In 2009, the New York Jets took quite a few chances to revitalize their franchise after a 2008 that ended in a collapse and disappointment. The first of those chances was signing former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan and bringing him on as head coach after canning Eric Mangini.
A few months later in April, the Jets traded up in the draft to get a talented quarterback out of Southern California with the fifth overall pick. If you didn't know already, that young man is Mark Sanchez.
Since then, the Jets have been rather unsuccessful in their ultimate goal of being able to have a ticker-tape parade through the canyon of heroes in lower Manhattan, meeting President Obama (or in simpler terms) winning the Super Bowl. After above average 2009 and 2010 campaigns, New York not only made it to the playoffs but also made it to back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances where they stalled and could not pull out the upset victories. Meanwhile, in 2011, they had a rather mediocre season, finishing with an 8-8 record and missing the playoffs for the first time under Rex Ryan.
The poor 2011 season was made worse during the Jets' Week 17 loss to the Miami Dolphins as locker room turmoil started to become the headlines swirling around the team. A heated argument in the huddle between wide receiver Santonio Holmes and right tackle Wayne Hunter were the first signs that there were issues, and then rookie quarterback Greg McElroy came out and elaborated on what was going on in the locker room when he said,
"It's the first time I've ever been around extremely selfish individuals. I think that's maybe the nature of the NFL, but there were people within our locker room that didn't care whether we won or lost as long as they [...] had really had good games individually."
Needless to say, Ryan has his work cut out for him this season. That does not mean that he will be off the hook if the Jets do not do well this season. One of his biggest issues is his mouth. Ryan has been known to make guarantees a la Joe Namath that the New York Jets will win the Super Bowl that follows that regular season. I am sure many of you remember this one.
Well, that guarantee did not work out too well for Ryan as he and the Jets could not even make the playoffs (that guarantee was Ryan's third). After learning that the third time was not the charm, Ryan has already begun to allude to his famous guarantee. Earlier this month during a luncheon, Ryan said,
"I'm the only one (in my family) with only one Super Bowl ring," he said, alluding to the ring he won as an assistant on the 2000 Ravens. "But I'm planning on getting another one, and I'm planning on getting it quickly."
Although he is under contract through 2014, Rex Ryan should not be so comfortable when making these statements. In years prior, he had good performance in the regular season and playoffs to back up his guarantee, but this year, the Jets' roster is going to be one that is not going to change very much (and their 2011 performance was very poor).
With that, the Jets' window for winning a Super Bowl is closing very quickly. The organization knows this, and when their offense was a big reason for how unsuccessful they were in 2011, they brought in former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano as the new offensive coordinator. It is evident that the Jets want a Super Bowl as quickly as Ryan.
Another big problem the Jets have is their aging roster. Some starters that are getting up there in age are Bryan Thomas, Calvin Pace and Brandon Moore. All three play crucial roles on offense and defense. Meanwhile, the Jets have to find some way to protect their quarterback from the right side as right tackle Wayne Hunter was completely atrocious in 2011. They also need a safety, because Eric Smith simply does not cut it.
Some of the problems the Jets have on their roster can be fixed through the draft and free agency, but it is evident that their roster does not help with what's left of their small window to win a Super Bowl. For New York, 2012 is going to be the do-or-die year for many things.
First, it will be the do-or-die year for them to win a Super Bowl or they may become that perennial wild card that never seems to impress as they will just go back to having a mediocre roster. Second, it will be the year the Jets decide whether or not they want to keep Mark Sanchez as their starting quarterback.
In his first two years, Sanchez showed continual improvement, but in his third and most recent year, although he threw more touchdowns, he threw plenty of interceptions and made horrible decisions that made it seem like he regressed.
Lastly, 2012 may be the do-or-die season for Head Coach Rex Ryan. Ryan continues to make guarantees and open his big mouth during press conferences, but has as many rings as LeBron James (as head coach of the New York Jets).
With Sparano in as offensive coordinator, the Jets may already be preparing to make a switch if this season does not go well. In 2011, the Jets showed with their comeback victories against teams like the Cowboys, Bills and Redskins that when their backs are up against the wall, they can perform. This may be exactly what Rex Ryan and gang green need to finally get the job done and win another Lombardi Trophy for the Jets.
With that, only time will tell.