Sophomore year staff to blame for slow start of Jets?

Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles before the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles before the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite the classic Week 17 loss last year, the New York Jets showed the NFL that they very well could be a contender. In their second season with Todd Bowles & Co., the Jets seem to be in a “sophomore slump.”

For the New York Jets, last year gave fans a taste of what the team is capable of, while sprinkling disappointment on the season towards the end. Nothing new. Nonetheless, it was a solid campaign in which we saw a 10-6 team miss the NFL Playoffs. They would become the 20th team to miss the playoffs with such record (not counting the 1985 Denver Broncos and 2008 New England Patriots as teams to miss playoffs being 11-5).

But, there was a lot to like from the team.

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That monstrous defensive line accounted for 20.5 of the teams’ 39 total sacks. The Jets’ offensive line helped the Jets’ defense out in order to outnumber opponents by 17 sacks throughout the season.

The running game was fluent with power back Chris Ivory and speedy Bilal Powell (who, if healthy, I believe would’ve led the Jets to that much-desired win in Buffalo). Ivory would enjoy the trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, then depart for Jacksonville to sign with the Jaguars.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, the journeyman from Harvard, messed around and set a franchise record with 31 touchdowns. Was it surprising? Very. Realistically, though, he did have weapons at the receiver position with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Not to mention, rookie Devin Smith was playing well before a season-ending injury, and Quincy Enunwa was developing in the offense as well.

2016 has not been kind to the Jets, as they hold a 1-4 record awaiting a date with the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night. Many are blaming Todd Bowles and management for this “season that could’ve been,” so let’s look into this.

The Jets put together an “experienced” staff. Let’s check the backgrounds

Last year, New York introduced Mike Maccagnan as general manager, Bowles as head coach, and Chan Gailey as their offensive coordinator. Bowles would also bring along defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers. Here’s how the top four (offensive & defensive coordinators, head coach, and general manager) stack up.

Mike Maccagnan

He began with the Houston Texans, gradually moving up in the college scouting department. Starting as coordinator, then assistant director, and finally director of college scouting,

Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan before a game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Maccagnan was part of every draft decision by the Texans from 2000-2014. On both sides of the football, Maccagnan chose future Pro Bowl participants. Some to note are J.J. Watt, Arian Foster, Brian Cushing, Mario Williams, and Andre Johnson. His knack to draft and sign great players has (somewhat) shown with the Jets.

Leonard Williams being chosen in his first Jets draft in 2015 was the best so far. He also traded for Fitzpatrick and B-Marsh, while signing notables like Buster Skrine, Marcus Gilchrist, James Carpenter and Darrelle Revis. Oh yeah, and they signed Kellen Davis. Just thought I’d throw a tight end in there.

This year wasn’t as exciting. Yes, Matt Forte was signed, but he has slowed down a bit. First-rounder Darron Lee has played phenomenally thus far, as has Jordan Jenkins after coming back against the Seahawks.

Todd Bowles

Bowles was a safety in the NFL and was a part of the 1987 Super Bowl Champion Washington Redskins. He spent 7 years total with Washington and had a one-year stint in 1991 with the Green Bay Packers. Bowles became adept to working as a secondary coach, working with defensive backs with five teams from 2000-2012. From 2013-2014, he was aside Bruce Arians in Arizona as the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator. Bowles led the Cardinals to three top-10 league rankings defensively in 2013, while doing the same in 2014. Pretty consistent.

Chan Gailey

dom; New York Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey at practice at the Hazelwood in advance of the NFL International Series game against the Miami Dolphins. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Reuniting with Ryan Fitzpatrick was one of the “positives” that fans saw with the acquiring of Gailey. The coordinator has flip-flopped between the NFL and college football throughout his professional career.

He has been the offensive coordinator/head coach for teams that featured players such as Calvin Johnson (HC of Georgia Tech), John Elway (receivers/QB coach 1989 Broncos), and Jerome Bettis (OC 1996-97 Steelers). Pro Football Hall of Famers. Gailey was head coach of the Dallas Cowboys for two years from 1998 to 1999, and again was a head coach from 2010-2012 for the Buffalo Bills.

Kacy Rodgers

This one is short but sweet. Kacy Rodgers has been a defensive line coach throughout his career, both in the NCAA and NFL. From 2003-2007, Rodgers was in Dallas working with the Cowboys’ defensive tackles (’03-’04) and the D-line (’05-’07). In those years, the Dallas defense finished top-10 in the NFL in rushing yards allowed in all but one year.

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So, what is the problem?

The problem, my friends, is that this team and it’s coaching staff is everywhere. Last season was exciting (for the most part) due to the fresh atmosphere and opposing teams’ lack of knowledge of this staff working together. Week after week, people catch on, and that’s what seems to be happening this year. Teams are just catching on to the mispositioned staff.

Rodgers isn’t a coordinator

You have a defensive coordinator in Kacy Rodgers that has never been in this position, having always been a line coach. Maybe this is the problem with the secondary? Not having a defensive coordinator that is so line-heavy might help, because this line will perform very highly no matter who is in control of the defense.

Gailey isn’t a coordinator (or a head coach)

Gailey was 34-46 in his 5 years of head coaching, so the Jets did a good job not having him coach this team. Gailey has had great seasons as an offensive coordinator only because the offense’s he’s controlled had playmakers left and right. You can’t have an offense with receiving studs and an accomplished running back prosper with a quarterback like Fitzpatrick. It worked last year, but teams adjust and learn as games go on, and this season is a prime example of that. Plus, Fitzpatrick is showing why he’s been on 6 teams in 11 years.

Bowles isn’t a head coach

Bowles, like Gailey and Rodgers, maybe isn’t suited to be the head coach of a franchise. He reminds me of Mike McCoy and his time in San Diego. In his first year as a head coach, McCoy brought the Chargers to the playoffs. The Bolts finished 9-7 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2009. They actually upset the Cincinnati Bengals in the wild-card round for their first playoff win since 2008. San Diego has gone 14-22 since then. To make my point, Bowles was a great coordinator in Arizona. We all can agree that the Cardinals had one of the most dominant defenses from 2013-2014. But, head coaching might not be in his repertoire.

Maccagnan is, well, inconsistent

Lastly, Maccagnan. I believe that he has actually done quite the job bringing in pieces to the Jets that do compliment each other. Drafting is his specialty, and we’ve seen the good and the bad of it. He’s drafted good players, and some players that haven’t turned out how you’d like, but this is simply reality. Back-to-back years of drafting quarterbacks boggle my mind, as well. Unfortunately, some of the trades Maccagnan made in the draft haven’t worked out either. Though, I can’t disagree with anything Maccagnan has done. He’s given fans proven playmakers. This comes at the expense, though, of future draft picks, which he is known for capitalizing on. It’s a give-and-take situation. You trade picks for proven players. This has always been the case, but Maccagnan is a draft specialist, so this hurts him while also helping the team temporarily.

In review…

The argument that management is to blame for the Jets’ lack of success this year is “iffy.” This is the same management that turned around and went 10-6 last year with 4 new major staff positions. Was last year a lucky year (well, besides the classic meltdown)? Perhaps so. As stated before, with Fitzpatrick under center, you can’t expect to win much in the first place. But when you add in the fact that most of the management and staff are in new positions and environments, maybe the expectations to win should be the same as having Fitz at quarterback.

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This year is painful to watch and brings back a lot of memories and feelings of disappointment in the franchise. To put 100% of the blame on the sophomore staff is wrong. Players have to play, and most of them are underperforming. That’s just the reality of this situation as well. The team as a whole has to show who they are and how they play before it is too late. It might very well already be.