The Usual Suspect: A Brian Schottenheimer Story
Florham Park, N.J.- “This whole thing has turned political. The mayor was here last night. The chief. This morning the governor called, okay? I’m telling you this guy is protected from up on high by the Prince of Darkness.” Sgt. Jeffrey Rabin, “Usual Suspects”
Substitute Mike Tannenbaum for the mayor, Rex Ryan as the chief and Woody Johnson as the governor and most Jets fans would say this quote could be directly tied into why Brian Schottenheimer is still the offensive coordinator of the Jets. Prince of Darkness might be a tad strong, but then again we’re talking about Jets fans, so maybe not.
Fans have wanted Schottenheimer out of here for years. Their disgust with the way the Jets offense has been handled during his time here has led them to one conclusion, management is protecting a member of their beloved coaching fraternity and doesn’t want to damage his reputation. Fans and critics however would argue he does a bang up job of that all by himself. It’s clear right now that the Jets are hesitant to fire Schottenheimer, only to outsiders it’s not at all clear why.
On Monday when Tannenbaum announced that Schottenheimer would be retained, beat writers from numerous other teams chimed in on Twitter, asking, “Really?” and ‘Why?” But with the news leaking earlier in the day that the Jacksonville Jaguars would interview Schottenheimer for their vacant head coaching position, everyone around the Jets knew he wouldn’t get fired. Not when they have a chance to get rid of him and all the money they owe him without any blood on their hands.
And for those who doubt that anyone would hire Schottenheimer, take a look at the other candidates the Jaguars are going after. Not exactly working the top of the pecking order, because let’s face it Jacksonville is no NFL coaches’ dream job.
If the Jets get lucky enough to be free of Schottenheimer’s contract and play-calling then they will happily move on, but the question becomes what will they do if he doesn’t get the job? Do they bring him back and honor the contract? Or do they throw their hands up and say they’ve done enough to help him, now it’s time to move on?
Over the last couple of days the focus has been on Santonio Holmes and his obviously fractured relationship with Schottenheimer, but it’s oh so much deeper than that. Thanks to Derrick Mason we all are aware that Holmes, Burress and Mason had all voiced their concerns with the way the offense is run to Rex Ryan. That Mason made that information public is the reason he was sent packing, but that did nothing to solve the problem of players not buying into the system.
Over the past two seasons opposing players have called the offense was incredibly predictable, ex-players like David Clowney would tweet about how they could call out every play before the snap even though he hadn’t been with the team in over a year and Eric Mangini, now a commentator on ESPN, has said the same and he hasn’t been here in three years now. Even LT, who had some of his most successful seasons with Schottenheimer calling the plays in San Diego, called the Jets offense too predictable this season.
You know that old Chris Rock bit about OJ Simpson? The one where he says, “I’m not saying he should of killed her… but I understand.” Well considering everything above, I’m not saying Holmes should have quit and pouted on this team, but you can at least understand where his frustration comes from.
Take a look around the NFL and watch how other teams adjust their schemes based on the talent they have and now consider how amazingly similar the Jets offense has been with Chad Pennington, Brett Favre and Mark Sanchez. Is it any wonder why this offense faces the same problems year, after year? What did Albert Einstein say the definition of insanity was again?
I have a theory about why Sanchez and the Jets were so successful in the Red Zone this year, it’s because they essentially played like they were in the Red Zone the entire game and whenever they could successfully navigate down field Sanchez was in a rhythm and could put points on the board. They didn’t get to the Red Zone enough because it’s very hard to move the ball down field when defense don’t have to defend more than 15 yards at a time. With the rest of the league throwing the football like it’s a Nerf ball in a backyard pick up game the Jets only attempted 39 passes of over 20 yards all season, when teams know you won’t throw it down field it makes it easy for them. Just keep everything in front of you, make stops, then take your chances and start jumping those short routes. Hell even check down routes were being jumped by the end of the season.
Against suspect secondaries such as the Patriots and Giants, the Jets still refused to take shots down field, yes the offensive line gave the receivers little time to get open, but shots still have to be taken to loosen up the defense. And maybe worst of all is the way this team seemed to completely abandon the running game whether it was working or not. Yes the running game is not what it once was, but in a close game against the Giants where you are gaining 4.2 yards per carry you might want a better run/drop back ratio than 25 to 67.
Between the bafflingly inept play-calling and the constant stream of complaints from subordinates it would seem impossible for the Jets to bring Schottenheimer back, not unless they plan on getting an entire new batch of receivers outside of Jeremy Kerley and Patrick Turner and how much will that set you back? Another year with Sanchez having to adjust to a whole new receiver core? And what would make anyone think other receivers would be happy dealing with these same problems?
Unless something magical happens and the Jets can get Peyton Manning, Sanchez will be the quarterback next year. The Jets simply have too much invested in him for that not to be the case. There are legit concerns about Sanchez and a strong case could be made that the Jets offense isn’t explosive because of Sanchez, not Schottenheimer. But why must it be only one or the other? Can’t it be both? And how will we ever know if we don’t see him in another system, one tailored to his game?
No one can know for sure if another coordinator can make Sanchez a better, more efficient player, but what we do know is it’s not working in this system. It’s time to move on, whether Schottenheimer has to be fired or not. The Jets are likely stuck with Holmes for another year and definitely with Sanchez, scrap the system and develop a new one around Sanchez and if he doesn’t show improvement then you can move on and we will all have our answer.
For now we have to sit and wait, if the Jaguars name a new coach and it isn’t Schottenheimer and three or four days go by without the Jets announcing Schottenheimer is fired, then be afraid Jets fans. Be very afraid. If somehow Schottenheimer does stay on to coach this offense next season, expect more of the same and we will have our answer to this as well, he really is, “protected from up on high by the Prince of Darkness.”
Until then Jet fans just want to hear, “And like that. *Poof* he’s gone.“