Whats Wrong With the Jets?
Ever since the Jets wowed everyone on their way to two consecutive AFC Championship Games, they have been stuck in football limbo. With a seemingly never-ending revolving door of quarterbacks, Jets fans are constantly screaming for the next one before the incumbent one can prove himself. In a league dominated by offense, where your quarterback is essentially your franchise, how do the Jets stop the endless cycle of shame and ineptitude? Read on, because it’s not as simple as getting the number one overall pick in next year’s draft.
A Historical Look at the New York Jets
First, let us take a look at some seemingly ancient history. The last time the Jets had a Top Five offense was in 1998. That year they were led by the legendary Bill Parcells, with an aging Vinny Testaverde at quarterback, Curtis Martin leading the running game, and a young Keyshawn Johnson leading the receiving corps (which also had fan favorite Wayne Chrebet). That year they were ranked fifth overall and made it to the AFC Championship game. Since then the Jets have fluctuated between mediocre and garbage, with a few 10-win seasons sprinkled in. The only other time since that the Jets have had a Top 10 offense was with Brett Favre at the helm in 2008. Is this a coincidence? Possibly. The more likely and obvious answer is that both years they had an established quarterback. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Duh, everyone knows you need a quarterback in the NFL. So why have the Jets had so much trouble getting that highly coveted franchise quarterback? I believe I have the answer, and it won’t make Jets fans feel any better.
The Jets' Quarterback Problem
Let’s look at the young quarterbacks that the Jets have tried to develop over the last 20 or so years.
- Fan-favorite Chad Pennington: Pennington was a smart quarterback who knew how to protect the football. He rarely threw a red zone interception and led the Jets to the playoffs three times during his short tenure. But even with Martin in the backfield the Jets offense was never in the top ten in scoring. Then Pennington’s shoulder went out, making his borderline arm even worse, so he could no longer make the throws necessary to be a competent NFL quarterback.
- Mark Sanchez: He was supposed to be the one to bring the Jets to the promised land. However, the fifth overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Vinny Chase look-alike struggled with turnovers from day one. He was carried into the playoffs by the top offensive line in the league and an excellent running game where in his second trip to the playoffs he showed flashes of being a franchise quarterback, carrying the team to wins over Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. At this point, Jets fans were probably thinking they had something brewing. The Jets then pulled what can only be described as a ‘Jets move,’ and kept getting rid of experienced offensive linemen and wideouts, replacing them with subpar players. Sanchez couldn’t handle the increased pressure and his tenure ended with the “Butt Fumble” and a shoulder injury in a preseason game.
- Geno Smith: He was overrated from before the NFL Draft and was a horrible pick, but what else would you expect from John Idzik, possibly the worst GM in NFL history when it came to talent evaluation? Geno Smith spent his days at WVU throwing bubble screens to Tayvon Austin, who then ran all over the other team’s defense. Geno Smith couldn’t throw a five-yard slant route, and somehow had worse turnovers than Mark Sanchez.
- Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty: Both have strong arms and have had some success in college, but neither of them has gotten much praise or confidence from the Jets’ fanbase. Most likely with the current staff of the Jets, they too will fail.
So What's Wrong With the New York Jets?
Is it possible that over the course of the last 20 years, the Jets have been so bad at evaluating talent that they have missed on every single quarterback that they drafted? While the defense since Rex Ryan was at the helm has been extremely successful, with a plethora of talent on that end of the ball, how is it that the quarterback position has been a complete and utter failure?
The answer is quite simple: The Jets organization as a whole does NOT know what it takes to develop an NFL quarterback. It starts at the top with Woody Johnson and Neil Glatt and trickles all the way down to every GM and head coach they have hired since Al Groh. Woody Johnson put someone in charge who doesn’t know how to find the right person to develop a young quarterback. This is what has led to a string of terrible GMs, who hire first time, defensive-minded head coaches who have no idea how to take the raw talent of a Sanchez, a Hackenberg, or even a Geno, and make them into winning quarterbacks, let alone Super Bowl-caliber players.
What the Jets Need to Do
Now, I know what you’re thinking: I talk a lot of smack with no advice on how to fix the problem. If you’re still reading this, then I appreciate your patience and it will all pay off shortly. The solution to the Jets problem is simple, yet seemingly impossible. The Jets need to hire people who have experience developing young quarterbacks in the NFL. People like Andy Reid and Bruce Arians have helped take older quarterbacks and help them revive their careers. How does one get people like this to come work for the Jets? If I knew that I wouldn’t be writing this article, I’d be working in an NFL front office.
© 2017 EVAN R FREEMAN