Depending on whom you ask, two years may not seem like a long time. For fans of the New York Jets, unfortunately, two years seems like forever. Two years ago, the New York Jets, led by Coach Rex Ryan and Quarterback Mark Sanchez, were fresh off their second consecutive AFC Championship game and were considered by many in the NFL as the up and coming team. They had the energetic and defensive genius of a head coach in Ryan and the young star quarterback in Sanchez. At the time, he appeared to be on his way to becoming one of the elite signal callers in the game. This team appeared destined to be a contender for many years to come. But then, as most Jets fans have sadly become accustomed to, things changed. The team began to lose. The fans grew restless, and the charm and media-worthy Super Bowl predictions of Ryan faded away. Add to that the arrival of a new General Manager and Ryan’s future is now as cloudy as this storied franchise. The young quarterback, who some called this generation of jets fans Joe Namath, has regressed so significantly that if not for his bloated contract, he would have been shown the door along with former GM Mike Tannebaum. Mix in the well known problems of the salary cap, multiple new coaches at key positions, and the lack of playmakers on both sides of the ball and you have the current predicament this franchise faces today.
So the question to ask now is how did we find ourselves here? Many fans will lead you to believe that this current situation is the result of Tannebaum’s decision-making abilities. While this may be truer than it is false, Tannebaum cannot take sole responsibility. Mr. T’s questionable roster management and drafting along with his wildly irresponsible spending of undeserving talent has no doubt hurt this team. However, it can in no way be the only reason for the team’s downfall. There are multiple reasons for this teams lack of wins over the past two years. Lack of veteran leadership and loss of valuable players to other teams are just a few to point out. There is one major reason why the Jets are in the position they are today. This one thing is the development, or lack thereof, Mark Sanchez. Sanchez went from a promising QB that had just beat Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in their own homes during the playoffs to a player who is now a liability every time he touches the ball. The confidence of this young man is gone and may never come back. The labels of “ the Sanchize “ and “face of the franchise” are a thing of the past. What has replaced them? None other than the slow motion replays of “the butt fumble”. Some will argue that the Jets have taken away his playmakers or have not done enough to make his job easier. This is simply untrue. When Sanchez was selected as the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft, that brought with it a certain level of expectations that this man has simply not lived up to. In the beginning his team helped him win games that most rookies couldn’t, but as the team got weaker, so did Sanchez. This is a quarterback driven league. Of the last ten Super bowl victors, all of them were led to victory by top-tier quarterbacks. As Jets fans have learned, Mark Sanchez no longer has the makings of a top-tier QB, and until the Jets find one it appears more mediocrity is in store for Gang Green.
While it would be easy to remain negative and dwell on the fact that this team will not be competitive until they address their laundry list of problems, I say Jets fans should approach this differently. If a franchise can fall apart in two years, who’s to say it cant be built up again in two more. It starts with a plan for the quarterback position. (Change the record, I know) Of the last ten Super bowl winning teams, nine of these teams found their star in the draft. The only exception to this is the New Orleans Saints who acquired Drew Brees from free agency. So common sense tells us a good way to get your elite QB is to grab one from the draft. It can be argued, and in my opinion quite easily, that this year’s draft is particularly weak in terms of the QB class. Many of the prospects have one or more problems that will keep them from being considered a must have guy. But remember, not every elite QB is taken with a top ten pick. Brees and Brady are great examples of this. Both of these men were viewed as athletes who had flaws in their game, but with good scouting and analysis were drafted and given the opportunity to lead a franchise. The Jets must determine if there is one of these prospects in the draft with those same abilities. The point is as jets fans we must not be too negative. Yes there are tough times ahead, but jets fans can survive anything and that’s what makes us stand apart. Two years has changed everything for the Jets, but in the next two years who knows? Maybe we find our elite QB. Maybe new GM John Izdik stocks this team with new and affordable talent. And maybe, just maybe, Coach Ryan regains the optimism that followed him when he first came to the team. No matter what happens, just remember, two years will go by in a blink.
A great debut blog by Daniel Nevins follow Daniel on twitter @DanNevins1