Let’s start with a Q&A. You know what good teams don’t do? Give the ball to their opponents more than they take it away. You know the best way to flip the script on a lousy season? Turnovers. How did the 2008 Miami Dolphins go from a single win in 2007 to 11 wins in 2008? Well, in part they did it with a massive swing in strength of schedule, but basically they did it by going from 22nd in the league in turnover margin to 1st. 2008, mind you, was Tony Sparano’s first season as Miami’s head coach.The list is nearly endless, but here are a few more examples from last season. The 2011 Niners, who were seven wins better than their 2010 counterparts, went from 15th in the league in turnover differential to 1st. The Detroit Lions won four more games last year (4th in turnover margin) than they did in 2010 (11th), and the Eagles had an expected record of 10-6 last year, but finished at 8-8 thanks to a minus 14 turnover margin. The 11-5 Jets of 2010 were 5th in the NFL in turnover margin. Last year’s 8-8 squad was 19th. Winning the turnover battle. It’s the shortest path back to double-digit wins.
So what are we really saying here, that Mark Sanchez needs to play better? Yes. Sanchez put it on the ground 10 times last year and threw 18 picks. The team lost possession on a staggering eight of the quarterback’s fumbles, or the same amount as Tom Brady, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton and Drew Brees combined. Disgusting. And it was a big drop off from his 2010 season, even if most of the difference was pure luck. Although Sanchez coughed up the ball nine times in 2010’s 11-win season, only one of the nine was recovered by the opposition. Adding the one lost fumble to his 13 interceptions left him with 14 total turnovers in 2010, which was nearly half last year’s total of 26. You think Sanchez’s 12 extra turnovers last year might have cost the Jets a playoff spot? I do. It’s a trend that must reverse if the Jets are going to return to the postseason.But it’s not only Sanchez that needs to value the ball more. Joe McKnight and Antonio Cromartie, in roughly one-thousand fewer touches, combined for the same number of lost fumbles as the trio of Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy and Steven Jackson. Seriously. And Jeremy Kerley put the ball on the turf three times himself, losing one. And here’s something to keep you up at night—while the Jets were tied for second worst in the league with 16 fumbles lost, the worst team, the Denver Broncos, were spearheaded in their effort by none other than Tim Tebow. In only eleven starts, Tebow fumbled a revolting 13 times, losing six. In comparison, Cam Newton—who not only dropped back to pass about 250 times more than Tebow, but also had more rushing attempts—fumbled just five times, losing two.
The Jets had double digit at least two turnovers in 12 of 16 games last year. In 2010 it happened in just seven of 19 contests. So yeah, the steaming pile that was 2011 needs to change in a big way if the Jets are going to the postseason. Sanchez, Tebow, the return guys, Greene. It’s on them. Shonn Greene, who fumbled just once in nearly 300 touches last year, should be up for the task. For the others, it’s time to put up or shut up.