Any time a team gets off to a 1–7 start in the NFL, it usually spells disaster for either the coach or the GM.
The question of blame isn’t always an easy one to figure out. With the Jets, I say that both Rex Ryan and John Idzik are equally responsible. Let’s examine the biggest problems and see who is to blame.
1. The secondary is an absolute mess.
The Jets have allowed opposing quarterbacks to pass on them to the tune of a 113.5 QB rating—easily the worst in the league. As a team, they have just one interception—again, worst in the league—and the 22 TDs allowed through the air also ranks the most in the NFL. Yikes.
Is this a surprise? Yes and no.
The Jets apparently passed on bringing back three-time All-Pro corner Darrelle Revis and instead brought in little-known Dmitri Patterson through free agency and drafted corner Dexter McDougle in the third round. Meanwhile, they hoped Dee Milliner had his rookie jitters out of the way and would continue to improve like he did at the end of 2013.
You know the rest. McDougle was lost for the year in training camp with a torn ACL on the same day that Milliner suffered a high ankle sprain. Milliner came back in Week 2, but he played in just three games before suffering an Achilles injury against Denver and is also gone for the season. Patterson went AWOL in the preseason and the Jets cut him before Week 1.
That’s the top three corners playing a total of three games.
Who’s to blame: Idzik.
Certainly he’s been unlucky in the injury/character department as none of his top three corners heading into the season are on the active roster. He had plenty of cap space last winter, which is a great thing to have, but given that Revis signed a low-risk two-year deal with New England, it seems he could have wisely used that space on a short deal for him to allow their young corners time to develop, and he didn’t.
2. The quarterback position is just as bad.
Geno Smith was drafted in the second round in 2013 and finished last in QB rating last year at 66.5. For an encore performance, he’s right there again this year with a 65.6 rating.
Certainly the Jets were planning on having Mark Sanchez start in 2013, but an injury forced him out for the season and Smith was thrown into the fire earlier than expected. But that isn’t an excuse for his woeful performance this season.
Neither are the players he throws to, as Idzik replaced Santonio Holmes with Eric Decker, drafted good-looking tight end Jace Amaro, and recently traded for speedster Percy Harvin.
Who’s to blame: Both.
Idzik drafted Smith, and it looked especially silly to do so given his knee-jerk reaction to immediately fire his agent after falling out of the first round of the draft—the last thing you need in the huddle is someone with no poise.
But Ryan deserves some of the blame here too. After failing to develop or motivate Sanchez into a decent quarterback, he’s done the same with Geno, hoping that if he just hands him the starting job, he’ll excel, no matter how poorly he’s doing.
It’s not like he doesn’t have a capable backup—Vick is a three-time Pro Bowler, who’s only now getting a chance.
Ryan’s way didn’t work with Sanchez and it clearly hasn’t worked with Smith.
3. The team looks generally undisciplined this season.
This seems like a hard-to-define characteristic, but hear me out.
Their one win, a 19–14 victory over the hapless Raiders way back in Week 1, was nearly a loss after 11 penalties that resulted in 105 penalty yards, nearly wiped out a tremendous performance by the defensive line and—surprisingly—Geno Smith.
The next week, star defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was ejected for fighting, and the game-tying touchdown was negated because someone on the sideline (not Ryan) called a timeout, just before the ball was snapped.
Then there was the trip to San Diego where Geno Smith missed a team meeting the day before, yet started the contest, and the Jets came out completely flat in losing 31–0. The two things may seem unrelated, but when teammates see there’s little recourse for not following the rules, it causes resentment for those who do.
Who’s to blame: Ryan.
When Darrelle Revis was late for (not missed) a practice earlier this month in New England, three-time Super Bowl champion Bill Belichick sent him home for the whole day. Ryan could learn from Belichick.