Rex Ryan must rally the Jets for a stretch run at the playoffs.
However, let’s not kid ourselves.
A playoff berth is still unlikely, especially with New England as the Thanksgiving Day opponent. However, the Jets can still salvage some competitive dignity if they review last week’s press clippings and statistics from last week, which inspired the following suggestions:
- Forbid anonymous leaks. There is no excuse for them. Rex Ryan does not mind controversy as long as its source mans up. It is far better for team harmony that a target of criticism face his accuser man-to-man than to wonder who secretly holds him in contempt.
If I were Jets’ management, the next time an anonymous leak made headlines I would give 48 hours for its source to confess. After that, I would fine people in bunches. In other words, if the leak were attributed to a coach I would fine every coach. I would make every logical suspect’s pocketbook hurt until the guilty party revealed himself. Then I would refund everyone else’s fines.
- Be honest with the fans. The Rams game was a great win. However, the standings do not lie: reaching the playoffs is an uphill battle. In fact, if the season ended today, the Jets would be out. They trail Indianapolis and Pittsburgh by two games in the wild card race, Cincinnati by one.
- It’s field position, stupid (with apologies to Bill Clinton). The Jets are not an offensive juggernaut. Their defense and special teams must shorten the field. The game’s big turning point was Muhammad Wilkerson's sack and forced fumble. That turnover led to the first Jet touchdown drive of 28 yards in two plays.
- Limit Mark Sanchez to game management. The Sanchise completed 15 of 20 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown. He completed passes when his protection held up and did not lose the football. On the other hand, he fumbled once but did not lose the football. In short, he performs competently with a short field (his longest scoring drive was 63 yards), solid running game, and a committee of targets.
- Stick with the “ground and pound” offense. The Jets’ offense consisted of 41 running plays and 21 passes. This helped them win the time of possession battle 33:03 to 26:57. Watching Bilal Powell pound the ball up the middle of the defense for two red zone scores was a thing of football beauty. His second touchdown—a five-yard run on third and goal—was especially gratifying as it showed a “run first” mentality even in probable passing situations.
- Run and receive by committee. The Jets did not have a 100-yard rusher or receiver. Sanchez did not get 200 yards passing. Instead Clyde Gates, Shonn Greene, Joe McKnight, and Bilal Powell carried the ball 34 times for 132 yards. Jeff Cumberland, Gates, Dustin Keller, Jeremy Kerley, McKnight, Powell, Konrad Reuland, and Chaz Schilens caught 20 passes for 178 yards.
- Dust off the Brad Smith playbook. When Brad Smith ran the Wildcat in 2010, he had the option to pass. He even threw for a touchdown against Indianapolis. Tim Tebow, a former starting quarterback with a playoff win, does not seem to have this flexibility. He should.
- Put Tebow in his place. In 2010, Brad Smith was not a threat to Mark Sanchez’s job: He ran the Wildcat. The quarterback depth chart included Sanchez and Mark Brunell. The Jets should negotiate a similar status with Tebow that would let Greg McElroy be available as a game day backup.
- Fix special teams. A blocked 26-yard field goal attempt cost the Jets three points against the Rams. It could have been worse. Wilkerson’s forced fumble that set up the Jets’ first touchdown also saved the punting unit’s bacon.
The turnover stopped a Rams' drive that had begun on their 46, thanks to a failed fake punt. As if that were not enough, only a penalty prevented Chris Givens from returning a kickoff 98 yards for a Ram score.
- Drop Stephen Hill down the depth chart. During the Jets' opening drive, Hill dropped a catchable second down pass that would have gotten a first down deep in Ram territory. Instead, a third down sack forced the Jets to punt.
In the third quarter, Hill committed a pass interference penalty on an uncatchable ball that cost 10 yards and stalled another drive. Poor hands and poor judgement do not a starting receiver make.
While the Rams win was a great accomplishment, a similar effort will not suffice against a team like New England.
Nevertheless, I think that the Jets discovered what is best and worst about themselves last week, and will be better on and off the field for doing so.