Football is a complex machine. The simplicity of trying to move a ball in one direction is a facade, a trick. Hiding underneath are all the option routes, cover 2’s, bootlegs, off tackles that make the game what it is: a complicated way to do a simple thing. The Jets are also a complex machine and their effort to move a ball, and a team, in one direction is obscured by all the Cromartie shenanigans, Holmes allegations, Revis contract disputes, Ryan F-bombs, and now Tebow mania.
Every major sports publication has written about the Jets this preseason. ESPN all but set up shop in Cortland during July to follow training camp, and they have been rewarded with not one but two fights, the resulting wind sprint punishment, and now a lackluster first preseason game.
These things fill a lot of inches in columns and minutes on TV. With the amount of coverage the Jets get, you’d think they were the New York team that won the Super Bowl last year. Eli Manning has joked that he is the third most talked about New York quarterback, and it’s true by a large margin.
Yet, for all the soap opera drama surrounding the team, the Jets remain hopeful that they can come together as a group and put forth an effort resulting in a better record than last year’s disappointing 8-8. The Jets have some real challenges in front of them, aside from all the in house drama that is being gobbled up by the long trail of sport media that follow this team around.
The first challenge is their schedule. Gang Green have a brutal stretch in weeks four through seven where they play the 49ers, the Texans, Indy, and the Patriots. If their defense can’t get to rookie Andrew Luck and take at least one game from the other (probably) playoff bound teams the Jets will be playing catch up when they move on to easier foes in Miami, St. Louis, and Seattle. When you’re playing to get back into contention is when all the drama seems to get a little more attention, which can create more problems in the locker room. Believe me, the sport media machine, particularly in New York, wants there to be problems and controversy because it makes good TV and back page fodder. The only solution is winning, something the Jets can do.
What is not discussed as much about the Jets is that they’ve made smart draft picks, have a solid defense, and a good coaching staff. Quinton Couples looked awesome in Friday’s game in Cincinnati. He played a ton of minutes and seemed to be everywhere he needed to be. The defense in general looked solid and deep with Jay Richardson and second and third string giving a solid effort.
Ryan and Sparano are both smart and could complement each other well particularly if Rex focuses more on improving the team’s strength in defense and allowing Sparano to concentrate on the team’s weakness: offense. And a weakness it is. Even the most ardent Jets fans would classify Sanchez as a mediocre quarterback at best. ESPN has him ranked 23rd in NFL QB’s, but he’s the second best in his division and, more importantly, he doesn’t have to be great for the Jets to win. He only has to be serviceable. With a good defense and a solid running game you can be a contender without an elite quarterback (see: Ravens, The).
The Jets would do well to focus on short yardage with a couple trick plays and some wildcat. Keep the opponent’s defense honest with Holmes and new deep threat Stephen Hill, and control the game clock with defense and a ‘ground and pound’ approach. Without an elite skill player on offense the Jets can only win 10 yards at a time in low scoring games. This is not a group designed to win shootouts.
This is one area where their schedule helps them. As they get deeper into winter they only have one warm weather game (Week 14 in Jacksonville). A cold weather, we’re-tougher-than-you, not-in-our-house, fight-for-every-inch, didn’t-see-that-one-coming-did’ya?, approach is the only way were going to see a wild card berth for the Jets (sorry, but this is still the Pats’ division).
But above all else the Jets need to not beat themselves by maintaining discipline on and off the field. This doesn’t just mean no more fights. It means the team needs a uniform approach in dealing with the media. If Sanchez has a bad day, and he will, the receiving corps cannot start clamoring for Tebow to the press. Discipline means not letting the circus that surrounds the team become a distraction.
Football is a complex machine, but for the Jets to have a successful season they would be wise to follow the KISS rule – Keep It Simple, Stupid.
By David Benson