Headlines the New York Jets Hope to Avoid in 2013
Being one of the league's two New York franchises certainly adds to the media attention, as does the presence of outspoken head coach Rex Ryan.
When things are going well, the team seems to bask in the hype.
The Jets appeared to thrive in the spotlight during their appearance on the 2010 season of HBO's Hard Knocks and welcomed the media with open arms during last year's Tim Tebow circus. If the team can find a way to bounce back from last year's disappointing 6-10 campaign, you can bet that Ryan and Co. won't shy away from the ensuing media attention. On the other hand, if the Jets struggle again in 2013, the team will probably prefer to ride out the season as quietly as possible.
As the team has learned in the past, not all publicity is good publicity.
Here is a list of 10 possible—if not entirely probable—headlines the Jets hope to avoid in the coming season.
Locker Room Drama Overshadows Training Camp
The Jets always seem to have their own unique brand of "team chemistry."
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In 2012, the Jets were certainly no strangers to locker-room drama.
From training camp brawls to the open criticism of quarterback Mark Sanchez and the well-publicized spat between linebacker Bart Scott and reporter Dan Leberfeld, the team was forced to navigate through its fair share of off-field confrontation.
Things got so bad that former Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson felt compelled to call out the entire organization during an episode of Showtime's Inside the NFL.
"I've been around some locker rooms and quarterback-receiver situations and what-not." Tomlinson said, via USA Today. "But it was as bad as I've been around."
If New York is going to turn things around in 2013, the players must learn to fight as a team and not with each other.
With Regular Season Looming, QB Competition Still Unsettled
If New York's quarterback battle comes down to the wire, the Jets could be in for a long season.
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Back in April, the Jets spent a second-round draft pick (39th overall) on former West Virginia signal-caller Geno Smith with the hopes that he could one day become the team's franchise quarterback.
At the very least, the team must hope that Smith can push Mark Sanchez enough that the four-year veteran can come out playing like a legitimate NFL quarterback.
What the Jets do not need is a quarterback competition that fails to yield a clear-cut starter.
Sanchez's struggles last season are well documented. The former Southern California star passed for just 2,883 yards in 15 starts and committed 26 turnovers while scoring a mere 13 touchdowns.
If the incumbent starter's struggles continue into training camp, it could open the door for Smith, widely considered the top quarterback prospect prior to April's draft, to take the starting job.
However, this could only be a good thing if Smith performs unquestionably better than Sanchez did a season ago.
Dee Milliner Fails to Win Starting Job
Milliner faces great expectations as the perceived successor to Darrelle Revis.
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The Jets entered April's draft armed with a pair of first-round picks, thanks to a headline-grabbing trade that sent star cornerback Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The first of those two picks (ninth overall) was used on cornerback Dee Milliner, a highly touted University of Alabama product and the consensus top defensive back available in the draft.
While it may not be fair to the rookie cornerback, Milliner is perceived by media members and fans alike as the heir to Revis, who became a true star in New York.
However, Milliner may find it difficult to earn a starting role over returning cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson, who themselves are former first-round draft selections.
More importantly, it may not be necessary for Milliner to start early in his career. Even with Revis lost for the season to injury in Week 3 last year, the Jets managed to rank second in the league (189.8 yards per game) in pass defense.
Still, the perception remains that Milliner was brought in to be Revis' successor, and failure to capture the throne early will only add to the media circus that is the Jets.
New Party Video Emerges of "Dirty" Sanchez
If Sanchez hopes to retain his starting role, he needs focus, not fracas.
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By now, nearly everyone has become familiar with the infamous Mark Sanchez party video affectionately referred to as "Buttfumble II."
While many fans may believe that the video reflects poorly on a man who will likely be fighting for his job come training camp, the incident really does appear to be a bit of harmless fun.
After all, party videos are nothing new to professional athletes in today's modern media age (though Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski seems to be trying to corner the market). So long as Sanchez isn't doing anything illegal, dangerous or against league rules, he should have the freedom to spend his free time during the offseason as he sees fit.
However, if a new, more recent incident comes to light—say during training camp, or on a Friday night before a regular-season game—there is ample reason for scrutiny.
Not only would it bring unneeded distraction to a team in need of focus, but it would call into question Sanchez's desire to be the Jets' starting quarterback.
Jets Bench Sanchez Following Poor Start to Season
Will the Jets consider turning to Smith if Sanchez falters during the regular season?
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Even if Sanchez manages to hold off Smith for the starting job during the preseason, he will likely be on a short leash once the regular season starts.
If Sanchez and the Jets get off to an inauspicious start to the season, there will likely be a growing call to see just what the rookie can bring to the table.
With an opening schedule that includes tough games against an improved Buccaneers team (Revis and all), division contests against the Patriots and Buffalo Bills, followed by a road game against the NFC-powerhouse Atlanta Falcons, a poor start could be a very real possibility.
Of course, if Sanchez manages to win the starting job during camp, it likely means that the rookie isn't quite ready for life as an NFL starter. Throwing him into the fire amid early season struggles could spell disaster.
At the very least, it could mean the end of Sanchez's time as the New York's starting quarterback.
Jets Turn Back to Sanchez After Smith Succumbs to Rookie Stumbles
A midseason QB controversy is the last thing the Jets need this season.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Flip-flopping in the political world is bad enough.
Doing it in the world of professional football is downright unacceptable.
If the Jets turn to Smith as a rookie, the team will be hard-pressed to even consider turning back to Sanchez, as Smith appears to have the bigger upside as a long-term starter between the two.
However, if coach Ryan decided to put Sanchez back in the starting lineup—saying that No. 6 gives the team the “best chance to win,” or some other ridiculous bit of coach speak—things could messy very quickly.
By doing so, Ryan would essentially be admitting that he is coaching for his job and not for the long-term development of his team. A more prudent move may be to take a look at Matt Simms or Greg McElroy—if either survives final roster cuts—but don’t expect it to happen.
This could be enough to cause Jets owner Woody Johnson and new general manager John Idzik to turn the page on Ryan altogether.
Tim Tebow Helps Lead Patriots to Victory
Will Tim Tebow find a role in New England?
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
When the Jets decided to part ways with former Florida star Tim Tebow this offseason, many believed that his time in the NFL had come to an end.
However, the Patriots, of all teams, have at least decided to give Tebow an opportunity to help their team on the offensive side of the football.
While no one is sure what kind of role Patriots coach Bill Belichick has in store for the league's most polarizing player—or if Tebow will even make the final roster—one thing is certain:
The Jets had no clue how to use him in 2012.
Tebow spent time as a special teams player and occasional Wildcat quarterback with the Jets, but he never played a significant role. Even rookie quarterback Greg McElroy logged more pass attempts (Tebow was 6-for-8 for 39 yards on the season).
Whether the Patriots decide to use Tebow as a change-of-pace quarterback (highly unlikely), a fullback, a running back or a tight end...if he is able to play a major role in any one victory, it will make the Jets look at least a little foolish.
It will also ensure we continue to talk Tebow, no matter how much we would love to stop.
Jets Fire Rex Ryan During Bye Week
Just how hot will Rex Ryan's seat get in 2013?
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
With a new general manager already in place, it is pretty safe to assume that head coach Rex Ryan is now on the hot seat.
If the Jets struggle early, he could be off that seat completely by the team's Week 10 bye.
New York's four opponents leading up to the bye week are the typically tough Pittsburgh Steelers, the Patriots, the Cincinnati Bengals (a playoff team a season ago) and a New Orleans Saints team that has been reunited with head coach Sean Payton.
If the Jets go 1-3 or worse during the month before the bye, there is at least some chance that the Jets turn to offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, or another internal candidate, as the interim head coach for the rest of the season.
If Ryan fails to lead the Jets back to the postseason, he may very well be out as head coach anyway, but that is a decision the team would likely prefer to put off until the offseason.
Patriots Claim Division Title with Month Remaining
The Patriots are again early favorites to win the AFC East.
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Most fans consider the New England Patriots to be the Jets' biggest divisional rival, though when it comes to divisional dominance, things really haven't been that close in recent years.
Over the past ten years, the Patriots have won nine AFC East titles. The Jets haven't won one since 2002.
Last season, New England clinched the division with four weeks remaining in the regular season.
If the Patriots again manage to clinch the division by Week 13—when only Buffalo and the Miami Dolphis will remain on the divisional schedule—it will most likely mean that the Jets are struggling and out of the playoff picture.
Jets Secure No. 1 Pick in 2014 Draft
Will the Jets have something to cheer about in next year's draft?
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The reason the team should hope to avoid this one should be fairly obvious.
If the Jets somehow manage to land the first overall pick in next year's draft, it will mean that they finished the 2013 season with the league's worst record.
Of course, having the first overall selection next year may not be the worst possible outcome the Jets could hope for.
If New York becomes the NFL's worst team in 2013, there will likely be sweeping changes in the front office and on the roster.
The new regime (or at least the new head coach) will probably want its own handpicked quarterback, and there should be a solid crop available.
If the Jets find themselves at the top of the draft, the team will have its choice of an impressive group—which will likely include Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Clemson's Tajh Boyd, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and San Jose State's David Fales.
While no team ever wants to be the league's worst, heading into a complete overhaul while watching another team land the player you truly wanted on draft day could be even more painful.