Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Relief...Only 163 Days Away
The good news is the Jets didn't lose last week. They were off.
The truly bad news is that they might not win for the rest of the year.
What the heck happened? Last year they went 10 and 6. They beat the Patriots once. They made the playoffs. The coach was "Mangenius." Life was good.
Well, a number of things happened. First off, they didn't get the easy schedule this time around. Next, the offensive line lost its glue. Guard Pete Kendell, neatly placed between rookies Mangold and Ferguson and who tutored them well, left to be replaced by an even greener castoff.
But mostly...the Jets aren't very talented.
Last year, they could mask that somewhat with smoke and mirrors and a weak schedule. This year, not so much.
Which is why I think this year's problems all started at the draft. Which is not to knock the guys we got. From every indication, the two guys we got up top are good. Revis should be a nice corner and Harris seems like every bit the inside linebacker a 3-4 defense needs.
The problem stems from the fact that we weren't two players away from contention. We are a whole lot of players away. To trade away picks when we needed a great many players was silly, if not stupid.
Another problem; the players on our defense were picked and built for an entirely different defense—the one-gap, attack 4-3 defense (similar to Indy's defense). Robertson is a one-gap attack DT; Vilma is a quick, flow-to-the-ball middle linebacker who needs two DT's to cover for him. So to run Mangini's 3-4 two-gap defense—not to mention retool the offensive line and get a new tight end—we needed to restaff most of the Jets team.
So in the draft, what did the Jets do? Did they get the big DT they needed? Did they trade Vilma or Robertson who are both obviously ill-suited to this style and try to get more draft picks for them? Did they trade down to get even more picks so they could retool their appropriately named offensive line? And maybe a nice TE?
No, they traded up.
When the Cowboys of the early 90's were terrible, coach (and draft guru) Jimmie Johnson set the blueprint for rebuilding teams. Do your research, set your draft board. And then trade down. Again and again and again. His volume of picks allowed him to build the Cowboy dynasty of the mid-90s.
In 1996 when Jimmie was with Miami then, he traded down to accumulate 3 picks in the fifth round. His haul: utility back Jerris McPhail, solid DT Shane Burton, and future hall-of-famer Zach Thomas.
Point being, whether it was hubris, ignorance or folly, the Jets were obviously much further away than the two picks they took from this draft.
On draft day, I conducted my own mock draft along with the real one. I made it as realistic as possible with trades being positive for both teams, finances included. In this draft, I traded Jon Vilma and Dewayne Robertson to the Redskins for the number 6 pick. Washington needed run support and they run an attack 4-3 defense; perfect for Vilma and Robertson. I then traded back to get run-stuffing ILB Patrick Willis (who's doing great in the 3-4 defense out in San Fran). For the rest of the draft, I followed Jimmie Johnson's philosophy and traded back, then took players who fit the Jet's new defense. The result was a 9-player draft with more picks for next year's draft as well. I took young offensive linemen, cornerbacks, a big 3-4 nose tackle, rush linebackers. But no TE. Nobody's perfect.
But since this never happened, what we have instead are the Jets of now. Vilma likely will be traded this off-season, one year too late—with his knee injury, his value will definitely take a hit. Robertson can't anchor the Jets' rush defense, as evidenced by the Jets giving up 296 yards rushing to the Redskins a couple of weeks ago. So far, the Jets have gotten 9 sacks all year; they have given up 23.
Their offense is 100% certified crap as well. They don't average 100 yards rushing per game because they allow too many holes on their offensive line. (Granted that might have something to do with defenses stacking up because Chad couldn't throw more than 15 yards downfield with taking a half hour to float one out there.) Their quarterbacks have passed for 11 TDs; this week's opposition, Ben Rothlisberger, has 22.
But it's not all face-in-the-mud for the Jets. I hated to see it, but Mangini made the right choice in going to Kellen Clemens—who has a nice early rapport with Cotchery. He will face some touch teams right away—Pittsburg, Dallas, New England—with absolutely nothing to lose. Which will be good experience for him. Revis and Harris, now starters both, will also gain experience and become anchors in the new defense for which they are suited.
And the best news of all...the 2008 draft is only 163 days away.