In my personal opinion, I think Rex Ryan is a great head coach.
In his first two years as head coach of the New York Jets, he has led them to two straight AFC Championship games. Despite questions at quarterback, a strong running game and overall defense have helped bring the Jets immediate success.
However, this past season, the team finished 8-8, and failed to make the playoffs.
Along the way, the team has had its share of inconsistencies on both offense and defense, regression from Mark Sanchez in terms of his decision-making, and on-field distractions.
With that said, Rex Ryan has to be on a short leash for the 2012 season. Several issues need to be addressed and improvements need to be made for this team to return to its former success.
Otherwise, Rex might be looking at the hot seat by season's end.
Brian Schottenheimer for the past five years as offensive coordinator has been relatively mediocre.
Outside of 2010, both passing and rushing numbers have been middle-of-the-road at best.
This past season, both the passing and rushing games ranked in the lower third of all offenses in the league.
Schottenheimer is gone though, as he accepted the offensive coordinator job for the St. Louis Rams.
They have now brought in former Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano to coordinate the offense. Though his head coaching record may leave a few heads scratching, it should be noted that the Dolphins had one of the best running attacks in the league in 2009 and 2011.
With Sparano handling the responsibilities on offense, and if the Jets return to a more run-oriented game plan like they did in 2009 and 2010, the team could return to form.
Though his completion rate and passing yards increased from the previous season, he went back to making the same careless mistakes that he did in his rookie season in 2009.
Maybe he needs another veteran backup to mentor him, and help make smarter decisions in the pocket.
Or maybe the team should take a quarterback in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft. A Case Keenum or Kellen Moore would not only give Mark Sanchez competitive motivation, but the Jets could utilize either one of them if Sanchez continues to falter or gets injured.
In 2009, the New York Jets were number one in rushing yards.
The team was a multi-headed monster of running backs: Thomas Jones, Shonn Greene, and Leon Washington; fullback Tony Richardson; quarterback Mark Sanchez's mobility; and Brad Smith's ability to play in a variety of positions.
Combined, they had a unpredictable run-oriented game plan, while Mark Sanchez got his feet wet as a professional NFL quarterback.
In 2010, they lost Jones and Washington, but LaDanian Tomlinson helped pick up where they left off. The team finished third in the league in rushing yards.
This season they lost Richardson to retirement and Smith to the Buffalo Bills. They made Greene the starter and relegated Tomlinson as a third-down running back.
The result? The team finished 21st in rushing yards. Greene had only six rushing touchdowns; Mark Sanchez had just as many!
Now with Tomlinson's contract up and him contemplating retirement, the rushing attack needs to be revamped for 2012 to return to its form the previous two years.
Greene has had some decent playoff performances, but should not be the starting running back. Young guns like Joe McKnight and fullback John Connor need to step it up. Or, if needed, they could take a running back in the NFL Draft; someone like David Wilson of Virginia Tech or Isaiah Pead of Cincinnati might make decent fits.
As talented a wide receiver he is, Santonio Holmes is a handle, both on and off the field.
In the fourth quarter of the last game of the 2011 regular season against the Miami Dolphins, he got into an argument with Jets offensive tackle Wayne Hunter in the huddle. He was then benched for the rest of the game. The Jets would go on to lose the game and the team failed to reach the playoffs.
This isn't the first time Holmes has been a problem.
He violated the NFL's substance abuse policy in 2010, resulting in being suspended for the first four games of the regular season.
Over the years since he was drafted in 2006, he's failed to comply with airline regulation, been arrested for possession of marijuana, and has been charged for disorderly conduct.
This is the second year of a five-year extension he signed before the 2011 season began, and he is currently the team's top wide receiver. Thus, Rex Ryan and his personnel need him to focus on just football and keep him out of trouble, if they want to have a successful season.
Like the running game, the pass rush seems to be deteriorating from the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
The team finished the 2011 regular season with 35 sacks, tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for 17th in the league.
Now to give some credit, linebacker Aaron Maybin, the former 2009 first-round draftee of the Buffalo Bills, who was waived shortly before the regular season began, established credibility and led the team with six sacks.
However, that doesn't excuse the defensive line's inability to deliver pressure to the opposing quarterback.
Players such as defensive tackle Sione Pouha and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson need to step their game up and be more aggressive.
In a currently pass-happy league, it's critical for a defense to deliver pressure against a quarterback and force him to make bad throws.
Unless you're in the AFC West, a .500 record in your division isn't going to cut it, especially when all three of your divisional opponents are all capable (or have the potential) of.
The 2011 Jets finished a measly 3-3 record against AFC East rivals. Two of those wins were against the Buffalo Bills, and the third was in their first game against the Miami Dolphins. They lost both games against the New England Patriots, and lost the final game of the regular season to the Dolphins, which subsequently ruined their chances of making it to the postseason.
Expect the rest of the AFC East to look strong in 2012.
Buffalo, while their defense is questionable, started off 2011 strong, winning five of their first seven games. They have a quiet passing game with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm, receivers such as Steve Johnson and David Nelson, and an under-the-radar tight end in Scott Chandler. Let's not forget to mention running back Fred Jackson, who was leading in rushing yards, until he fractured his fibula in Week 11 against the Dolphins, and was put on injured reserve.
Miami, despite what their record indicates, had a very strong defense, especially in the second half of the season. They allowed just 20.6 points per game, sixth in the league. They're also a top candidate of obtaining Peyton Manning, should he be released. If that happens, a combination of him, running back Reggie Bush, and star receiver Brandon Marshall would make for a dangerous combination.
Yes, only six teams from the AFC can make it to the postseason each year.
However, when you lead a team to two straight AFC Championship games, it's expected that you will continue to repeatedly make the playoffs.
Not making it to the playoffs is a disappointment. Finishing 8-8 is an even bigger disappointment.
Even if the team can't take New England off its ever-continuous run of AFC East divisional titles, a postseason appearance is nonetheless expected.
With the AFC West muddled in average play performance, the Colts lacking Peyton Manning, and several teams making changes at quarterback, the Jets certainly look set to return to the playoffs yet again.
However, the Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals (behind a rookie quarterback and a solid pass defense), both of whom are in the same division, would claim the two wild-card spots, while the Baltimore Ravens claimed their division.
The Houston Texans relied on a third-string quarterback to finish out its regular season yet was able to claim the AFC South division.
Even the Tennessee Titans, whose numbers are middle-of-the-road, both offensively and defensively, managed a better record, finishing out 9-7, and was in contention for the sixth seed.
It's not just the AFC East, teams throughout the conference are stepping it up.
Rex Ryan and the Jets need to do the same.
Some people might point out that trading Derrick Mason, who, after just two months of signing him in free agency, was traded to the Houston Texans for a conditional seventh-round draft pick, could be considered as a scapegoat.
After all, on October 2, after losing to the Baltimore Ravens, Mason made some critical comments. Then, the following week against the New England Patriots, he was benched in the first half to allow Jeremy Kerley to get snaps.
In addition, there were reports by unnamed sources that he hadn't learned the playbook and at times, appeared out there on several plays. Not to mention that he spent his Mondays and Tuesdays with his family back at his home in Nashville, which made many believe that he just wasn't committed.
All of this created the perfect scapegoat.
Not next season, though. There will be no scapegoats for Rex Ryan and the Jets to turn to.
Don't make big Super Bowl promises like you've done since you've been the head coach, Rex.
Focus on having your team improve, perform on both sides of the ball, and finish out games.
When you make proclamations such as that, it just paints a bigger bulls-eye than your team already has.
Just ask the Philadelphia Eagles
One last thing...
Let's have one year where the team has no stupid distractions.
No flipping off fans on or off the field. No videos about your feet fetish. No having your personnel trip your opponents.
When I read the back of the New York papers, I want it to be about your team's performances, not your crazy antics.