Jets Have Bigger Problems Than a Quarterback Controversy
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Jets Have Bigger Problems Than a Quarterback Controversy
By HARVEY ARATON New York Times
Published: August 19, 2012
It is only the preseason, the seemingly endless days of hard knocks and high humidity, but if there was a point where a question mark about the Jets’ intended identity coiled stubbornly in place of the desired exclamation point it was early in the second quarter of a desultory performance against the Giants on Saturday night at MetLife Stadium.
The Jets had gained 7 yards on a first-down pass from Mark Sanchez to Shonn Greene for second-and-3 from the Giants’ 38-yard line. A Greene run off right tackle netted 2 yards. Another Greene carry behind the Jets’ right side of the offensive line was stuffed for no gain by Justin Tuck and Chase Blackburn.
Now it was fourth-and-1, a custom-made opportunity for Tim Tebow to haul his listed and sculptured 236 pounds of clean living onto the field as Sanchez’s replacement or as a running threat in a Wildcat formation.
But Tebow remained a sideline spectator. The fullback John Conner ran up the middle, into a wall of defending Super Bowl champion blue. No gain, no first down, no points and still, after two practice games, no touchdowns for the Jets’ offense.
“That was brutal,” Jets Coach Rex Ryan said after a 26-3 defeat. “I might have been more disappointed in those things more than anything else.”
Since there was so much to choose from, we can forgive Ryan’s uncertainty on what troubled him most from among the multiple wounds he and his players have been calling “self-inflicted.” That is no doubt expressed with the fervent and transparent hope that they have not been outclassed these first two preseason weeks by decisively more talented teams.
Perhaps in focusing on their inability to gain a measly yard in two downs on the aforementioned series we can rationalize the Jets’ unwillingness to unveil their full offensive repertory in August. But Matt Slauson, the left guard, seemed to think the actual problem was that the Jets were working on everything.
“We had a couple of plays that did really well against them, but we don’t really want to keep coming back to them because we want to see all of our offense,” he said. “So we ran plays that ran really well, and we ran some other plays that didn’t run so well.”
For their sake, there had better be at least a couple to be implemented or perfected by Tony Sparano, the new offensive coordinator and supposedly the Jets’ most important off-season acquisition. Based on the early evidence, Sparano must still be tied up with administrative matters in human resources because the offense seems to have picked up right where it left off with his predecessor, and last season’s convenient scapegoat, Brian Schottenheimer.
For the moment, it is difficult to envision the Jets as a run-first team in a pass-happy league, with the much-discussed season’s overview of helping Sanchez manage the game while maximizing Tebow’s galloping skills. And if the Jets can’t consistently run the ball, how are they going to pass it when the offensive line hasn’t merely been leaking pass rushers into the backfield?
With 12 sacks already recorded by the opposition, 7 by the Giants, it’s been closer to how the levees betrayed New Orleans when Katrina came on the blitz.
“I really do have faith in those guys up front,” Sanchez said, in a clear demonstration of Tebow’s influence. “I know we can play better than that. These are the kinds that will study and hold themselves accountable. These guys can block. They’ll be fine.”
Now for the mandatory Sanchez-Tebow report: given what we have seen of the Jets, they only wish they had a quarterback controversy to distract people from the many other concerns. Maybe that was the plan all along? Have Tebow as the game-changer, to borrow from the political lexicon, which stole it from the sports vernacular.
Given Tebow’s supreme ordinariness in the second half Saturday night against the Giants’ defensive backups after Sanchez completed 9 of 11 passes but was intercepted for a 77-yard touchdown by the rookie cornerback Jayron Hosley, the only foreseeable controversy might be in deciding which quarterback’s health to risk if the offensive line doesn’t shape up.
As to whether the Giants — who need little motivation from Coach Tom Coughlin to amp up for Ryan’s Jets — were too daunting an opponent so early, considering their formidable front four, Jets right guard Brandon Moore said: “They got a good front, but we just need to play better. I don’t look at it as a challenging week that we weren’t ready for. We’ve got to do a better job up front.”
Moore said the game plan included help for the besieged right tackle Wayne Hunter on Jason Pierre-Paul. As to why it didn’t materialize and Hunter was essentially used as a turnstile, Moore explained, “I’m not a coordinator, you know?” Somewhere, Schottenheimer was smiling.
Exuding calm to go with his faith, Sanchez took responsibility for throwing the ball behind Patrick Turner on the Hosley interception and assured reporters, “It’s not time to hit the panic button.”
Of course it isn’t, not with Santonio Holmes yet to appear and Sparano presumably holding back. But the Jets’ failure to get that first down with two cracks symbolically raised the question of whether they are ready or talented enough to smash mouth their way forward, across that fine line separating the 8-8 mediocrity they settled on last season and playoff qualification that marked Sanchez’s first two years.
He is the starter and nothing Tebow did Saturday night suggests that’s likely to change. So forget, for now, who the quarterback is. It’s the identity of Rex Ryan’s and General Manager Mike Tannenbaum’s team that remains up in the air, or, worse, significantly at a loss.