New York Jets: 7 Reasons for the Disappointments of the 2011 NFL Season

Barbara Bruno@allprofootballContributor IIDecember 31, 2011

New York Jets: 7 Reasons for the Disappointments of the 2011 NFL Season

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    The New York Jets' 2011 NFL season is not quarterback Mark Sanchez’s fault.

    Wow. It’s a good thing that Jets fans don’t have my phone number because I can hear you screaming now! Well, warm up your fingers to type those comments because No. 6 is not the biggest draft bust since JaMarcus Russell.

    Honestly, folks. Let’s get a grip. I lived in Manhattan for a long time. I know it’s the Big Apple. I know we do things big in New York. I know we have high standards.

    All of which is fine, but let’s channel some of that aggressive civic pride into realistic support for Gang Green as they go into Florida in a last-gasp playoff bid.

    Not into the general vilification of a young QB who has not quite fulfilled all we hope/want/demand of him. Yet.

    Sanchez has not been the second coming of Joe Montana (or even Joe Namath) in 2011, but he’s certainly not alone in the underachieving department.

    Let’s take a look at some other Jets who deserve attention if we are handing out blame for the J-E-T-S' failure to clinch home-field advantage in the postseason—again.

Shonn Greene: The Real Bust?

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    The Jets are proud owners of the 22nd-ranked rushing offense in 2011. Out of 32 teams. That’s the lower third and not usually what one expects from a playoff team in the Northeast.

    For the season, they hold a 104.2 yards-per-game average. Fortunately, that number has risen to 119 yards for the past three weeks.

    What? That’s over 100 yards per game, you say!

    Yeah, but it’s not even in the zip code of “ground and pound.”

    How about the fact that Shonn Greene isn’t the only RB who touches the football? True. But, if he were more productive when he did touch it, he’d touch it more often.

    When Greene is gaining 4.1 yards per game he gets between 10 and 15 carries. Last weekend, he gained 5.2 yards per attempt and got 24 carries. I realize that carries and yards can be argued like chickens and eggs, but I’m sure you see the point.

    Do you honestly think that if Greene were Peyton Hillis he wouldn’t be toting the rock for half of all offensive plays? Hmmm.

    Maybe Gang Green should go after Hillis. I’m fairly certain the Browns runner will be available as of Monday. But I digress.

    Shonn Greene scored a less-than-overwhelming two TDs in each of his first two years in the NFL. In 2011, that number is six. I can barely contain my joy.

    If Greene hadn’t learned how to catch the football in the past two seasons, I’d say he was virtually useless. Yeah, that’s a little extreme, but let’s stop pretending that this man is a great NFL rusher.

    I am positive that his improvement from zero receptions to 16 catches to this year’s 30 receptions is the direct result of proximity to LaDanian Tomlinson.

    That and the fact that offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer had to do something different with the third-year back.

    We all know that Rex Ryan wants a “grinder.” Well, then he needs to do some free-agency work in March because that is something Greene will never be. Maybe Ryan and GM Mike Tannenbaum should compare notes next time before they go and draft a running back.

    Greene is having much more success recently, as Schottenheimer has finally made a few crucial adjustments. But, it may be too little too late, particularly when Greene is nursing rib and shoulder injuries.

    Mark Sanchez threw the ball 59 times last week. You are not going to win with a third-year QB at those numbers. Unless it’s Dan Marino or Peyton Manning. I believe in Sanchez, but I’m not delusional.

    Every Jets fan should light incense and collectively envision a game plan in which Greene, Tomlinson and Joe McKnight take turns pretending to be Brian Westbrook.

Jets Offensive Line: Can Five Huge Men Be in a Collective Slump?

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    This is not complicated. Good O-line, good offense.

    Two years ago, this was unarguably the best offensive line in the National Football League. Result? AFC Championship Game with a rookie QB.

    Don’t get me wrong. They are still an elite group. If I were a QB, I would absolutely want either the Colts' Jeff Saturday or New York’s Nick Mangold as my center. You bet.

    But, Mangold had health problems earlier in 2011, and now D’Brickashaw (what was his mother thinking?) Ferguson has a foot injury, and Brandon Moore has a hip issue. They are both probable, but the nagging injuries have cut into both pass-protection and run-blocking.

    In 2011, the Jets achieved 85 rushing first downs. In 2010, they managed 118 rushing first downs.

    Time of possession was almost two full minutes higher per week in 2010.

    Mark Sanchez has been sacked 37 times in 15 games this year. In all of 2010, he hit the ground 27 times.

    They are simply not frightening defenses the way that they did in 2009 and 2010.

Spoiled Santonio Holmes

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    I know that Holmes is a major talent. I know that he’s a Super Bowl MVP.

    But, he has let his team down in 2011. No. 10 has proven conclusively that the immaturity and poor judgment that got him drummed out of Pittsburgh remain a problem.

    Statistically, Holmes is doing fine. He has 51 receptions and eight touchdowns. But, the drops and penalties aren’t on most stat sheets.

    Santonio needed to step up and lead this season, and instead he’s remained an adolescent and added unreliability to an offense that needs dependability more than any other single attribute right now.

    In a year where the quarterback is getting this much heat, don’t you think that a 27-year-old veteran talent could have helped much more than he has? Did I mention that the guy is a team captain?

The Missing Pieces: Brad Smith and Jerricho Cotchery

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    In 2010, slot receiver Jerricho Cotchery averaged 10.6 yards per catch. Now he’s backing up Hines Ward in Pittsburgh. The guy is 29 years old, dependable and had heart. What was the problem there?

    The Jets acquired Plaxico Burress, who is obviously a bigger talent (in all senses of the word). I join the rest of America’s football fans in being surprised at how well Burress has stepped back into NFL productivity.

    We all assumed that it would take Plax at least half a year to regain his form, but he got back up to speed at least a month before I would have thought possible. Good for him.

    Coordinator Schottenheimer apparently didn’t notice how quickly Burress integrated into the Jets because he hasn’t been using Plax nearly as often as he needs to. It’s gotten better in recent weeks. I just hope it’s not too late.

    But, Burress is listed as the No. 2 WR. So, was he supposed to replace both Cotchery and Braylon Edwards?

    Or was Jeremy Kerley supposed to take one of those jobs? The rookie WR is coming along, but only has 25 receptions on the year.

    I know that Brad Smith wanted a lot of money, and I know that he’s been hurt all year and hasn’t helped the Bills much. But, the Jets miss his production. I know they miss his versatility.

    How do you not hang onto a player so unique that they called him “The Swiss Army Knife?”

    In 2010, Smith contributed 1,432 yards on kick returns. He scored two touchdowns and averaged almost 30 yards per return.

    That is three first downs worth of yardage every single time the opponents kicked off. That is a lot of yardage that your offense doesn’t have to create from scratch.

    But, I guess Tannenbaum and Ryan thought that wasn't important.

Where Has All the Defense Gone?

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    In the last three games, the former highly-respected Jets defense has given up 28 points. Per game.

    That is not an elite number. 17 is an elite number.

    Unfortunately for New York fans and Sanchez, the 2011 D has done the opposite of bending-but-not-breaking.

    They’ve held opponents to under 320 yards per week this season. That is the seventh-best standing in the league.

    So, how come they are only 22nd when it comes to points allowed? That is not the way that ratio is supposed to work.

    Part of the problem is medical: Of six defensive linemen in a 3-4 scheme, three are hurt.

    But by far, the worst injury is the loss of wonderful safety Jim Leonard. Fortunately for New York, all four safeties were good vets, but now Eric Smith is also questionable.

    Even with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie at cornerback, that’s asking a lot of a secondary.

    Bottom line: As a team, the Jets have a minus-2 turnover ratio. In 2010, that number was plus-9. Yeah. 

Rex Ryan and Brian Schottenheimer: Disappointing Coaches

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    From an entertainment point of view, I like Rex Ryan.

    Face-to-face, I might very well hate his loud, brash, somewhat obnoxious show.

    But, I can see why his players love him. He’s loud, brash—and fun. These are mostly very young men after all. I know they get paid a fortune (well, a lot of them do), but they are kids.

    Rex knows that and makes sure that they have fun.

    He also has their backs. Well, except for Sanchez apparently.

    But, I’m not sure that this “player's coach” is serving his team well. I’m glad the boys are having fun, but somebody needs to step forward and be a grown-up here.

    Where is the leadership on offense? Sanchez might develop it, but not if Ryan keeps undercutting him verbally and letting Schottenheimer call 59 pass plays after the defense gave up a huge lead.

    Where is the leadership on defense? Linebacker David Harris is trying to lead by example, but veteran and former Raven Bart Scott is succeeding only in sounding like a jerk.

    Maybe if the players were united against a coach, they might take a little more personal responsibility. I don’t know. Just a thought.

    Brian Schottenheimer seriously needs to “man up.” The offensive coordinator is not a football moron. He grew up in this game.

    So, why doesn’t he stand up to Ryan and refuse to call a 1970s Raiders-style pound-and-then-throw-deep offense with West Coast personnel?

    Two years ago, Schottenheimer was heralded as the rising young star. The man who would certainly be the next guy promoted from coordinator to head coach.

    He chose to stay when New York drafted Sanchez. I thought it was a good move.

    He could have proven his ability to lead and mentor, to mold a star and an offense.

    Now he just looks weak and confused. 

Mark Sanchez: Reality Check

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    Over three years, Sanchez has gone from a QB rating of 63, to 75 to 79.

    Over the same time period, he has thrown for 12, 17 and 24 touchdowns.

    His first season, No. 6 threw 20 INTs. This year, 15 (and most of those were last week). 

    See? There's been steady improvement in a lot of areas.

    The two disturbing stats are a completion percentage of 56.2 and the fact that almost all of those passes are less than 10 yards.

    If you are only going to pass the ball six yards down the field, you do not need Santonio Holmes. You need New England’s TEs.

    I know I said that the team had West-Coast personnel. But, Joe Montana was known to sling one now and again.

    The coaching situation, playing from behind and playing in the Big Apple fishbowl look like they are starting to get to Mark Sanchez.

    Schottenheimer needs to come up with something consistent and rhythmic, or neither one of them will be Jets next year.

    No, it is not all Mark Sanchez’s fault. But he’s not carrying the team either. You come from a family of firefighters, Mark. Toughen up!

    A decisive win in Miami based on some kind of rational, consistent game plan will help the offense.

    The Dolphins won’t have Reggie Bush, so the only thing the defense needs to worry about is Brandon Marshall.

    Therefore, the defenders should have a good day and—if the stars align—go into the playoffs with some all-around confidence.

    Otherwise, “disappointment” won’t begin to cover it when referring to the 2011 New York Jets' season.

    Check out all of my Week 17 NFL Picks.