Monday night’s mishap erased all thoughts that Sanchez should be under center anymore, at least not for a team that needs first downs and such. But Monday was not the death knell for the Jets.
No, in New York, football will go on. A 6-8 season is bad, but it’s not Jets bad — this could have been much worse. So, while the world again agrees that Sanchez should not be starting for the Jets in the future (or maybe even playing for the Jets), the question becomes whether the Jets can be salvaged.
It’s a daunting task, considering the three- or four-year loops this team goes through from obsolescence to close-to-triumph to wreckage again and again. But the Jets are still around, and they’ll be playing next season. Something must be done.
It starts with getting rid of Sanchez, and the next good idea is to clean house. The Jets need serious help all over their roster, and the team’s management has few allies after messing up what was a solid core just a couple of seasons ago. Bringing in new leadership and then committing to rebuilding the team is a first step.
But the real temptation after this season will not be to look at the players or the front office. People are going to be calling for head coach Rex Ryan‘s head — and that’s the one area where Jets supporters need to be very, very careful. Ryan is probably the best thing that has happened to this Jets team in some time, and getting rid of him could doom this team again for years.
Firing Ryan is not the answer for the Jets. But rediscovering the Ryan that arrived in New York four years ago, and getting him to give up on Sanchez, could very well be the answer.
New York needs a certain type of coach. Excuse me — the Jets need a certain type of coach. This team, which has been built for the tabloids and primed to be a brash-talking, underdog nuisance for years, needs a coach that can play into the drama and hyperbole that this team excels on.
Tom Coughlin could coach the Jets, but he’d never overcome the mess long enough to win. Bill Belichick could slap this team into shape, but he could never make the most of the foibles that come as a preset. Pete Carroll could liven up the sidelines, but he couldn’t balance the good times with enough solid coaching to produce excellence.
Ryan, however, has both a great football mind and the ability to work within the culture that has always surrounded this team. He may get flak for his boasts and jokes, but there’s no denying that he fits his team and his town, and that he knows not only how to handle the strange situations but also how to use them to his advantage. Ryan’s personality and approach have never been a hindrance — until the team could no longer perform.
That’s where the problem is — that the Jets are losing. They haven’t always been this bad in Ryan’s tenure. Even early-season dips in his first couple of years were soon remedied by trips to the AFC championship game. Ryan has the chops to be a great coach, and he was getting the max out of his team.
But this year (and the end of last season, too), Ryan has been dealing with a different picture. Ryan, for all his coaching strengths and ability to work within the New York culture, can’t overcome the mix that he’s been given this season. Management has put him in a horrible spot, and he doesn’t have enough talent. Sanchez’s giant contract, which puts the Jets on the hook for $8.5 million in salary and almost twice that much of a cap hit next year, is what has forced Ryan to be a supporter of the quarterback (if the team’s other quarterback options haven’t). While Ryan’s fascination with sticking up for Sanchez is confusing, there’s not much he could gain by benching him at this point. The whole team is a mess.
This is a no-win, and in a no-win, even strengths become weaknesses and have made Ryan look like an ill fit for the job.
That doesn’t mean it’s time for Ryan to go, though. While he’s been poorly equipped to make the Jets winners this season, he’s shown in his other years that he’s been the best man for the job that the Jets have had in years. Yes, he needs to tighten the reins. Yes, he needs to make his team more disciplined and shore up the locker room. Yes, he needs to do better play-calling, even if he doesn’t have great pieces (Monday night was a mess). And yes, he needs to let Sanchez go and press for a new starting quarterback.
But Ryan needs to be given another chance. Management needs to take the blame for what the Jets have become, and Ryan needs to be given another breath to take usable pieces, combine them with his charm and bluster, and make the Jets a non-laughter storyline in football again.
Ryan is the best thing that has happened to the Jets, and that’s further proven by how much the league and opposing fans hated him in his first few years, when there was a lot of talking and a lot of winning.
Sanchez is the worst thing that has happened to the Jets (just recently — we won’t give him the all-time award). If five turnovers (two in the final two minutes) on Monday night when he needed just one decent drive to win a 14-10 game doesn’t say it, not much else can.
The Jets are required to play again next season. So, get rid of Sanchez. Keep Ryan. Long live the Jets.
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