Fortunately for the New York Jets, you can only earn one loss in any given game. Their loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday was about as ugly as it gets. The Jets played poorly, the 49ers played great, and just to pile it on, all the luck went the 49ers' way.
While the Jets were blown out 34-0, their defense and special teams played well. The responsibility for loss rests squarely on the offense. The Jets' offense—in all aspects—played a pathetic game. This is most emphasized by the fact that the 49ers needed only 134 passing yards on 12-of-22 passing to win by 34 points.
The Jets remain in first place in the suddenly-weak AFC East. However, some radical changes need to happen for the Jets' offense to keep the team in positions to win games this year and next.
Change Running Backs and Scheme
The current Jets running scheme—along with starting running back Shonn Greene—is a train wreck. Greene spent his career in a zone running scheme and this year is being forced into a power running scheme.
He has made it clear that he cannot handle the power scheme. He is making the wrong reads, hitting the wrong holes and generally getting no yards. In this scheme, Greene is the Jets' third-best running back.
Greene has averaged a measly 2.8 yards per rush. Meanwhile, backups Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight have averaged 4.0 and 4.7 respectively.
The current scheme simply is not working with Greene. The Jets need to either switch back to the zone scheme they are familiar with or switch personnel. McKnight and Powell could make a reasonable combination, with the former being the speed back and Powell being the power back.
Get Healthy Receivers
The Jets went into Sunday missing their second- and third-best receivers—wide receiver Stephen Hill and tight end Dustin Keller. On Sunday they lost their best receiver, Santonio Holmes. Quarterback Mark Sanchez had no legitimate targets left to which to throw.
With limited viable targets, Sanchez stared down receivers too many times. This resulted in pass deflections, including deflections at the line of scrimmage. One of those deflections turned into an interception.
The Jets need to get healthy, viable receivers on the field. In addition to that, Sanchez needs to go through his progressions and find open receivers more quickly. He makes his offensive line look worse than it is in pass protection.
Enough With Tebow
The Jets have been using backup quarterback Tim Tebow a handful of times per game. So far he has killed more drives than he has helped. The knowledge that he is almost guaranteed to run has allowed defenses to crowd the box and swarm him. His one pass attempt so far this season was atrocious.
Tebow had non-trivial impact on two plays on Sunday. The first play was in the middle of the second quarter. The Jets were down 7-0 and were driving. Sanchez set the team up with a 3rd-and-1, and Tebow came in to take the snap.
Who is most to blame for the Jets' offensive struggles?
Tebow threw his first pass of the season, a lazy high throw across the middle to tight end Dedrick Epps. For any readers not aware, that is the worst kind of throw a quarterback can make. Epps got his hands on the ball but got immediately creamed. He had to leave the game as a result with a knee injury, and he dropped the pass.
The play was called a completion and a fumble. However, as television replay made obvious, it was an incomplete pass. The real referees are not immune to bad calls.
The play went down as a short completion for Tebow's stat line. However, the true result—a turnover and a potentially long-term injury—was pretty awful.
Tebow's other relevant snap was the last play of the third quarter. He came in on first down, and everyone on the 49ers knew he was running. They hit him in the backfield for a two-yard loss. Sanchez then came in for a 2nd-and-12, a play that resulted in another fumble.
Tebow is not surprising anyone, nor is he accomplishing anything for the Jets. They should leave Sanchez on the field and try to get him in a rhythm like they did in Week 1.
Most likely, head coach Rex Ryan will stick with Sanchez no matter what happens for the rest of the season. However, if he changes his mind, he should go with Greg McElroy rather than Tim Tebow as his second option. McElroy has at least shown a little bit of promise in the preseason.
Looking Toward the Future
Right now the Jets' personnel cannot do the things Rex Ryan and Tony Sparano want them to do. They want to be an efficient running team that holds onto the ball. Sparano wants his offense to be able to run play action and roll-out chunk plays.
Who should be the Jets' QB in 2013?
Switching to a 2011 Broncos-style offense is unlikely to ever happen. None of the decision-makers for the Jets consider Tebow to be a viable quarterback option. It is possible, though, that a quarterback competition will happen in 2013 (or sooner) between Sanchez and McElroy.
Just as important, the Jets need to have the personnel to run the ball. That might require making Powell the starter, drafting a new running back or acquiring a new left guard. Vladimir Ducasse was originally hoped to be the left guard of the future, but that is looking less likely.
Lastly, the Jets need to figure out why their players are so fragile. Nearly all of their key players have suffered injuries already this year. Darrelle Revis, Sione Pouha, Keller, Holmes and Hill are the headline names on the list of players who are injured or playing through injury.
Having healthy players on the field would be step one toward playing the way they want to play.