New York Jets: Flawed off-Season Plan Falling Apart

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New York Jets: Flawed off-Season Plan Falling Apart
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Wayne Hunter decides to cut out the middle man, sacks Mark Sanchez himself.

Lost in the embarrassing collapse and exposure of locker room discord as the 2011 season unraveled in a swift and ugly manner was a scary refrain being uttered in press conferences.

That refrain, which fans can only hope the front office doesn't actually believe, is "we have the talent."

Rex Ryan's boasts are one thing.  He is a head coach who truly believes in his team, and that is fine.  

However, when Ryan, Mike Tannenbaum, and Woody Johnson are consistently telling everyone how much talent they have when the eyes of the fans and actions on the field tell a different story, it's time to worry.

The front office tried a reassuring, positive approach as the team crashed over the final month of the season.  That approach was necessary because their playoff hopes were alive right down to Week 17.  The team had to stay positive and there was no use in burying the team through the media.

However, much reassurance was given, most just assumed it was a facade.  The talent simply wasn't there and everyone knew it.

Surely, the three amigos (stooges?) in charge of the club knew too, right?

Their actions speak otherwise.

Santonio Holmes' blowup was the first hint of something really amiss with the team.  Ryan's response to Holmes' benching reeked of a complete breakdown of the chain of communication.  Greg McElroy's and LaDainian Tomlinson's comments after the season were damning.

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After the final shoe dropped, fans rightly expected wholesale changes.  Brian Schottenheimer was the first to take the fall in a move that satisfied Jets fans who have been calling for his head for years.

The next steps would be to jettison the team of the other villains of 2011, most notably Santonio Holmes, Wayne Hunter, Eric Smith, and even the underachieving Bart Scott.

But, this was where the Jets off-season began to fall apart.

Financially, there was no way the Jets could cut Holmes.  Despite his actions and poor production, that was something fans could live with.  He has the potential to be productive and should be able to work through his problems with Mark Sanchez.

Once Hunter ended up getting a guarantee on his $2.5 million salary for 2012, it officially was time to panic.

At that point, it became evident that the front office truly does believe that they do actually have Super Bowl talent on their roster.  Their moves over the past week are communicating that all they need is some locker room leadership.

Bryan Thomas, the 32-year-old outside linebacker whose production was fading before missing nearly the entire season with an Achilles injury, was re-signed.  

Sure Thomas is a respected locker room leader, but actually being able to get to the quarterback is a little more important than policing a locker room.

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As it stands now, Smith is still the starter at safety.  Smith's poor play is being blamed on a torn meniscus that he played with over the last five weeks of the season.  

Smith and Tracy Wilson (whom Jets fans wouldn't know if he was sitting at their kitchen table) are the only two safeties listed on the Jets roster.  As it stands now, it seems that Smith will be out there chasing tight ends around the field like a child chasing his dog once again in 2012.  This time, it will be on a surgically repaired knee.

The Jets did seem to have some targets in free agency, though, so maybe they did have a plan to upgrade.

They liked Chad Henne as a backup.  Henne signed with Jacksonville.

Safety Brandon Merriweather scheduled a visit with the Jets on March 15 but never made it as he signed with the Redskins earlier that day.

They "kicked the tires" on Peyton Manning, but were rebuffed without the courtesy of a visit.

Even whispers of Peyton Hillis amounted to nothing as he signed with Kansas City.

What Jets fans have gotten so far this off-season is a smart re-signing of Sione Pouha, the return of an old and injured Thomas, another year of Nick Folk at kicker, a guaranteed salary for Hunter, and the huge restructure deal for Mark Sanchez.

The freshest Jets rumors of March 15 now have Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery considering possible returns to the club.  While fans might argue that they will provide Sanchez a nice security blanket and another locker room policeman in Cotchery, these moves are not going to help much on the field.

Eric Smith thinks it is a good idea to lose contain to blitz a quarterback who is going to run.

There is a reason Edwards didn't make it through a single season with the 49ers, a team famished for wide receivers.

There is a reason the Steelers no longer want Cotchery after one season.

The bottom line is that the Jets are not going to improve enough to compete with the Patriots by signing players to be a safety blanket or locker room presence.  

Hunter is not going to learn how to block because Cotchery is a "good guy."  The Jets aren't going to generate a pass rush because Bryan Thomas talked to the team in the locker room.

The Jets need major talent upgrades at key positions.  Aside from the Pouha deal, they have not made one move to address that as quality players are being gobbled up around the league at an alarming rate.

It seems that the Jets off-season plan was to sign "company men" in hopes that better locker room chemistry will fix everything.  

As it stands now, the entire Jets season (and possibly Tannenbaum's job) is riding on the draft.  The team will have at least seven picks, and possibly up to 11, once compensation picks are awarded.  

Tannenbaum better find multiple game-breakers there, because if he doesn't, the 2012 Jets will look a lot like the 2011 Jets.

And by no means is that a good thing.

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