How Did Tony Sparano Break this Offense?
By Alan Schechter
Dec 30, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano in between plays against the Buffalo Bills during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
It seems to be a pretty safe assumption that once the general manager signing becomes official, Tony Sparano will be among the first coaches on the staff to lose their job. Heck, we all expected him to be fired already, despite the fact that there isn’t a general manager in place, leaving the speculation that there is a chance he will be retained. That chance is small, though, as wide spread changes are expected to take place on the offensive side of the staff especially.
Did anyone else realize that in the two years prior to Sparano’s arrival, the Jets were 13th in the league in scoring? That is twice in a row, the 11-5 season, and when they went 8-8. We all wanted Brian Schottenheimer out the door, we wanted a new direction. I am not going to say we didn’t. But, the numbers prove that Schotty wasn’t as bad as everyone made him out to be. He was just the unfortunate scapegoat in an offseason that change needed to happen.
So, how did Tony break this offense? He inherited a group of players that were just outside the top 10 in scoring for two straight years, and turned them into a group that was 28th. Yes, there were injuries, and not a lot of depth behind those injuries. But it was more than that. Tony Sparano, with all of the Rex-like bravado he came on the scene with, didn’t do a lot to help this offense develop and grow either. I pinned it down to a couple of bullet point topics:
Now, I am not trying to insult anyone’s intelligence here, I know on it’s face, that’s obvious. The offensive coordinator/playcaller needs to be creative in order to have success. That goes for any coordinator. But, for a guy in a situation like Tony Sparano’s, it becomes even more important. Why? Because creativity is your weapon to hide a lack of talent. When your roster is not as talented as you would have hoped for, you have to create your own success with that you have.
He played a lot of this season with Jeremy Kerley, Jeff Cumberland, Konrad Reuland, Clyde Gates, Jason Hill…..I can’t even continue, you know. Not exactly Rice, Taylor…etc. It was a group that lacked a lot. You could see it just by watching them play, these guys were not going to beat you by playing straight up. As a playcaller, you have to get creative to set up disguises for these guys. They are having trouble getting off of press coverage, for example, set up some bunch formations to confuse the defense, get these guys in different directions, so someone can get a free release? I don’t remember seeing that ever, and if we did, it certainly wasn’t often. How much did we the same formations over, and over, and over again? One receiver to each side, two on one, one on the other. He never game them a chance to get off the line with a little trickery.
If you can’t beat ’em, fool ’em.
Dec 30, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) drops to pass as Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams (94) rushes during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bills beat the Jets 28-9. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
What about our favorite son, Mark Sanchez? Whether you, as Sparano, are enamored with the guy or not, fact is this is your quarterback. As we all know, he spent a good portion of the season not throwing really well. OK, that might be the understatement of the century. There I said it. Happy? Let’s just say this, he had problems. With those problems, it’s on the coach calling the plays to come up with solutions.
Did it ever seem that the passing game was altered to give the quarterback some easier throws, at any point? At least I never got the feeling that was the case. For example, what about that play that every team runs, where they fake a handoff going left, roll the quarterback right, and roll the tight end or full back right with the quarterback? Every team does it, and it seems to be a completion nearly 100% of the time. Did the Jets ever run it? I can’t recall it. They would just run the same plays, time and time again. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting different results. Doesn’t that sound like the Jets version of Tony Sparano? It goes into the second point.
SETTING PLAYERS UP FOR SUCCESS
This kind of goes hand in hand with the previous point. You have to be creative enough to call plays that are going to put your guys in position to be a success. When you let this roster of wide receivers just run out of standard formations, they will continue to have trouble getting off of press coverage, and will never be open.
Putting Stephen Hill into a starring role, five minutes after he arrived, is another prime example. Is he going to be a great football player? I still believe so. But counting on someone to be the guy, that hasn’t caught a lot of passes in his life just isn’t responsible. Yes, Rex Ryan said it, but if you are coaching the offense, you have to exert some will, and put Hill into a smaller role, giving him a chance to mature.
And…Tim Tebow. No I didn’t want him here, but since he was, how about watching some Tim Tebow tape on how to use him Tony? Did Denver run him up the middle….EVERY TIME HE WAS IN? I don’t think so. You have to get this guy out wide, where he can do some damage. I’m not a fan, and even I knew that. Come on Tony.
Tony Sparano pretty much systematically broke things down here. And the sooner we can say goodbye, the better.