The Schottenheimer Redemption
Florham Park, N.J.- It may not have been quite as dramatic as Andy Dufresne’s redemption in Shawshank, but the Jets offensive coordinator most certainly redeemed himself by temporarily silencing his critics, at least for this week.
The offensive coordinator of any team often finds himself being treated like a pinata whenever their offense starts to sputter, but Jets fans are notorious for recognizing their offensive coordinator’s deficiencies and are hardly shy about wanting them run out of town. Just ask Mike Heimerdinger or Paul Hackett.
So with the Jets offense stuck in neutral the past couple of weeks, and as predicatable as the sun rising and falling each day and night, it shocked absolutely no one that Brian Schottenheimer was on the receiving end of most of the criticism. Well no one except Schottenheimer, that is.
“I would be lying if I said I didn’t hear it. It’s not the first time I have ever heard it. I don’t have time to worry about it.” Schottenheimer said of the fan’s criticism last Thursday, “I know I’m a good football coach. I’m good at what I do. We’ve had a lot of success here. Are we pleased? Absolutely not. Am I disappointed? Absolutely. All I’m going to say, is that I’m going to do the best job I can and bust my (chops). That’s the message for the whole offense.”
Whether Schottenheimer realizes it or not, the criticism was more than fair. The Jets are loaded with offensive weapons and somehow they were struggling to have any success whatsoever and what was most problematic was the offense had become extremely predictable.
Every offensive drive was playing out like a scene from “Groundhog Day,” Jets run for a short gain on first and second down, Sanchez drops back to pass on third doesn’t see anything he likes and misses on his one chance on the drive forcing the Jets to punt. It got to the point that during the Miami game you almost would have felt better if the Jets just punted on first down and let the defense try to make a play to put some points on the board.
With the playmakers the Jets have on offense, this was simply inexcusable and with the Jets losing two in a row and everyone starting to write them off, naturally people started to look at who was going to take the fall for the potential collapse?
It sure wouldn’t be Mark Sanchez, seeing as he is only in his second year after the Jets traded up to draft him with the fifth overall pick. Everyone in the organization knew the Jets were going to live or die with Sanchez as their quarterback for these next couple of years, collapse or no collapses he is the Jets starting quarterback for the foreseeable future.
Rex Ryan isn’t going anywhere either. It may have seemed like the wall was closing in on the Jets head coach last week, but the Jets organization doesn’t feel any of the pressure that people are trying to pin on them. Ryan has faced criticism for running a loose ship that has everyone running around completely out of control, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sure there has been controversy surrounding the Jets, but Ryan still commands the respect and control of his players and Jets management knows that.
So that would leave Schottenheimer as the one who would take the fall if they season wasn’t salvaged and again, rightfully so.
This entire team is overflowing with talent, but if it’s the offense holding them back then it would be the offensive coordinator who would shoulder the blame because the talent is there and the answers of how to fix the offense appeared to be clear as day to so many fans and critics.
Yesterday, Schottenheimer finally saw the light as he flipped the script on his play calls and executed a near flawless game plan that had the Steelers defense off balance and playing on their heels.
“You got to give all kind of credit to Schotty and his group over there, (they) did a great job.” Ryan said, “Not just with that call, but really the whole game.”
The difference between yesterday’s game and the last few games, the offense wasn’t so predictable. Schottenheimer consistently passed the ball on first downs and most importantly he gave Sanchez short underneath and out routes to get him into a rhythm, before allowing him to unleash passes deeper down the field.
But Schottenheimer didn’t simply abandon the running game like he has been accused of doing throughout the season, he stuck with it mixing in just enough effective runs to help move the chains and keep the Steelers defense guessing as to what the Jets were going to do next.
And on top of all that, Schottenheimer decided to play chess, not checkers, with his play calls. He built future play calls off of old ones and used the Steelers aggressive nature against them, including a couple of plays that easily fooled the Steelers.
With the Jets trailing 17-10 in the third quarter Schottenheimer called a perfect drive that led to the Jets marching down field tying the game at 17 and breathing life back into the Jets offense.
On third and one from their own 43, the Jets ran a hard play fake to Greene and had Sanchez roll out to find a wide open Dustin Keller for a first down to extend the drive. On the next play Sanchez dropped back and threw a laser over the middle for 15 yards to Braylon Edwards who made a terrific catch as he got crushed by Pittsburgh’s Ryan Clark, which gave the Jets 15 extra yards for an unnecessary roughness penalty.
Then after the Jets worked their way to a fourth and one at the Steelers seven yard line, Schottenheimer went back to the hard play fake, but this time he had Sanchez just keep on rolling until he went dancing into the end zone while the Steelers defenders were still collapsing on the line to stop Greene.
“Well we felt good about it, Schotty did a great job, great call by Schotty.” Ryan said, “He thought we were going to get them to sell the farm, which they did and that allowed Mark (Sanchez) to just come on out and he just made a great run.”
With that one beautifully called and executed drive the Jets snapped their offensive scoring drought and were resurrected, showing they do indeed have the talent to move the ball even on one of the elite defenses in the league. It obviously helped that Steelers safety Troy Polamalu wasn’t able to play, but the Jets were without Damien Woody on their offensive line and Wayne Hunter stepped up and filled in admirably for Woody. Regardless of who played the Jets regained confidence in their offense, their quarterback and their offensive coordinator.
Schottenheimer still has away to go before he can be considered to be in the clear especially since all it will take is one uncreative game of predictable play calling to turn the heat back up on his seat, but yesterday was a start.
Now it’s up to Schotty and his players to continue to build off of yesterday’s momentum and success and make the questioning of Schotty’s play calling a thing of the past.
They say the road to redemption is a long one, well the road to redemption from Jets fans can feel like an never ending road at times, but all journeys must start with one step and the next couple of weeks will tell the ultimate story about whether Schottenheimer was able to fully redeem himself or not.