As we settled in for Thanksgiving across the East End last week, Jets fans were probably feeling less grateful than others. Just two years ago, their team had one of the top coaches in the NFL, along with a rising star at quarterback. Twenty-four months later, Gang Green is a squad with no identity; more questions than answers, and frankly, not much talent.
Just 10 days ago the Jets got a 27-13 win over the St. Louis Rams. It was a glimpse of what the Jets were in 2009 and 2010. They fed off their defense and running game and QB Mark Sanchez only threw the ball 20 times. Sanchez has always been far more effective when he's not asked to throw 30 or more times per game. Then last week, on Thanksgiving night, it was back to the same old Jets in a 49-19 blow-out at the hands of the New England Patriots.
If there was ever a doubt heading into that game, it's now clear that the Jets are far from serious contenders. But what happened in front of the entire country last week might be the best thing for the fan base. It was an incredibly embarrassing moment for owner Woody Johnson and should lead to changes being made.
They are 4-10 last 14 games, dating back to last season. The last time the Jets beat a team with a winning record was October 23, 2011 (the San Diego Chargers). It's an incredible regression, considering a fairly similar core.
The franchise's failure to build on excellent back-to-back seasons in 2009 and 2010 shouldn't fall solely on the players' backs. Management must take ownership of the setbacks. From owner Woody Johnson, president Neil Glat, GM Mike Tannenbaum, and head coach Rex Ryan, the Jets rested on their laurels following two AFC Championship games.
As we've seen in the NFL, going worst to first, or first to worst, is all too common. For the past nine years, at least one team has gone from a last place finish to a division title within a year.
The Jets never made the necessary changes and are now paying the price. Don't let their decision makers convince you that the loss of Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes was the driving factor behind their ineptness. New York's aging defense, lack of wide receivers, and sub-par running backs for a "ground and pound" team has made the Jets a below average squad.
And now for a few words on the most controversial player on the team. The trade for Tim Tebow was the ultimate sign that the front office was leading the franchise in the wrong direction. Logistically, it never made sense. And since the start of the season, it's clear the coaching staff never had a strategy to use Tebow's strengths for the benefit of the team. Tebow didn't even receive a snap during the Patriot disaster; the coaching staff blamed his bruised ribs. The result has been to undermine Sanchez, add uncertainty and sap momentum from the offense.
So, now we're seeing the repercussions, with several unnamed players questioning the back up's ability, using words like "terrible" to describe his play. An example of the fall out . . . Rex Ryan's press conference last week lasted 22 minutes, during which Ryan received no questions about the St. Louis Rams. It was all Tebow. This is the circus Johnson and Tannenbaum brought to town. There's nowhere to pass the buck.
Jets fans had their day of thanks ruined by a pathetic performance on one of the biggest stages. The Jets may be well served to look to their rivals for a few pointers. No team has adjusted better, from year to year, then Bill Belichick's Patriots. He's constantly shuffling pieces around, getting younger, and staying ahead of the curve.
As usual, the Jets, Bills (both 4-7), and Dolphins (5-6) are all chasing the Patriots (8-3). A surprising night on Thanksgiving may have saved their season, as well as several jobs. Instead, Jets fans can put an early Christmas bow on their 2012 season.
Pete is a lifelong Montauk resident and former sports talk host at 88.7FM WEER. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.