Three Diagnoses for a Struggling Offense

Tis the season where the fall foliage swirls down deserted city streets, the first traces of severe winter chill zip subtly through crisp Autumn breezes, and being cursed by festering, cough inducing, sneeze producing sickness becomes a near unavoidable consequence of calling New York home.

Yes, the big freeze resides just beyond the horizon, but a rather bipolar climate has made staying in perfect health a near possibility, even before sub-zero temperatures become the norm. Why, one day the car requires an outlandish amount of heath to offset teeth chattering, and the next, the air conditioner still must be utilized, in late October, lest sweat drop from the forehead. It’s been a strange forecast, and our bodies don’t quite know how to cope. This time of year we are often stricken by symptoms suggesting a far more serious infirmary which often [hopefully, knock on wood] is not delivered.

But still.

A runny nose, persistent cough, headache, these are disconcerting, and must be dealt with.

The New York Jets haven’t quite resembled the scrambled weather, all the positives produced by a 5-2 ledger weighing down a few noticeable negatives. And yet, if they were a patient undergoing a routine checkup, potential viruses afflicting key members of their outfit would be revealed, maladies lethal enough to quarantine Super Bowl dreams.

 As the automatic panic fan contingency begins their yearly prowl, attempting to sense the first sign of palpable terror so they can claim legitimate worry all along, allow this allotment for me to make an unbiased diagnoses. Why, I still believe the team is still riding high. But you won’t be able to claim this doctor unconcerned. You also can’t say I’m a doctor, but that never stopped countless counterfeit members of the stethoscope brigade.

Hi Everybody!

And luckily, this patient is far from a delicate subject. The quack hat is on. To the charts!

Patient: Mark Sanchez

History: Battled a particularly difficult case of “rookie,” in 2009. All evidence of his struggle was seemingly washed away after a productive Sunday stay in San Diego last January. The poor decisions, interceptions, and general inconsistency had begun abating through December and the Wild Card playoff round, creating real, undeniable hope among his many fans.  A related affliction, causing his admirers to selectively remember only times unrelated to the “rookie” misfortunes, created unfairly high expectations for the patient in just his second season.

Current Symptoms: Patient now regressing back toward poor downfield reads and turnovers, in addition to a downright disturbing tendency for inaccuracy. Throws just not flying crisply from his hand, for reasons unknown, possibly related to poor footwork,  a surprising setback given the patient’s excellent athletic ability.

Recommended Cure: Patient simply needs more experience to combat this issue. Also deserves total support from the coaching staff and fellow teammates, due to a commendable work ethic and natural leadership abilities. Speaking of which, such platitudes awarded for intangible contributions, while truthful, fall short of being even a placebo, as it concerns the patient’s game-day improvement. Raw statistics will tell the tale, including a completion percentage that should rise as the affliction vanishes.

Outlook: Mixed. Patient shows a willingness to strive for success, but may struggle in his windy home-field environment. If footwork, accuracy, and decision-making have been undermined by case of “rookie” [aka, inexperienced] woes, then these are multiple issues to correct, which cannot be attacked with one quick fix.  

Recommended Dosage: Try establishing the ground game, to make roving play-action passes a staple of the offense, in a similar vein to the system Mike Shanahan recently operated with Jake Plummer in Denver. Failing this doctor’s potentially idiotic comparison between two admittedly different players, try a new tactic to get the Patient more comfortable, and within the flow of the game. Perhaps more short routes for Dustin Keller, so he and the patient, showing signs of physic connectivity, can ease into a rhythm early.

Under the weather?

Patient: Jerricho Cotchery  

History: Ultra talented receiver was overlooked after a history making career at N.C. State. His measurable attributes may not have exploded off the scouting report, but his superb route running and pure physical strength made him an ideal candidate to thrive in the National Football League. Patient briefly owned the spotlight early in 2009 as the undisputed number one receiver. Production slipped along with his quarterback’s. Now in the curious position of being the third biggest name on the receiving depth chart, trailing more famous teammates. Still getting open, but…

Symptoms: Football often presents its viewers, and participants, with situations not easily explained with logic. Why was this previously reliable patient saddled with a severe case of “butter-fingers” in the fourth quarter of last week’s disappointing setback against Green Bay? It may have been bad luck, or a team oriented player attempting to do too much. Either way, this incidence of “butter-fingers” was undeniably debilitating, especially on a potential game winning catch in the corner of the end-zone, slightly disturbed by a beaten defensive back.     

Recommended Cure: This patient needs to get right back on track, lest this issue snowball. He is a fundamentally sound asset, capable of corralling valuable yards on third down, essentially laying the groundwork for points, which were in short supply last week. Used creatively in motion formations most memorably in ’06, another player who could use more touches for tempo purposes.

Outlook: Patient possessed all the appearances of a rising star in the years preceding Mark Sanchez’s arrival. This is hardly to blame our previous patient for Cotchery’s descent, especially considering he had a higher amount of yards per catch in ’09 opposed to ’08 [fourteen less grabs], but it seems the current game-plan is not properly tapping into his abilities. Even if increasingly lost in the shuffle, he will become a steady five catch, first down reception specialist, debatably an unfair fate for a former thousand yard performer.

Recommended Dosage: More motion patterns… and should this doctor’s opinion about play-calling be absolutely unfounded, a simplistic reaction to recent events perfectly emblematic of a medical degree “earned” on the outskirts of Mexico, allow him the luxury of being blunt: Get this patient the damn ball. Or, more kindly, don’t forget his value amid a crowd including a Super Bowl MVP, a big-play threat, possible Pro Bowl tight-end, and pass catching, Hall of Fame halfback. Patient was a go-to receiver on a comparatively makeshift offense in 2006, and should be thriving while surrounded with more talent, not stagnating.

Patient: Brian Schottenheimer   

History: Son of a legendary coach. He and Chad Pennington beguiled opposing defenses to the tune of ten wins in 2006, a shocking season which made the patient an immediate candidate for head coaching vacancies. Perhaps unfairly maligned in 2008 as the offense sputtered late, piloted by an injured quarterback. Often criticized, the critiques will become less dismissible should the current attack, loaded on paper, continues languishing.

Symptoms: Patient is cursed with an advanced case of “Paul Hackett Blues.” Hackett, a longtime whiz universally respected around the league, became a reviled figure in many quarters of Jets fandom, as those disenchanted with his approach emphasized any and all negative results. His case was not helped by criticism from beloved, marginalized receiver Wayne Chrebet, and a crew which took enough pride in winning games ugly to respond favorably to the nickname “Team Shrek.” Folk hero Vinny Testaverde was a poor fit for his offense.  Since these halcyon days, when Paul Hackett could be blamed for just about anything, including the economy, it appears Jets fans heap a disproportionate amount of disgust on the offensive coordinator, when events just aren’t breaking their way.  In Schottenheimer’s case, it has begun. But really, what coordinator isn’t under close inspection?

Recommended Cure: Schottenheimer’s offense needs to score some points. What precisely he is dialing up will become increasingly less pressing at that juncture. The Jets could be using ladders out there for all their fans care.     

Recommended Dosage: Patient should avoid message boards. Maybe read Sanchez extremely closely for signs of discomfort, prepared to call a high percentage pass should a downward spiral appear imminent. But should that advice have been so utterly obvious as to closely resemble redundancy, perhaps this doctor can make an even simpler suggestion: Shouldn’t Brad Smith throw a pass or two out of the wildcat?

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