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Tony Sparano’s Mantra: Protect the Football

By Alan Schechter
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May 4, 2012; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano during minicamp at the Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

If the defense’s mantra is “One Step Faster”, the offense’s mantra, under new OC Tony Sparano, is “Protect the Football”.

Mark Sanchez begain learning this, even before he really got to know Tony Sparano. When Sanchez met with former Jets/Dolphins QB Chad Pennington in a hotel room in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, they kept coming back to this theme. They met four times, for approximately 10 hours, and did talk Xs and Os, but kept coming back to the main theme.

Protect that football.

This will be the driving force to whether the Jets come back to the playoffs in 2012, and if Mark Sanchez can keep away the force behind him, namely one Tim Tebow.

If the Jets are going to play a ball control scheme, it would help if the control the ball. The Jets turned the ball over 34 times last year, fourth highest total in the NFL, and Sanchez accounted for 26 of them. Clearly unacceptable.

Chad Pennington knows the offense as well as anybody, as he helped lead the 2008 Dolphins to an NFL record tying 13 turnovers for the year. It’s not perfect, though, as from 2009-2011 the Dolphins actually had the same amount of turnovers as the Jets, 85.

Sanchez has accounted for 63 turnovers in his first three seasons, only one QB has accounted for more. That QB is Eli Manning, who has actually accounted for 72 turnovers in that time. These sins are forgiven with two rings.

Pennington feels that Sparano’s offense will fit in well with Rex’s defensive schemes:

“When you have a Rex Ryan-style defense, attacking all the time, you have to complement it,” Pennington said in a phone interview. “You have to run the ball, keep the defense off the field and protect the football. … More football games are lost in this league rather than won.”

Mark knows he must take care of the football better.

“No matter who your coordinator is, I’ve got to take care of the ball better than I did,” he said.

The offense, believe it or not, is also working on making the tackle on interceptions and fumbles, as the Jets gave up a league high 7 TDs on interception or fumble returns. Also unacceptable.

Of course, the idea is not to give the ball away in the first place, and that has been drummed in by the Jets new offensive coordinator.

“If you ever want to see him get riled up,” Rex Ryan said, “it’s when you turn the ball over and you’re not protecting it.”

This is a great sign for the Jets, as this was one of the biggest issues the offense had in 2011. Habits are what take over during games, and if they get in the habit of not turning it over now, this will make for big change and improvement in 2012.

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