Was Brian Schottenheimer the Problem, or a Scapegoat in 2011 for the New York Jets?


Was this guy really the problem in 2011? Not so sure. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Let’s take a break from Tebowmania for a few minutes tonight, to take a look back at 2011. It was a year of disappointment from the New York Jets. Big dreams, big guarantees, a lot of talk, and an 8-8 season. From that, a shakeup was done with the coaching staff as we all know. The biggest change, as we know, was at the offensive coordinator position. Brian Schottenheimer out, and Tony Sparano is in. A lot of the heat in 2011 was directed at Schottenheimer, for his playcalling, which at times was suspect. However, though he is gone, I submit that he wasn’t the root of the problem, the problem was the players he was given, and the situation he was put in.

Look at Brian’s years with the Jets, in the Rex Ryan era. The first 2 seasons, 2 trips to the AFC championship game, and then an 8-8 season where everyone wanted him off the team. I understand that you can’t fire the whole team, so somebody is going to be scapegoated, and that typically is a coach. But was it fair? The first two seasons, did you hear anyone calling for Brian Schottenheimer’s head? Of course not, because the team was performing. So what happened? Did Brian all of a sudden forget to call plays in 2010? Of course not. I say, look at the position they put him in last year.

Was Brian Schottenhimer set up for failure by the man's presence? Maybe. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE

The Jets bring in Tom Moore (above), as a special consultant for the offense. Tom Moore has great experience, for those who aren’t aware, he was the architect of the great Peyton Manning’s offense with the Indianapolis Colts. His credentials are unmistakable.

But then, he arrives with the Jets. First, he is not going to be around the team at all. He is going to sit at home, review tape of the team, and give his thoughts on the offense via the telephone. However, that becomes not good enough. We learn a few weeks into the season that Moore is going to travel with the team, and be with them for the duration of the season. Let me ask you, if someone in your jobs, whatever they are, was hired to be with you for the entire time you were working, and they were more experienced than you, but they are just there as a consultant, would you feel comfortable? If someone is watching everything you do, wouldn’t you feel like if you slipped up, they would take your job? Of course you would! And I submit that Brian Schottenhimer felt this way. He had to feel uncomfortable with the setup, despite what he said publically, and that feeling ultimately affected his playcalling in a negative way. You cannot convince me otherwise, as the man didn’t suddenly forget how to call plays.

A lot of criticism went Brian’s way following the game against the Patriots last season. He was vilified in the papers for not throwing the ball all over the field. Instead he threw the ball 44 times, vs only 25 rushing attempts. I have a couple of problems with this line of thinking.

First of all, I thought the Jets were a “Ground and Pound” team. Throughout 2011, there was much talk about the Jets finding an identity, and getting back to ground and pound. The way I understand it, ground and pound, means “ground” or running plays, doesn’t it? Pound the rock. Right? It seems to me that Brian was trying to establish and sustain the Jets identity with this type of game plan.

Secondly, isn’t Mark Sanchez the same quarterback that makes all these bad decisions? The guy that is good on the move, and off of play action? If that’s true, what sets up the play action? Running plays! That’s what sets up the play action. So, Brian Schottenheimer essentially was criticized for using his weapons appropriately. So, where am I directing a lot of my blame here?

The Jets' starting right tackle, unfortunately. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE


The man responsible for the current mix of players on the Jets. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

We talk first about the Jets’ starting right tackle, the replacement for the great Damien Woody, the man, the myth, the legend, Wayne Hunter. He was eaten for lunch in that Patriots game, as well as every other game all season. Teams getting ready for the Jets had to be just licking their chops, and laughing when watching Wayne Hunter on game film. Jason Babin of the Eagles took him to school, for example. The offensive line took a step back in 2011, and you can’t ground and pound, if you can’t pound anybody.

That brings us to Mike Tannebaum(pictured below Hunter). For some reason, Mr. T as he’s called here in NY, didn’t feel the need to upgrade the O line in 2011. Woody retired, and he was replaced with….well that guy. There was no depth, as they looked like a pee-wee football team when Nick Mangold was injured. Nothing. Guys that didn’t look like they even belonged in the NFL played when depth was needed. Mike Tannenbaum felt no reason to add depth to the offensive line, nor did he replace guys that retired. Oh wait a minute, they did draft one offensive lineman.

The Jets impersonation of offensive line depth in 2011. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE

Vladimir Ducasse. Enough said. It’s amazing that Mark Sanchez wasn’t carried off the field in a body bag last year. It’s not Brian Schottenheimer’s fault that he was provided players that can’t, what is the word? Oh yes. Play!

And then there is the mix of players on offense that Mr. T gave Schottenheimer last year. Take a look at some of the players that left from the 2009-2010 AFC title appearance seasons: Alan Faneca, Thomas Jones, Damien Woody, Tony Richardson, Jerricho Cotchery, Tony Richardson, and Braylon Edwards. Key components, key role players, and key people. These guys were leaders in the locker room, and quality people. And they have not been replaced.

We talked about the offensive line replacements. But the others, not a good mix either. Plaxico Burress did catch 7 TD passes last year, but really didn’t make a mark on the team the way he was expected to. He is not the big play threat that Edwards was, and that was missing last year. 2 plays over 20 yards says it all.

And then the ultimate malcontent, who was given a pile of money.

Locker room enemy number 1. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Santonio Holmes. The captain, and the pain in the neck. He behaved himself in 2011, well enough to be rewarded with a $50 million contract. What did he do then? Become a selfish player that wanted no part of the team. If he didn’t “get his”, he complained, so much that he had to be benched during the most important drive of 2011. Think about this. The guy was a Super Bowl MVP, but the Steelers traded him for a fifth round pick. They couldn’t get rid of him fast enough! Shouldn’t that tell us something? I think so.

So, in looking back at last season, let’s think. Schottenheimer didn’t ask for a consultant to be brought in. Schottenheimer didn’t ask for zero depth on the offensive line. Finally, Schottenheimer didn’t ask for aging wide receivers, and malcontent wide receivers.

Brian Schottenheimer was a casualty of 2011’s 8-8 record. But was he the reason? I don’t think so. He was scapegoated, but I think we need to look above him for the Jets’ real problems in 2011.