In the Jets upcoming season there are a lot of positives to look forward to. Some fans will say that the revamped defense that will most certainly increase the pass rush is the biggest positive. Others will say getting much needed weapons on offense including Stephen Hill and Tim Tebow is the biggest positive. On the other hand there are fans that will say that the biggest positive going into this season is a subtraction rather than an addition.
Although losing questionable players such as Plaxico Burress is a very positive step, I am instead talking about a coach. This particular coach has been torn apart by fans and the media alike for the past few years, of course I am referring to former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
The day that Schottenheimer was stripped of his duties in New York the fan base rejoiced and many compared it to a second Christmas, including myself. Fans were overjoyed with the idea that one of the main problems holding back this struggling offense was finally free to hamper another organization. Not soon later the news broke that his incumbent would be none other than former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano. When he was officially signed there was a split reaction between confusion and happiness. There were even a select few who said that keeping Schottenheimer would have been a better option. Each man has glaring positives and negatives but the question is did the Jets make the right decision?
Brian Schottenheimer, son of Marty Schottenheimer began his coaching career in 1997 after graduatingfrom the University of Florida. Being the son of a coach the path was basically set for Brian to follow in his father’s footsteps. Right after Schottenheimer graduated he latched on with the St Louis Rams which is where he currently resides. It’s fitting that he may very well end his days where he started them, deciphering if that is a positive or negative statement is still to be determined.
He had the tendency early in his career to only stay with an organization for a year. In 1998 it was with his father on the Kansas City Chiefs, 1999 with Syracuse, 2000 with Southern California, then back with his father in 2001 with the Washington Redskins as the quarterbacks coach. The following year he remained with his father becoming the San Diego Chargers quarterback coach. The reason all these mentions of his father are important is that fact that many of Brian’s coaching opportunities may have not happened without him. There is no denying that his father is responsible for most of his career employment.
After his tenure in San Diego ended in 2005 Brian was promoted to the highest position of his career, offensive coordinator for the New York Jets. In Brian’s first season with the Jets the team posted an impressive 10-6 record with their leader Chad Pennington as the Comeback Player of the Year. Schottenheimer is a quarterback oriented coach so this award further justified his selection as offensive coordinator. The following two years the Jets failed to reach the post season and as a result coach Eric Mangini was fired. Schottenheimer stayed on and quickly started forming a relationship with Rex Ryan.
The first two years with Rex Ryan were great for Schottenheimer’s confidence and it helped the team post a record of 24-14 record including back to back AFC Championship games. Even though the Jets were doing great things as an organization a fan could tell there was something wrong. The play calling seemed irregular and even confusing at times. It was said by players across the league that the play calling was so predictable that the defense would actually announce the play before the ball was even snapped.
The fans were getting tired of the predictable play calling and subpar selection, something had to change. It is hard to replace an offensive coordinator after they helped you reach back to back AFC Championship games, so the 8-8 finish last season was what the Jets needed to make the release happen.
Tony Sparano has been coaching since 1984, two years after he graduated from the University of New Haven where he was a four year letterman. Sparano played center while in college so the obvious choice was to coach the offensive line for his alma mater. Sparano stayed in the college ranks for 14 years serving as offensive line coach, offensive coordinator, and head coach before going to the Browns in 1999.
Sparano has served at many positions since entering the National Football League including offensive quality control, offensive line coach, tight ends coach, assistant head coach, head coach, and currently offensive coordinator. Sparano started off very strong as a head coach helping his team to a ten game turnaround in his first year which is an NFL record. This success did not stay for very long and as a head coach he ended up posting a record of 29-32 including 1 playoff loss in his time with the Miami Dolphins.
After looking at the back story the question still remains did the Jets make the right choice? Each man has similar stories and backgrounds, but what are the positives and negatives that make one man better than the other. There are so many different aspects that go into making a good coach and each man has distinct traits that the other is missing. Examining their traits is the best thing to do to see who has the better chance to succeed.
The first factor that makes a great coach is experience. Sparano wins this battle with ease based on years served, but strangely enough both men have exactly the same years of NFL service. College football is very different than the NFL so although Sparano has been coaching for thirteen more years this category is somewhat of a tie. Experience is not only about years served it is also about mastering different aspects of the profession.
There are many positions on offense and having a good grasp on all of them is what makes the difference between good and great coordinators. Tony Sparano is the clear cut favorite when discussing variation of skills. While Schottenheimer solely has experience as a quarterbacks coach before rising to the ranks of offensive coordinator, Sparano has experience with the offensive line and tight ends. The presence of a two tight end set is something the Jets have been lacking so with Sparano this situation can only get better. Having one of Schottenheimer’s “favorities” Matthew Mulligan was definitely not the answer and now that he is gone it opens the door for great tight ends to emerge.
A huge part of being an offensive coordinator is the ability to call plays. Even though his play selection may have been unorthodox at times, Schottenheimer has years of experience calling plays. Sparano on the other hand only called plays for one year in 2006 for the Dallas Cowboys. Even though he was still the offensive line coach and assistant coach the following year he turned over his play calling which is concerning. Sparano has a lot of work to put in if he wants to be a play caller in the NFL especially with the “what have you done for me lately” Jets fans.
The real question that looms is would it be better to have an offensive coordinator who is predictable and calls questionable plays or one who barely has any experience. This is an issue much like others between these two men that can only be decided in time. The positive about not knowing a lot about play calling is the playbook will be much simpler to master. Joe McKnight for example was quoted as saying he is relieved about the new playbook.
The quarterback play will be more important than ever in this upcoming season. Although Sanchez’snumbers have gone up every year, his decision making seems to be at a standstill. The one obvious positive that Schottenheimer has over Sparano is his experience with quarterbacks. The fact that he was one in college made the relationship very easy with his players. Sparano needs to form this same relationship or there is a chance that Sanchez and Tebow may have a drop in play. With questionable quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh coming back for another year, Tony Sparano has to pick up even more slack. This aspect of the job will make or break Sparano’s rookie season because the quarterback is the player that needs to progress the most for New York to be successful.
Attitude is everything when it comes to coaching in the NFL. If you do not have a positive attitude your team will be doomed to fail. The way you address your team will greatly affect how they play. Brian Schottenheimer had a very passive attitude and due to this he completely lost the team last year. You can see that his discipline of his players was so detrimental to the point that Santonio Holmes had a hissy fit on the field. If your offense is not on the same page nothing good with come from it. When people think of the Jets last year I am sure that scene of Santonio Holmes pouting on the bench plays over and over in their heads.
Tony Sparano is a no nonsense kind of guy which is exactly what this team needs. He seems to be rubbing off on Rex Ryan who is reported to having a more hands on approach with the offense. There is a time to play and a time to work and Sparano makes it known that the players are there to work. You want your team to know that they need to improve and sometime constructive criticism is a new way to do this. Dustin Keller, Joe McKnight, and Josh Baker for example have already came out and told the media that hiring Tony Sparano is exactly what the team needed. The best quote to describe Sparano came from Baker in which he said
“This offense is a hard-nosed, tough-running, downhill kind of game, his persona is like his scheme.”
Based on these words alone there is a sense that great things are on the horizon for this team.
Everything in life is shown to us in time and this offensive coordinator battle is no different. There are two sides and two men who are completely different. Depending on the situation either man could be better or worse than the other one. The St. Louis Rams may need a passive coordinator who focuses on the quarterback position first and foremost.
The Jets on the other hand need a man who can come in here and let his voice be heard because they are lacking leadership in the locker-room. They need a man who has experience at numerous positions on the offense and is not afraid to use his weapons. They need a man who will not run on 3rd and long because they think the punt is inevitable. They need a man who is not predictable and keeps the defense guessing. They need a man whose passing attack does not rely on five yard slants. They need a man like Tony Sparano.