Where Exactly Did It Go Wrong for the New York Jets?
Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis summed up the Jets season perfectly well in his end-of-season address to the media on Monday.
"The only thing I could see from the outside is that we were trying to get that momentum to build a winning streak," Revis said, "but it was a win here, two losses there and we could never bounce back."
In winning six games, the Jets only won back-to-back games once.
With so much inconsistency, it's hard to pick just one point where it went wrong. For the Jets in 2012, it was more of a slow build to a disappointing finish.
What stands out the most to me is the remarkable similarity with which the Jets' 2011 and 2012 seasons ended—both with three-game losing streaks when the team had a chance at a playoff berth.
Let's take a look back and see how it all went down, and what we can learn from the Jets' disappointing 2012 season.
When It All Ended: At Titans, Week 15
In the final three games of the past two seasons, the Jets have been outscored a combined 162-86.
In the end, it all went wrong on the national stage on Monday Night Football against the Titans. Running back Chris Johnson's 93-yard touchdown scamper put the beginning touches on the end of the Jets' season.
The Jets were burned throughout 2012 by backs with enough speed to expose them at the second level. They committed to the run with six men at the line and eight men in the box total, but it was far from enough.
Once Johnson broke the line of scrimmage, it was over. Turns out, the Jets' season was ending, but that was far from the final blow.
Even those were not the final nail in the coffin. That came on a bobbled snap, recovered by the Titans to mark the fifth turnover for Sanchez on the night.
Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow
The Jets did not get the 2012 offseason off to a great start, and it was primarily because of how they handled the quarterback position, with a series of moves that all seemed reactionary to perceived problems more than real ones.
It started with a failed attempt to court Peyton Manning as a free agent. It was understandable that they'd want to upgrade, given that Manning is a future Hall-of-Famer and Sanchez was coming off a down year. The plan died in almost the same breath it was hatched.
Whether the Jets felt they needed to boost Sanchez's confidence or not is unknown (though relatively certain), but either way, the Jets inexplicably handed him an extension which guaranteed him $8.25 million in 2013 whether he plays for the team or not. The contract would count for over $17 million in dead money if the Jets were to cut him.
"I'm going to be the starting quarterback for the next few years here, and that's exciting," Sanchez said, in comments distributed by the Jets' P.R. staff following the extension (via ProFootballTalk.com).
"It gives the team just a reminder that I'm the leader of this team, and I'm excited to get back, and I'm going to be working my tail off these next few months to become the best possible starting quarterback that this franchise can have."
The choice of words was interesting, and seemed to indicate Sanchez felt pretty comfortable about his status as the starting quarterback going forward.
Just days later, the Jets traded for Tim Tebow.
In doing so, the Jets created a controversy as to who would be the starting quarterback for 2012. That controversy never died despite any number of quotes from Rex Ryan saying there was no controversy and that Mark Sanchez was the starter.
In the end, it was a lot of fuss and not much of it was buzzworthy. Sanchez was awful, capping off a two-year stretch in which he turned it over a league-leading 52 times. His contract dictates he will likely stay. Tebow played a grand total of 77 snaps (9.4 percent of the offensive total via ProFootballFocus.com), and appears to be on his way out.
Injuries threw a wrench in the Jets season from a very early stage.
The first major injury came in Week 3 against the Miami Dolphins. The Jets won the game, but lost the best player on the defensive side of the ball when cornerback Darrelle Revis tore his ACL.
It was the injuries to wide receiver Santonio Holmes and tight end Dustin Keller that proved to be the most difficult to overcome. Keller and Holmes ranked first and second (respectively) on the team in receptions in 2011, but played a combined 12 games and started a combined nine games this year.
Nose tackle Sione Pouha battled through a back injury for almost the entire season. His play suffered as a result of the injury, and the defense struggled against the run, ranking among the worst run defenses in the league for a length of time in the middle of the season.
Not all healthy teams are good teams, but most of the good teams are healthy teams. If they're not, then they're at least prepared to deal with those injuries. The Jets were neither healthy nor prepared to deal with injury, and as a result of that and several other shortcomings, they were not a good team.
Not a leak in the Jets run defense. Not a leak in the Jets offensive line.
A leak of inside information from "anonymous sources" which has surrounded the Jets in controversy for going on two years.
The noise all became a massive distraction at the end of the year, rubbing the Jets in the dirt on their way out the door for the second consecutive season.
The Jets need to figure out where these leaks are coming from and get rid of the guilty parties pronto. Potential free agents and coaches may begin to look at the Jets as that word that starts with a "c" and ends in an "ircus."
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.
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