Myths Already Busted About the New York Jets
Sep 8, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets general manager John Idzik during warmups before a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Coming into the season a lot of the media thought they had it all figured out with the Jets. They hired a GM who was a “contract” guy that knows nothing of scouting and personnel. The coach was a dead man walking who had already lost the team and might even be fired in season and that this team was the worst team in the league.
Let’s take these one at a time so we’ll start with John Idzik. Idzik was known in league circles as someone who specialized in the business side of things. Whether that was contracts, contract negotiations or back-end stuff, John was your man. People dismissed a couple of important facts, one he is a son of coach, as his father John was a defensive coordinator with the Jets in the late 70’s so John Idzik has been a lifer not some college sabermatrician. Second, Idzik was scouting for the Seahawks the whole of last year to both refresh his skills and to help overcome his reputation.
So how has he done with the Jets so far? Pretty well. He had a pretty good first draft with five out of seven draft picks starting and all have a very good chance of being a long-term solution at their position. Sheldon Richardson has been a brick wall against the run and has graded out as the best rookie in the league through seven weeks. Dee Milliner is still trying to put it all together as injuries and the complexities of this defenses have made his adjustment more difficult. Geno Smith’s choice was much maligned but Geno gets better each week as it is plain to see that he is the long-term answer at quarterback with four 4th quarter game winning drives, three of those leading to game ending Nick Folk field goals. Brian Winters took over for Vlad Ducasse and he is still getting beat but the potential is there and he does not commit the penalties Ducasse did. Tommy Bohanon gets meaningful carries to spell Chris Ivory as well as being used as a pass protector and occasional safety valve. Some of his free agent highlights were that he signed Willie Colon, brought back Calvin Pace at a much reduced salary, resigned Nick Folk, signed Kellen Winslow, signed Leger Douzable, and filled in-season holes with David Nelson and Josh Cribbs. He took some chances and got burned by injuries to Antwan Barnes, David Garrard who retired then just returned to the team after his knee had failed him, but the team is better now overall with his stamp on it.
The second myth was that Rex Ryan was a dead man walking whose team had quit on him and that he would be fired, possibly in season. I was in the minority as most Jets fans I encountered said they liked Rex but he was going to be gone because Idzik wanted to start over and he needed to make the playoffs to keep his job. My feeling was that this has always been looked at as year one of a two year rebuild so Rex’s fate wouldn’t be tied to a win total but instead to how the many young players on the team develop. With six players in their first 3 three years on defense alone it was a wise decision for Ryan to go back to teaching defense as well as calling plays. He understood that he was at his best (2009-2010) motivating the team as a whole while coaching defense predominantly. This time instead of handing off the offense to an incompetent coordinator like Tony Sparano he went with Marty Mornhinweg of the Eagles who had top 10 offenses in eight out of the last ten years. He hired David Lee as the quarterbacks coach to provide an excellent one two punch in the development of a rookie quarterback. If the quarterback and the young players developed then it would set the team back to fire the head coach and staff while starting over again.
How has it turned out so far for Rex? The team is 4-3 and has done it in come from behind fashion each time. Each week Geno Smith gets a bit better and shows you another glimpse of the future as his skills and confidence grows. Led by a spectacular defensive line the team already has 25 sacks, which is five short of the total of the entire season last year. Muhammad Wilkerson has become a bona fide star, Damon Harrison has blossomed from an undrafted free agent in 2012 to someone playing at a Pro Bowl level this year, Sheldon Richardson has been dominant against the run, Leger Douzable has surpassed all expectations and Antonio Allen has stepped up at safety. This team has plenty of holes, especially with very few playmakers but these players are playing very hard and to a man they say they are playing for Rex Ryan. Not bad for a dead man walking.
Oct 13, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets free safety Antonio Allen (39) warms up before facing the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium. The Steelers won the game 19-6. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
The last busted myth we will get into is the one where many publication & media outlets, especially ESPN, ranked the Jets dead last in their initial power rankings. There is no rational basis for this ranking to begin with. The year before they were 6-10 not 2-14. They were 6-10 because their best player on offense (Santonio Holmes) and defense (Darrelle Revis) were lost to season-ending injuries leaving the Jets without a way to replace their production. They were 6-10 because the owner brought in Tim Tebow and it was a huge distraction that no team could overcome. The pieces were there and reinforcements were coming with seven draft picks including two first round picks. You could not believe in the picks or the culture here but no one could rationally say that the Jets were worse than the Raiders or Jaguars. No one.
Here they are at 4-3 and in the top half of the league. That could change tomorrow and the team could enter into a skid but they will still be better than Jacksonville and the Giants among others at the bottom of the league. This team has young talent and is overachieving a little because of a coach who inspires players to be their best and used these rankings as a season-long rallying cry.
This is only the beginning. Next year brings about $30-40 million in cap space and 10 draft packs including two 3rd round picks. The future is bright and don’t let anyone tell you different.