Though some football fans would point to Santonio Holmes’ Week 17 meltdown in Miami as the official date of expiration, the 2011 New York Jets season really died on Christmas Eve. With 2:17 left in the second quarter of a must-win Week 16 game against the Giants, Eli Manning hit Victor Cruz on a 99-yard touchdown pass that both catapulted Big Blue on a historic Super Bowl run and ended any dreams of Gang Green postseason glory.
The Jets’ 2011 season died on Dec. 24 last year.
It’s Aug. 9, a day before the team’s first preseason game, and I’m declaring the 2012 Jets season dead . . . today.
It’s over, or as we say in New York, “kaput.”
The chant, “J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets?” Just replace that with “O-V-E-R, Over, Over, Over.”
I’m not being overly dramatic; I’m being realistic. There’s absolutely no way this team can possibly be a Super Bowl contending squad this year. All 32 teams are undefeated right now and each are still mathematically alive. Well, put away your calculators, Jets fans. Gang Green doesn’t have a chance.
This isn’t me putting a leathery Skip Bayless mask on and this isn’t some way to make headlines — this is me watching a ticking time bomb explode three months before even the biggest pessimists thought it would. The season’s done. DOA. I’m not sure just how much worse it will get, but if I’m a Jets fan, I’m already looking toward next year’s Draft and free-agent class.
After a 20-minute brawl temporarily suspended valuable practice time on Monday, the Jets responded with an encore performance Tuesday — another brouhaha, which led to head coach Rex Ryan halting practice and having his team run “gassers.” In his four years as head coach of the Jets, Ryan had never once had his team run disciplinary wind sprints. This was a first and it wasn’t some old-school sign of authority; it was an act of desperation. Only adding to the comedy (or tragedy) of the situation was the fact that Tim Tebow — the team’s backup quarterback, punt return blocker, and media magnet — finished most of the sprints in first place. The media ran with that storyline, too. Naturally.
In the heart of baseball and election season, the Jets were on both the front and back pages of the New York Daily News on Tuesday and the back page on Wednesday, with the appropriate headline of: “Rocky 2.” And they haven’t played a preseason game yet.
The Tebow stuff has been a media circus, but that was almost expected. What wasn’t expected was the rest of it: the constant fighting, the downright awful play from the receivers, the lack of an even serviceable right tackle, the Antonio Cromartie/Chaz Schilens exchange, the ESPN “SportsCenter” set being transplanted from Bristol to Cortland. The sick part is — I strongly believe that Jets owner Woody Johnson wants it this way. It’s his dream come true. All anybody is doing is talking about the Jets. Playoffs be damned, if the chaos and attention leads to more jerseys sold at Modell’s, more season tickets purchased online — things are OK. Things are trending upward. Though I’m sure Johnson would love to someday hoist the Lombardi Trophy — something the crosstown team’s ownership group has done twice in the past five years — I’m also sure he enjoys waking up each morning and seeing the Jets on those front and back newspaper covers. Hell, he might enjoy the latter more than the thought of the former.
Johnson made me laugh out loud on Tuesday, when he said, he was “surprised” by the amount of attention the Jets are getting this offseason. Johnson is also surprised, apparently, when the sun comes up in the morning and when the sky is the color blue.
Gassers? Really? An NFL team, with 30-year-old men on it, is running wind sprints?
My biggest issue with the 2012 New York Jets isn’t even the extracurricular madness and the three-ring circus that goes into a single training camp practice. It’s the team’s offensive philosophy.
It’s archaic. It’s stale. It’s wrong.
The Jets are building their offensive approach around what Ryan has described as a “Ground and Pound” strategy. Their plan is to control the line of scrimmage and win football games by owning the time of possession and limiting turnovers. Run first, set up the pass.
It’s an approach that worked for the 2000 Baltimore Ravens and the 1990 New York Giants. Unfortunately, the league and the game have changed dramatically since then. Unless New York plans on hopping into a time machine and playing with leather helmets, they’re going to have a hard time winning games with an offensive attack that’s from a bygone era.
The game’s a passing league, now, and it’s worrisome that the Jets don’t seem to realize this. Take a look at last year’s most successful teams. The Patriots, Packers, Giants, Saints, Steelers, Texans and Lions all were among the top passing teams in the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens, ranked 19th in passing yards a season ago, happened to feature the league’s third-ranked defense. The San Francisco 49ers, the lone playoff team that relied significantly more on the run than the pass last season, signed two premier free agents (Randy Moss, Mario Manningham) and used a first-round pick (A.J. Jenkins) to bolster their wide receiver depth this offseason.
The Jets’ passing attack, meanwhile, has gone backwards. Of the 14 wide receivers currently in Jets camp, nine have never recorded an NFL reception. Stephen Hill, a 2012 second-round selection out of Georgia Tech, had just 49 catches playing three seasons in a triple option offense. Jeremy Kerley, the second-year veteran who was expected to make a leap in 2012, has been a great disappointment in camp. Chaz Schilens? Dexter Jackson? Royce Howard? Wes Kemp?
How are the Jets going to be competitive in any sort of offensive shootout without NFL receivers this season? Time of possession battle or not, Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller can’t catch 200 balls apiece.
And any comparison to the 2011 49ers is extremely flawed. The Niners boasted the top rush defense in the entire league a year ago, giving up less than 20 yards on the ground per game than the second-best rushing defense team in the league, the Baltimore Ravens. The Jets’ run defense isn’t in that conversation. It’s not even close.
Looking at New York’s roster, the team didn’t improve at one single position this offseason. And that includes the backup quarterback spot.
They’ll get a lot of press and we’ll certainly tune in to watch them, but they won’t be very good at anything.
In that regard, they’re kind of like the Kardashians.
Of course, Jets management might view that comparison as the ultimate compliment.