Plenty to Blame All Around, But This One’s On the Coaches
Florham Park, N.J.- There was a whole lot that went wrong as the ghosts of Jets past reared it’s ugly head on Halloween day, but the coaching staff as a whole bears the brunt of the blame for this colossal failure of a game.
Sure Mark Sanchez threw two interceptions in Packers territory, but apparently I didn’t get the memo that simultaneous possession as the receiver hits the ground is meaningless now. Either way Cotchery and Keller both have to do a better job of establishing possession and keeping it until well after the play is done.
Some inexplicable calls, some loss of footing by running backs as well as confusion in the backfield, turnovers and an inexcusable amount of dropped passes all contributed to this loss. If we’re talking percentages I say the coaching staff as a whole has to accept at least 65 percent of the blame and I’m not even deducting many points for Steve Weatherford’s fake punt on fourth-and-18 deep inside their own territory.
At first I thought the call came from the coaches, but apparently Weatherford has the green-light to take off whenever he thinks he can make it. Someone has to give him a gigantic stop sign that deep inside their own territory and that’s a failure of the entire coaching staff for allowing him to have that option.
Still the Jets defense held the Packers to just three points after that, but with the Jets offense as equally inept as it was predictable and that’s all the Packers needed.
Dividing the Blame
25 percent Brian Schottenheimer
Schotty has been brilliant during a couple of the Jets wins, calling well-balanced and aggressive plays. Their two losses and their last two wins (against Minnesota and Denver) have been a completely different story though as the offense never got into any type of rhythm and the play-calling is a big part of the reason. Schotty biggest problem is sometimes he tends to be too smart for his own good, he often outsmarts himself and constantly falls into a comfort zone that is all too predictable to opposing defenses.
The Packers Nick Collins said something many opposing players have often said of Schotty’s play-calling. Collins said, “We saw a lot of it on tape, so we were able to go out there and recognize a couple formations and make a couple big plays,”
“I don’t think they trusted Sanchez, their coaching staff. They only had a select few plays that they ran; that’s what I saw today. … A quarterback like that on a great team with all the big names, you expect them to be going down field.” Said Collins.
Funny when you think about it, the only time the Jets seemed to have any life at all was when they took the shots downfield, as they had multiple big plays, problem was the turnovers and penalties afterwards.
The Jets out gained the Packers in every statistical category, including the bad ones (three turnovers to none and seven penalties for 55-yards as opposed to the Packers three for 15-yards), except for the only one that matters, points. The won time of possession, Jets 31:23, Packers 28:37, total yards, Jets 360, Packers 237, passing yards, Jets 241, Packers a measly 156 and rushing yards Jets 119 to Packers 81.
However this is where there’s a big problem with the play-calling. The Jets are clearly focusing too much on the passing game and trying to spread the ball around, balance is needed, but it has to happen naturally and when you are in a tight game that you can win, forget balance go with whatever is working.
It’s one thing to abandon the running game if your getting blown-out late, but only down three most of the game pound the ball, the Packers were vulnerably to the run if the Jets could of just stayed consistent. The Packers recognized the passing formations and simplified routes, but with the ability of their 0-line and their backs the Jets needed to impose their will by running the ball, just like last year. Once they do that the offense will open up for the team to start balancing itself more, but until everything is smoothed out, just go with what works. I’ll take 4.1 yards per rush over a 42 completion percentage, even if a lot of that is because of drops, yet in a game that had the Jets within one score almost the entire game, they only ran the ball 29 times and passed it an outlandish 38 times.
Then there’s the specific breakdowns of some of the odd play-calling. At the start of fourth, first-and-10 on their own 28 Schotty inexplicably calls for a toss to L.T., hand-off reverse to Cothcery, but once again the Packers were not fooled on the play as L.T. barely got the ball to Cotchery and dropped him for an eight-yard loss. Sanchez and Edwards bailed Schotty out with a 32-yard completion taking the ball to the Packers 48, but still the reverse was just one of many examples of Schotty getting to cute, the Jets have enough weapons to beat the Packers defense without all the trickery.
After three straight runs by Greene (finally calling plays like he was coaching the Jets), to pick up a first-down on the Packers 37, then comes a holding penalty on Keller setting the Jets back another 10-yards. Which lead to the next play which was the most controversial of the game in which the refs ruled Charles Woodson intercepted a Sanchez pass, even though it was clear as day that Keller caught the ball was down by contact and then, and only after he was down, Woodson ripped the ball out of Keller’s hands and of course the Jets were out of challenges so they couldn’t throw the flag this time.
On the second to last drive of the game is where Schotty really has to shoulder the blame, the play-calling made zero sense whatsoever. After Sanchez hit Keller down the middle for a 40-yard gain setting the Jets up at the Packers 37 with 5:32 left in the game, and it looking like maybe the offense does still have some life in it, the play calling afterwards was baffling.
Let’s see if I can get this right, down 6-0 and you just picked up 40-yards on a big pass play in enemy territory with the game winding down, you run a QB draw up the middle for two-yards? I’ve been searching my brain all night, but I have failed to come up with any type of reasonable explanation for this call. UPDATE: So it’s been brought to my attention that at least a couple of people thought Sanchez might have crossed the line-of-scrimmage on the pass to Keller, which is why the Jets rushed to get a quick QB rush off. I didn’t see anything to make me think that when watching the game live, or watching the replay this morning. But it stands to reason that if someone out there thought that, then maybe the Jets thought that too and if that’s the case then, yeah I take that part of my criticism back, but only that part everything else still holds true.
UPDATE II: I re-watched the play again, Sanchez was clearly at least four-yards in front of the line-of-scrimmage, hell the Jets probably would of benefited from the Packers trying to challenge as it would have been an extra timeout for the Jets to set up an actual play.
Next play an incomplete out-route to Cotchery, ball thrown a little too far but still should of been caught, then confusion ensues again. On third-and-eight on the 35, they take a shot deep down the field in the end zone? Yes I know I pointed out what Collins said and that the Jets only plays came from going down field, but they didn’t try it enough early and they went to it here on this third-and-eight at the wrong time.
When you know your going for it on fourth and it’s third-and-eight don’t take a shot down-field, concentrate on worst case scenario making fourth-down more manageable, Schotty of course decided to get cute again and take a shot. It’s one thing if your putting up points all game, but you haven’t scored a single point yet, don’t go for it all at once make sure you earn some more downs to play with. So after everyone was covered downfield Sanchez had nowhere to go on fourth and the Packers got the ball back with 4:12 left in the game and now it was Ryan’s turn to make some questionable decisions.
40 percent Rex Ryan
Where to start? Since Ryan’s arrival there have been very few reasons not to like him as a Jets fan, but this game falls mostly on him. His influence on this team has done wonders, but the way he managed this game was mind-boggling. Ryan’s confidence is a great and wonderful thing, but I have said before sometimes it seems like the confidence turns into over-confidence and comes back to bite them in the behind.
Just because you are a better team, just because you normally do one thing better than the other team doesn’t mean you will automatically win no matter what. Sometimes Ryan and his coaching staff seems too stubborn as they stick to their ways of thinking how they will win instead of focusing on how the game is playing out and this is something that needs to change. This is the NFL, nothing ever goes exactly as planned and teams need to adjust accordingly.
Two areas that Ryan flagrantly mishandled were the challenges and the timeouts at the end of the game.
The first challenge Ryan threw the flag too quick (Brad Smith’s fumble), give your guys upstairs a chance to look at the replay before just blindly trusting your player. It was a very close call, so if there wasn’t a need for another challenge it would have been fine, but obviously this would come back to haunt them. Also this was in the first-half, timeouts are okay to waste early in the first. Maybe take the timeout, have your guys look at it and then decide. Then all you lose is a timeout, which you lose anyway when challenging, if you become convinced the call would be reversed then challenge and you don’t lose anything, either way this call wasn’t getting reversed regardless of how it was called on the field. Ryan has to be less trigger happy with the red flags, which is not something that normally plagues him as he has one of the highest challenge success ratios in the league.
The second challenge was a questionable one for a different reason. You can’t blame Ryan for thinking the play would be overturned, but it sure seemed like the refs were warning Ryan, that it had no chance to be overturned because what he was reviewing was considered a “judgement call.” The problem was the risk wasn’t worth the reward, if they play was reversed the Jets would of had to punt on fourth-and-eight backing the Packers up only about 20-30 yards, the risk was they would be out of challenges by the end of the first-half. Which of course lead to the Jets being helpless when the refs made the same exact horrible call, this one was just even more egregious.
Ryan said he doubted the play would have been overturned anyway, because it was similiar to the previous interception, which given the way the NFL goes back and forth on just exactly what the rules are, might have been true, but this one was clear. Their was no dual possession, just Keller catching it, Keller being down, then Woodson stealing the ball, that one would have had to be overturned, but that’s what happens when you use both your challenges in the first-half.
Ryan has no one, but himself to blame for that. Well okay some refs who could either see or understand the rules might help, but what can you do. The Packers would take advantage by kicking another field-goal extending their lead to 6-0, not that they needed anymore points with this Jets offense.
Then there was the timeout debacle with over four minutes left. After the odd set of play calls that killed yet another Jets drive as they were stopped on the fourth-down, the Jets held the Packers to a quick three-and-out, only one problem the Jets decided to use each and every timeout they had forcing Green Bay to punt with 3:59 left.
3:59 is more than enough time to score, it’s just a matter of executing and they hadn’t executed a complete drive yet, so why assume you would at that point? By taking all three timeouts in that drive Ryan essentially pushed his poker chips all in on the next drive. If the Jets get stopped, which really who would have been surprised if they got stopped they hadn’t scored all day? Then game over, the Jets are out of ways to stop the clock. If the Jets let the Packers run the ball on the first two plays and not call a timeout until after third-down there still would of been at least 2:39 left on the clock leaving the Jets with two timeouts and the two-minute warning.
Instead the Jets wasted all their timeouts and responded by calling a running play on first-down from their own 23, interesting time to try and worry about getting some balance back in the offense. After a nice pass to Cotchery was dropped due to Williams crashing into him from behind and knocking the ball loose, Sanchez then got slammed to the ground by Clay Matthews for a six-yard sack, leaving the Jets forced to go for it on fourth-and-11 on their own 22. If they still had those timeouts they might have had enough time to punt and force another three-and-out and get another drive in.
Obviously I’m doing some second-guessing, but to be fair I was definitely first-guessing it as it happened. It’s also true that maybe if he didn’t call the timeouts there might not have been enough time anyway, but just like when your behind in basketball and you intentionally foul the other team to extend the game, I’ll take the strategy of always keeping the timeouts until you really need them, so you can try and extend the game.
Then there is the debate about whether or not Ryan made the right move giving the players the entire bye week off. I refuse to blame this loss on that alone, but it’s impossible to refute that it didn’t contribute in some way to the offensive rust and confusion we witnessed.
WR’s – 20 percent - We’ve seen far too many fumbles and dropped passes from these receivers and you can’t even blame Braylon Edwards for the drops. Holmes had already had a couple of big drops since his return (along with a huge fumble in Denver and more fumbling problems is the preseason). It looked like Holmes was ready to explode for a huge game early on, but after he dropped an easy pass right in his hands that he could of potentially scored on his impact slowly faded away. Cotchery had a couple of nice plays, but he is normally an extremely sure-handed receiver and the amount of drops he had is downright alarming. Everyone is going to be killing Sanchez for his performance, but if his receivers eliminate just one to three of those drops this could of been an entirely different game.
L.T. – 2.5 percent -Lost his footage a couple of times where he could of broke big gains, also missed a potential big run as Dustin Keller inadvertently knocked him over as they crossed paths in the backfield. L.T. has played exceptional all season and it’s not like he played bad, but he just barely missed on making a couple of huge plays that could have changed the course of the game.
Everyone else not on defense – 2.5 percent - Take your pick, when offense is averaging 26.5 points a game then gets shutout at home after a bye week, everyone deserves a slice of the blame. In fact this number might be too low, but it would just complicate the math.
Sanchez – 10 percent – 16-38 for 256 yards, zero TDs and two interceptions and a QB rating of 43.3. Looking at those stats you would think his percentage of the blame would be higher, but if his receivers could hold on to the ball and those two picks were ruled completions like the rule book says the should, Sanchez would have come out looking great. But would have, could have, should have and it’s not like he played a flawless game besides the drops and picks, his timing and accuracy was way off. Of course as Nick Collins suggested maybe Schotty deserves a fair share of the blame for Sanchez’s performance, after all he can only go with what his options are and if the defense knows what they are he doesn’t really have much hope does he.
Still Sanchez showed great courage and leadership as he refused to shy away from any of the blame. After the game Sanchez said, “For every dropped ball today, there were twice as many poor throws on my part.”
You could make a strong case that the refs deserve a portion of the blame as they made the same amazingly horrific call twice that killed two Jets drives. In a game that the Jets were just one big play away from being able to win the game, those two head-scratching interceptions were two big plays that won the game, just for the other team. Still even with those calls, the Jets were in the game right until the end and drive after drive they continued to do everything the same on offense and just couldn’t make anything happen.
The Jets entered this game scoring an average of 26.5 points per game, outscoring their opponents by an average of 11.8 points a game during their five wins and somehow they showed up well rested, in the best health they have been in all season and coming off two weeks to prepare against a banged-up Packers defense and they put up a big giant donut on the scoreboard.
Earlier in the season the offense and special teams had to pick up the slack for a defense that was nowhere near the Jets defense we were all used to seeing last year, yesterday the defense was the farthest thing from the problem. One area you can’t put even .0000000000001 percent of the blame on for this game, is the defense. With a healthy Revis the defense looked as good as it has all season, unfortunately it came right as the offense was falling apart and the coaching staff seemed lost and confused.
No matter how you slice the blame pie up, it was a disaster. One that certainly won’t sit well with the fans and most definitely is not excusable in the player’s minds. Nick Mangold said, “A shutout is ridiculous when you’re at home, all of it is disappointing from the beginning to the end.”
So the Jets failed to give a treat to their fans on Halloween, everyone just better hope the trick was just this game and not the fact that the Jets managed to suckered some of even the most cynical Jets fans into believing that these aren’t in fact, the same ol’ Jets.