Bag of Tricks: With Brett Favre Gone, the NY Jets' Playbook Returns to Form

Kevin CrawleyContributor IMay 26, 2009

MIAMI - DECEMBER 02:  Quarterback Brad Smith #16 of the New York Jets prepares to hand the ball off to running back Leon Washington #29 while taking on the Miami Dolphins at Dolphin Stadium on December 2, 2007 in Miami, Florida. The Jets defeated the Dolphins 40-13.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

When Rex Ryan first arrived in New York, most people thought of one thing: defense. It was the buzz word on every fan's lips.

Could the "mad scientist" find a way to get Vernon Gholston going? Would those big free agent signings propel the Jets into the upper echelon of NFL defenses? Just how good could these guys really be?

Then the NFL Draft came, and suddenly the offense became the star. And while Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene may not have an immediate impact, the biggest changes this season will be seen on their side of the ball.

The 2007 Jets squad might have had a terrible record, but at times, they were really fun to watch. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was the mastermind behind their inventive plays. 

A year before the Miami Dolphins made the wildcat formation a household name, Schottenheimer had wide receiver Brad Smith and halfback Leon Washington taking snaps and wreaking havoc on opposing defenders.

In only his second year, the Jets' play-caller had become something of a mad scientist himself. He understood his weapons and began to use them in non-traditional ways, finding bits of success in an otherwise dreary season.

Before the 2008 program began, it looked as though the team would build on its lessons from the previous year. The offensive line was stronger, and new tight end Dustin Keller looked to be the type of asset Schottenheimer would take full advantage of.

But you can't win games on misdirection and "trick" plays alone, and in the weeks leading up to the team's first preseason game, Jets management decided to go in a different direction.

Brett Favre arrived. And just like that, the playbook became radically different.

As the season progressed, we started to see less movement before plays. As Favre tried to learn the playbook in an impossible amount of time, the offense became vanilla.

Favre had stated that he liked to see the defense set before the ball was snapped, so much of the Schottenheimer swagger that we were used to was tossed out of the huddle.

The talk of Favre stretching the field with his rocket arm never really came to fruition. It was the perfect storm of a difference in philosophy and an athlete being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Eventually, the Jets' hot start turned into a forgettable crash landing.

Then, just as soon as the legendary Favre came, he was gone. 

Now, Schottenheimer will start 2009 with (barring another late trade) a group of guys who are all on the same page. He may have had to leave his bag of tricks in the locker room last year, but you can be sure he's going to have it beside him this time around.

At the moment, the Jets' offense doesn't have a game-breaking type of player. But there is incredible depth with utility players, and those are the kind of guys whom Schottenheimer can really let fly.

Between a capable quarterback in Kellen Clemens, a possible young star in Sanchez, an extremely diverse group of backs with Thomas Jones, Washington and Greene, and a young wide receiver core with players like Jerricho Cotchery, Chansi Stuckey, David Clowney and Smith looking to step up, Schottenheimer has all the tools he needs to create success out of a relatively "no-name" crew.

If the heralded defense lives up to the hype and the offense can succeed with its mix of traditional play and flare, the wins will begin to pile up for this New York Jets team.

And that is what's going to be really fun to watch.


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