Assessing the job security of the New York Jets' coaching staff is perhaps premature.
After all, the Jets can salvage a .500 season with wins against San Diego and Buffalo. How the team comports itself in these final games might make or break some coaching futures, including that of head coach Rex Ryan.
However, the Jets are officially out of the playoffs. It's not too early to identify coaches whose jobs are in jeopardy. To start, here's a breakdown of the negative and positive aspects of the 2012 season.
The following issues plague the Jets in 2012:
Inconsistent quarterback play. Mark Sanchez appears to have regressed. His inability to move the offense against Arizona was so pronounced that Greg McElroy relieved him late in the third quarter. McElroy led the Jets to the winning score.
Sanchez leads the Jets in fumbles. His four interceptions and game-ending fumble against Tennessee stifled drives and sabotaged the defense's efforts.
Meanwhile, Greg McElroy, the legitimate pro set backup, has been inactive since leading the Arizona comeback.
Stagnant offense. Tim Tebow's signing is credited with undermining Sanchez's confidence. What's more, Tebow's work in the Wildcat formation has been unspectacular and not a credible diversion from the standard pro set.
It didn't help that Tebow's use often interrupted Sanchez just when he appeared to find a rhythm.
Giving up over two sacks a game hasn't been good for Sanchez's rhythm either.
By way of comparison, the Jets scored one touchdown against Arizona. Seattle beat Arizona 58-0.
The offense has been OK when the running game worked. However, there has been no reliable passing component. Without that, defenses crowd the line of scrimmage and make the ground game less effective.
Weak run defense. Linebacker play has been cited as the primary cause for problems against the run. Outside linebackers Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas, Garrett McIntyre and Ricky Sapp have no forced fumbles among them. Compare that to 2011, when Aaron Maybin had four by himself.
David Harris is among the Jets' leading tacklers, but his inside counterpart Bart Scott has drawn fire for his declining play and public criticism of Jets' fans. Granted, a turf toe injury has hampered Scott. However, if he wants consideration from the fans, he should show fans consideration.
Special teams errors hastened defeat and impeded victory. The Jets have blown a fake punt, given up 40 yards to Arizona on a fake punt, fumbled a kickoff deep in their end zone and nearly had three punts blocked. Only the kickoff fumble occurred during a loss.
In fairness, Muhammad Wilkerson blocked a field goal against the Titans and special teams play did not figure in either Tennessee scoring drive.
There are also bright spots. Associated coaches deserve credit.
The offense rediscovered its roots. Jets' fans who long for the days of Namath, Maynard and Sauer or O'Brien, Walker and Toon will need a major paradigm shift from Rex Ryan. Otherwise they will never be satisfied with his offense. Remember, Ryan came to the Jets from the Baltimore Ravens, where Trent Dilfer was the starting quarterback and the defense led the 2000 team to a Super Bowl XXXV victory.
The Ravens offensive philosophy was, "Run when you can, pass when you must and don't be ashamed to punt." In other words, don't try and score on every drive. Instead, gain enough yardage each possession to push your opponent's drive start deeper and deeper into his territory. Rely on your defense to get stops and turnovers. Keep working field position until two or three first downs get you in field goal range or the red zone. Then score, remembering that a field goal is better than nothing.
That offense was no joy to watch. It didn't have to be. It did, however, have to be patient, risk-averse and error-free.
That is the direction the Jets' offense is taking. It's a viable strategy as long as the offense avoids turnovers and the defense and special teams do their jobs.
I stress avoiding turnovers. Four interceptions and a fumble is bad enough in a wide-open game. For an offense of limited potency, turnovers are deadly.
The defensive line found a new star. Muhammad Wilkerson has become a force at defensive end. Quinton Coples has become a capable alternate. Mike DeVito is a complementary force at tackle.
In Conor Orr's analysis of the Jacksonville game for The Star-Ledger, Wilkerson credited defensive line coach Kurt Dunbar with playing a major role in his emergence.
The secondary overcame adversity. Darrelle Revis's season-ending injury was considered a death blow to the Jets' pass defense. Antonio Cromartie, Kyle, Wilson, and LaRon Landry had other plans. Through 14 games, the Jets' pass defense yielded an average of 191.1 yards passing per game, second in the NFL.
It's still too early to give any coach a final grade or verdict. It's also true that an assistant's job often hinges on the return of his head coach, so this all could change should Rex leave.
However, based on team performance to date, I'm using the following scale to assess each coach's job security.
VULNERABLE: Unless there is a dramatic turnaround in the coach's area of responsibility, that coach should update his resume.
INCONCLUSIVE: There are pluses and minuses to the coach's performance that make a verdict difficult at this time.
SAFE: The coach has made a positive contribution to the 2012 season and deserves to return.
RETIRING: Special Teams Coordinator Mike Westhoff is retiring at season's end.