryan is responsible for the development of the team.



The Questions Woody Johnson Must Ask About Idzik, Rex, and the Jets


With another lackluster loss in the books for the Jets I wanted to look at some of the decisions that the team will need to make in the future regarding their current front office. The decisions in this case need to come from the top, and that lies with the owner Woody Johnson making some very difficult decisions about the team that he must be firm on.

The Jets have had a different way of dealing with some of their front office decisions than most (not necessarily all, but most) teams in the NFL. When the Jets hired John Idzik to run the franchise in 2013 it was with the condition that Rex Ryan be retained as head coach. That’s not a foreign concept. The Bears and Panthers both hired General Managers where the coaches were retained from the prior regime. The one difference is that it was made clear to those GM’s that they had autonomy to make the decision the next year on who would run the team. Idzik did not seem to have the same power, a position reinforced by a recent tweet by Ian Rapoport that indicated Ryan was safe for 2015, but Idzik could be in danger. That’s a strange way to run a franchise.

If the organization if to make a turn for the better Johnson has to ask himself a few questions and understand all the variables about draft picks, free agency, rebuilding phiosophies, coaching strengths and weakneeses to try to stabilize a ship that seems to be taking on more and more water by the week.

1. What direction is the franchise taking?

The answers to all questions really build off of this one. While the GM, in theory, ultimately decides the direction, ownership needs to be on board with what has to be done. If ownership is not 100% behind the plan it is doomed to failure the minute a bump in the road is hit. In many ways I feel this is a problem for the current Jets as their decision making seems to pull the team in a few different directions at once. It just feels like two wasted years.

The Jets need to define a clear path of action for the organization. Is this a competitive team?  Is it a rebuilding team?  If it is a rebuilding team how major is the rebuild and how do you want to rebuild. Do you want to rebuild in the manner of the Buccaneers (major signings in free agency hoping for a quick solution), Raiders (clear the cap, grab all moderate cost questionable vets in free agency, maintain cap space over long term), or Packers (forego free agency, develop within and pay when they hit). What are you willing to risk with each plan and can you stick with the plan for three years without wanting answers after one season?

If you plan on being competitive immediately map out a path as to why its the case and how will you get there. What do you see on the roster that nobody else does that makes you think you can compete quickly. Cleveland and Houston are two short term successes this year that likely had to make that same call in 2014.  Carolina looks to have done the same and may be sustaining it over two years. Do the Jets have the talent base in place to do this? It’s important that the owner understands and is comfortable with whatever the GM is proposing before the GM is hired/retained. They cant try to alter whatever path the GM has once it gets started.

2. Is John Idzik the man for the job?

No matter what angle you want to take with Idzik, the bottom line is the Jets are in no better shape than when he took over. When you look for young building blocks on the team there are few- DE Muhammad Wilkerson and DE/DT Sheldon Richardson. Calvin Pryor and Jace Amaro may be good players, but I don’t consider those positions to be those you build an organization around. There are a few situational pieces like Damon Harrison, Demario Davis and Leger Douzable who will certainly have a role on a decent team.

The team still has no quarterback and the offensive line is fading fast to the point where it looks as if it may need to be totally rebuilt in the near term. The secondary has gone from a strength to a weakness. The wide receivers remain poor. Basically the Jets have shifted the talent base from the offensive to the defensive line and gotten younger, but worse, in the secondary.

Idzik’s moves into the free agent marketplace have been up and down.  Mike Vick and Chris Johnson look like wastes of dollars. Mike Goodson and Dimitri Patterson ended up leaving the team the butt of jokes. Chris Ivory can give the team some identity when he is clicking. Erik Decker gives the Jets a professional receiver, while Dawan Landry and Willie Colon are decent fill in the gap veterans. There are clearly no home runs but he wasn’t swinging for the fences either.

The biggest misses for Idzik have come in the draft. The one thing that gave Tannenbaum leeway early on was that he hit a home run in his first two drafts with the Jets. In his first draft he focused on building block pieces (a tackle and center with his first two picks then a QB in round 2) and fixing the depth on the team. Out of that first draft he ended up with two Pro Bowl offensive lineman and four players who would contribute to the team in some manner over the next 5 years.

Because of the success of the first draft, “Trader Mike” was born in draft number two, where he focused on perceived quality over quantity. Tannenbaum would draft all world cornerback Darrelle Revis and a solid linebacker in David Harris. Though the QB flopped, in two years he came out with two starting lineman, a cornerback, and inside linebacker, and a contributing running back, safety, kick returner, and cornerback. That allowed him to go an add in free agency since he had a cheap talent pool locked up through 2009/10.

Idzik has hit a foul ball in his two drafts. Richardson is a building block player, though the Jets are going to have to coach him in handling frustrating times as he seems to be struggling with being on a losing team in such a big market. He found a guard and a fullback who may contribute, but those are not really positions where it’s impactful unless you are a top line player and neither player is. This year they had 12 picks and it looks like they may have a tight end and safety. Even if those two pan out very rarely do you build a team by “hitting” at those two positions.

After two years it is human nature to question the ability of the man in charge when the results have been so unimpressive. One can point fingers at the coaching staff and their inability to develop players (those same fingers could have been pointed when the last man was fired), but after seeing this result it is difficult to look at Idzik in as positive a light as when he took the job.

3. Do you trust Idzik with another three years?

The Jets are likely going to be in a very strong position in the draft and in free agency due to large unused cap space. These are defining moments for a franchise. When you select in the top 5 in the draft you could be selecting your franchise QB. Even if you do not get the QB you are likley going to find a piece that is supposed to anchor you for a decade, whether it is a pass rusher or an offensive lineman.

If Johnson wants to fast track the plan and go the route of a team like the Miami Dolphins, who had a similar roster a few years ago as the current Jets and decided to go wild in free agency, it pretty much locks in the roster for the next three years.  It’s locked in for that time because the GM will either need to guarantee large amounts of salary or prepay large bonuses that make it difficult to release such players before the three year window expires. At best you have to hold them on the roster for two seasons and on the salary cap for three.

The Jets are going to have a decision to make on a head coach. If you are going outside the room it is going to be a commitment financially for three years at a minimum. You would be bringing in a new head coach and new coordinators and assistants. They may change the base defense you run. They may have different philosophies on offense. Maybe they do not want an aging Nick Mangold on the team. Maybe they do not feel Wilkerson is the best fit for their defense. Jet fans will remember when Eric Mangini was hired to coach the Jets it essentially meant the team needed to punt John Abraham and Jon Vilma because there was no way for them to fit. Coaching decisions can alter a franchise.

These are franchise defining decisions.  If Idzik is on a short leash, meaning he makes the playoffs in 2015 or he goes, then how can you let him make these big decisions.  What absolutely can not happen in 2015 is to let a general manager you have no faith in go out and hire a new coaching staff just so you can give him a “fair shake”.  You cant have him sign ridiculous contracts for players that nobody else wants.

This is really why the answer to the first question has to be a resounding yes if you want to keep Idzik. You can not allow Idzik to go and draft another QB with a high pick, bring in a new system, sign vets to long term deals, and then saddle a new GM with a lame duck coach and QB he never wanted in the first place. That will just send the franchise into further turmoil when the inevitable happens in 2016 and you are bringing in another GM with another lame duck coach/QB combo. Its just going to lead to a repeat of the last two years except the names will be different.

In this regard draft position and draft class quality should weigh heavily on the determination of what to do with Idzik if there is any hesitation from ownership on his future. The owner will also need to be active in setting a budget and contract parameters in this case. This is obviously what happened in Oakland this past year. While I don’t think that is the correct path for any organization to take it is the only path one can take if there is limited faith in the GM. You have to block them from determining the future, but rather allow them to just take an approach for the short term while you further decide their future.

4. Is Rex Ryan the right man for the job?

I think if we look back at Ryan’s tenure the big picture item is that he is a good coach of veterans and not as successful with young talent. When Ryan took over the 2009 Jets they were a team that was already strong in fundamentals from either Mangini or other coaches around the NFL. Whatever Ryan’s shortcomings may have been as a teacher/calming influence were more than made up by the wealth of experience that was brought and could be shared by Damien Woody, Alan Faneca, Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, Thomas Jones, LaDainian Tomlinson, and others. Rex was great at getting things out of players who felt they had been given up on (Braylon Edwards, Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes) and motivating everyone else to give 120%. It seemed infectious to even mediocre players who he found roles for and challenged them to succeed in.

But as the roster turned over and the veterans were released the message started to get lost. When you talked with players in 2009 and 2010 they talked about how they would jump off a building if Rex wanted them to.  Now when they ask players about Rex it’s more the usual lip service about how they like the coach. The veterans who the players in part leaned on about how to handle adversity are all gone. Now after every loss Ryan just seems perplexed that they can’t win and the situation is not getting better.

I firmly believe that if the 49ers moved in a different direction and let go of Harbaugh and brought in Rex Ryan they would be a lock for the championship game. The same might occur in Atlanta if they upgraded their defensive personnel a bit. That’s where Ryan is most effective. Veteran teams. Veteran players. Getting some momentum going and letting everyone feed off it.

That is not the Jets, at least not right now. If Johnson is fully on board with a complete rebuilding of the franchise you can not keep Rex Ryan as coach. It really should be that simple. If the draft picks are not being coached up properly then you have wasted two years by forcing pieces to work together that simply do not mesh. Don’t waste a third year of development if you have faith in who Idzik is drafting and are giving Idzik the long term to fix this mess.

Woody can not make this about his belief in Rex and that he is a good coach. It is about identifying the strengths and weaknesses of an individual. Rex may very well be a great coach in a certain situation. If that situation no longer applies you are not saying Rex is a bad coach, its just saying he is a bad fit for your situation.

If you have a different outlook on how to build the squad and the situation is going to change, Rex might be the guy for a free agent type of team. The fact is this is a decision that should have been made when Idzik first took the job and proposed trading Darrelle Revis and letting a number of veterans walk to build up draft pick quantity. The owner can not continue to protect his coach if he is going to have a team built from the ground floor. It is not Rex’s strength and it just dragged everyone down.

If Johnson is so enamored with Ryan that he is deemed untouchable then he needs to confer with Ryan as to who he would like to work with in the future. One of the reasons he and Tannenbaum worked so well together is because Mike took a lot of what Rex said and tried to implement it in his building of the team. While things fell apart at the end that is the type of relationship a powerful coach must have with his GM.  Again I don’t like this idea, but you have to be honest with yourself if you are the decision maker and if this is the road you are going to travel than you must play to the coaches strengths and make the best decision possible under the circumstances.

Too often teams fail in sports because of decisions that come down from far above the GM. It’s one of the problems on the Jets that has led to a pretty dreadful outlook on the future. The Idzik/Ryan pairing has seemed poor from the start and the team has probably wasted two years trying to find a way to make it work for both sides. Two guys with very different personalities and very different philosophies  trying to find a common ground to keep both sides happy and the Jets relevant. With potential franchise defining decisions just months away for the Jets, their owner needs to set a firm direction for the team and give whomever is in charge, whether its Idzik, Rex, or someone else the authority to put their stamp on the team and not be hindered by “suggestions” that come from ownership. This is too important a time to be on the fence about what is and is not in the best interest of the organization. Get all the facts and make the decision about what vision the team will have in the future and go all in on that decision. That’s the only way such a team will turn things around in the future so tha they can become one of the franchises that the other 31 teams look at and say “this is how we want to run our team”



Should the Jets Fire Rex Ryan


(Note: Normally I would post this to my Jets site but for ease of posting I decided to post at OTC)

As the Jets moved to 7 wins I have seen a number of people stating that this is the best job that Rex Ryan has ever done coaching the Jets and that he deserves another season. Im not sure I agree with either, but let’s examine further

The “Best Job” Ever Done?

That would seem to be a stretch. While, on paper, the Jets had some expectations in 2012, expectations that were bolstered by the ridiculous trade for QB Tim Tebow, how much of the roster is that different than the team that Ryan went 6-10 with?

First let’s compare the offensive starters in 2012 versus 2013 in terms of snaps played:


Is this that much worse of a group?  Sanchez, a horrible veteran, was replaced by Smith, a pretty horrible rookie. The RB grouping of Greene and Powell in 2012 was replaced by the RB duo of Powell and Ivory in 2013. At worst that’s a push. The receivers and tight ends were the same. The lone significant downgrade on the team was Slauson to Winters and Ryan never seemed to care much for Slauson to begin with.

How about on defense?

SL. LandryD. Landry

I’d say the major downgrades here were at the Safety spots where Dawan was not as good as his brother and Allen not as consistent as Bell. The Jets did play 2012 for the most part without a Defensive Tackle because Sione Pouha was almost always injured so in many cases DeVito played the interior with Coples coming down and either Bryan Thomas or Garret McIntyre standing up. Those problems did not exist in 2013.

When it comes to evaluating the roster itself it stunk in both years. The main difference is there were simply expectations in 2012 and none in 2013. How did the overall results compare between the two seasons:



10+ point wins



Quality wins



17+ point losses



10+ point losses



Margin of victory



Margin of loss



SOS Wins



SOS Losses



We saw an increase of 1 in quality win, which is simply defined as a win against a team with a record above 0.500. That would be the win against the Saints. The Saints are 3-5 on the road this season. The Jets continued to get blown out in 2013 against what is a similar schedule as they faced in 2013. It is not as if this was a more difficult job. It was essentially the same job with the same pieces and same results. The major difference this year?  Lavonte David pushed Geno Smith in week 1 to set up a 48 yard field goal for a win instead of a loss.

Rex Ryan did a far better job in 2009 and 2010 with the team. The 2009 team faced adversity late in the year and found a way to overcome it. The 2010 team faced playoff adversity and overcame it. I don’t think 2013 is any gigantic improvement over 2012 as people say, nor were more losses suffered off the field, unless Sanchez being injured because Ryan decided to play him to win a Snoopy trophy is considered equivalent to Revis being injured.

The Players Love Him

In week 16 the Jets beat the four win Cleveland Browns in a meaningless game with Ryan providing the motivation by saying he was going to be fired. According to many this win alone proves Ryan should stay.  Where was the love in week 11 or 13 when the games mattered and the playoffs were on the line against the Bills and Dolphins?  The Jets lost by a combined score of 60-17. Since 2011 the Jets have faced a number of critical games where winning was pretty much needed to stay in the race. Last year they fell flat against the Titans in a game where Sanchez imploded but Ryan did not want to pull the trigger on him because he made the mistake of making Tebow active for the game. In 2011 they had the epic 3 game collapse down the stretch. So making this Browns game into something it’s not is really ridiculous.

Secondly is it that big of a deal even if they do love him? One of the reasons certain players are very vocal about Ryan is likely their own futures. Players gain the trust of certain coaches and have an inside track on jobs if the coach remains in place. It’s an audition that begins in the summer and goes all season long. Willie Colon and David Nelson both stepped up and spoke up for Rex. Their futures are likely tied to Rex being the coach of the Jets. So might be the futures of many players on the team. Most of the players won’t be part of the future of this organization. Its good that they fight for him and better than the alternative, but not important for the future.

At Least Give Him a Fair Chance in 2014

Nobody should even be bringing this point up.  Ryan can not be coach of the Jets for just one more season. If the team is going to keep him it has to be long term. This was a transition year for the Jets. They signed a number of players to one year contracts or multi year deals that had no guaranteed money to protect a roster spot. The Jets will be loaded with cap space in 2014, well over $40 million, once they make the initial releases of Holmes, Cromartie, and Sanchez, and will probably have between 10 and 12 picks in the draft factoring in the Darrelle Revis trade and compensatory selections. The Jets starting right tackle, tight end, right guard, safety, and outside linebacker are all unrestricted free agents in 2014. They could release a starting inside linebacker, cornerback, and safety.

The Jets will look very different in 2014. All things considered you could be looking at over 10 new starters and 15 new meaningful faces. You do not overhaul a football team like that and maintain a lame duck coach. That is counterproductive to the entire organization. In many ways it was already counterproductive to bring in a rookie QB and pair him with a coach twisting in the wind but whats done is done. The commitment to Ryan has to be long term if it occurs, not another wait and see season.

Should He Stay or Go

Ryan has a pretty large sample size by which we can evaluate him. To try to boil this down to the last two games of the 2013 season is foolish. Odds are the Jets organization made their preliminary decisions when they were hired and swaying that opinion was only going to occur based on actually working with him during the year not by anything accomplished on the field. The Jets were not a playoff team in 2013 and to have expected that was ridiculous. In the NFL these moves are made all the time, just look at Lovie Smith in Chicago last season. The only person who probably saved their job by coaching record was Ron Rivera in Carolina, a team that had a one year window before they will likely begin to see some parts fall by the wayside due to cap considerations.

Ryan has five seasons by which the Jets can judge him. While the last few years the defense has been overrated I think it’s fair to say that Ryan is going to field a good defense more often than not and he is one of the rare coaches that can put together a gameplan to neutralize an elite level Quarterback. Very few coaches have that ability and it is a major strength. If the Jets fire Ryan they are not keeping him on staff as a coordinator so if he is fired the Jets lose that edge.

Offensively it is a struggle for him. Ryan has gone through three offensive coordinators in his five year tenure, all supposedly agreed on by him, though there were rumblings that Tony Sparano was forced on him.   All three have performed poorly. Ryan has had an opportunity to develop a top five pick at the position in Sanchez and failed miserably. Tebow was a first rounder and never got a sniff. Smith had a first round grade to some but fell to the Jets in round 2. He has been pretty poor most of the season and has been benched a few times due to poor play. Some of the blame has to go on Ryan for that.

I can see why this is a difficult decision for the team.  Rex is very popular and is the face of the franchise. He also covers for the fact that the current front office is not very forthcoming or open to the media or fans. If the Jets bring in a coach that does fit the personality of John Idzik it will be completely back to the days of Eric Mangini where he refused to do weekly live phone interviews and required interviews to be taped at practice.

But if you keep Ryan you have to commit to a very specific style of football. It’s a style that is outdated in the NFL. That does not mean that it can not work, but you can not just assume that the offensive problems will fix themselves because Ryan says he will change. Coaches do evolve but usually that happens after they are fired. Bill Belichick probably never evolves if he does not fail in Cleveland. Tom Coughlin probably never evolves if he never was let go by the Jaguars. Having to take a step back and actually look at your failures while sitting on the sidelines is an easier way to improve than working through it on the job.

You are most likely not going to build a long term solution with a draft built offense and Ryan. That is how most teams attempt to build but Ryan has failed in that regard. If the Jets keep Ryan you are going to have to build differently. You are going to have to buy a mid level “professional” QB. In the immediate future that probably means Matt Schaub or Kyle Orton. Perhaps Jay Cutler but I think he would be too up and down. Chad Henne and Matt Moore would also be available and maybe a team gets interested in Josh McCown. Down the line you might be able to consider Alex Smith, Carson Palmer, or Ben Roethlisberger if the Steelers foolishly made him available.

Free agency is going to be met with overspending on linemen and consistent wide receivers. It would be all about rebuilding what the team had in 2009 with Alan Faneca, Damien Woody, Braylon Edwards, and Jerricho Cotchery.  While the players were not going to make anyone cringe on paper they helped bring an identity to the team that meshed with Ryans’ beliefs. If Ivory can stay healthy he is the runner to work in that system.

Where the Jets failed in 2011 and 2012 is they tried to replace parts with draft picks (Hill, Slauson. Ducasse, Greene, etc…) and “high impact” wideouts (Holmes, Burress) when they really needed developed team oriented players. Holmes was successful in 2010 because he was a complementary piece to the lunchpail players that were employed by the Jets. Greene was a fine depth player that could do well off the bench but as a starter behind the line the Jets trotted out there he was a below average running back.

Defensively you have to stay the course and keep getting Ryan athletic talent that he can mold and maybe one decent free agent. The building blocks are there on the defensive line.  Quinton Coples is about ready to become a household name as a pass rusher. Dee Milliner has begun to show a pulse. Get quicker on the inside and find another pass rusher and you will have a defense that can rank right up there with what the 49ers and Seahawks are trotting out year after year.

But you are going to have to build defense first and find a way to piece together a professional offense that doesn’t need the coaching or attention from Ryan.  Does Idzik want to do that?  That is the question that should be asked right now, not “how can you fire Rex after getting to 7 or 8 wins with this talent”. If Idzik does not believe in building a team that way then keeping Ryan on is a pointless exercise. Philosophically it has to match up.

The strength or Ryan’s resume is not regular season success. He has only won 10 games once in his five years with the Jets. His reputation is built on postseason upsets and a quality defense that won some games in spite of the offense that he helped run into the ground. Ryan isn’t Tony Dungy, Bill Cowher, or Marty Schottenheimer who year after year after year put forth good records and would never succeed when it counted.

That said the same risk is there with Ryan as there was with these three, with the system that will be run if Ryan is the head coach. Schottenheimer never won. Dungy won one time despite lucking into a job with Peyton Manning. Cowher was the only one whose system itself produced a Super Bowl winner, and that was once in 15 tries. All told it was a great deal of regular season success and a great deal of heartache in the playoffs. Just based on what we have seen the expectation has to be that Ryan can be a bit more Coughlin than Dungy. Ryan can get his team hot at the right times, despite very inconsistent play, and win a Super Bowl. From what we have seen with those upsets early in his coaching career and to a lesser extent the wins over Tom Brady and Drew Brees this season it is an argument that can at least be made.

If that argument is compelling enough than by all means keep Rex Ryan. But in this day and age I have a hard time believing that someone who has done nothing but feed on the bottom and get blown out by the top for the last two seasons is going to be given the type of team he needs to work with to get the most out of him and the team. For what its worth this is the same approach the Ravens more or less employed with Brian Billick when they realized his attempts to develop an offense were killing the team and they signed an ancient Steve McNair in 2006. It worked for one season before McNair broke down and Billick was promptly fired.    Do Jets fans want to have to wait another two or three seasons to completely turn the page the way the Ravens did?  I don’t and I doubt too many others want to either.




Ca(m)p Position Battles: Mark Sanchez vs. Geno Smith


2013 Cap Hit – Sanchez: $12,853,125; Smith: $912,655
Amount Remaining on Salary – Sanchez: $40,475,000 ($19,250,000 guaranteed); Smith: $5,019,603 ($3,068,784 guaranteed)

Although this will get plenty of national media coverage, the battle between New York Jets quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith for the starting job may not be the most interesting storyline to a diehard football fan. However, there is much at stake cap-wise. Mark Sanchez, much lamented for his performance as a starter in 2012 (attributed to the “butt-fumble” and beyond), still could be a viable option as a starter this year. While Rex Ryan has shown in past and present press conferences to have an inexplicable fondness for the beleaguered Sanchez, if the Jets wish, they can have him off the books by the end of the season. Why not give him a shot at the beginning of the season to attempt to recreate some of the magic from his back-to-back AFC championship game appearances (2010-2011, albeit surrounded by a more talented roster)?
The Jets can however wait on Geno Smith. Thanks to both the new CBA and Geno’s plummet to the second round in the 2013 NFL Draft, Geno has a very team-friendly contract, so the Jets can afford to let him study the game in a backup role. Additionally, contrary to the wave of young quarterbacks that have set the league on fire in the last few years (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and, to a lesser extent, Andy Dalton), Smith is considerably less polished coming into the league. It does not seem to be beneficial to throw him under fire amidst the circus that is the New York Jets. In my opinion, the Jets should give him time to study and observe from the sideline. For the time being, keep Sanchez on the field until it becomes unbearable (I would say at least 5 weeks). It could not go worse than it did last year. Sorry Jets fans, that’s as optimistic as I could get.

Due to the impatience of the Jets’ fan base and organization, however, Geno Smith could start as soon as Week One. Rex Ryan could be, after all, coaching for his job.