Who would have thought in August that the Jets would be in the running to draft USC's Reggie Bush in 2006?
You play to lose the game.
That's what the Jets did yet once again Sunday, dropping a 27-0 nail biter to the heavily favored Denver Broncos. With the loss, the Jets stand at 2-8 and have officially entered the Matt Leinart/Reggie
Bush sweepstakes. What exactly transpired yesterday? If you missed the game, turned it off, or had something better to do entirely, it went like this.
More injuries. More ineptitude. More turnovers. More misery.
It is almost understandable with the offense losing key players - QB's Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler, C Kevin Mawae, OT Jason Fabini to injury, and with many more players playing hurt or out of position, to flounder week after week against good NFL defenses. But when the supposedly tough Jets defense takes the field and allows teams to run all over them, it makes you wonder how "good" this group really is? It is hard to pick out individually who is at fault when the whole defensive team is to blame for the massive amount of rushing yards and touchdowns they continually allow each week. When you put the Jets' out-manned offense and underachieving defense together, you don't get much.
Yesterday's game made you want to throw up. In fact, after his second quarter concussion QB Brooks Bollinger actually did. Sadly, the only bright spot on this day and for all of 2005 has been Aussie punter Ben Graham, who has a shot to make the Pro Bowl.
So what should the Jets do? Rally behind HC Herman Edwards, play hard and try to get to .500? Or go against all of their competitive impulses and actually "play to lose the game"?
I don't mean that their starters should tank the games. But let some young players get in there, so the Jets brass - assuming they are still in place to run the ship, can evaluate who should be here or not for 2006. In the process, only the Saints game this Sunday night poses a real threat as a game that even these Jets could possibly win. With the way the Texans and 49ers have played this season, even a Jets
win that would "propel" them to 3-13, might put them out of the Leinart/Bush sweepstakes.
The only silver lining to this horrid season may be that the team has a chance to secure the #1 pick in the 2006 NCAA draft and could pick Matt Leinart, the USC QB leading the nation's undisputed #1 team or Reggie Bush, the USC RB fresh off a Pac-10 record 513 all purpose yard performance against Fresno State on Saturday.
QB MATT LEINART
The saga of QB Chad Pennington is well documented. Pennington is smart, accurate, a student of the game, gutsy and clutch. Entering next year he'll also be coming off a second shoulder surgery, and is very unlikely to recapture the magic he had in 2002. He already had a limp, weak arm before the surgery, so itís a tall task to count on him being the #1 franchise QB anymore. Enter Matt Leinart.
Leinart, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner s having another Heisman like year (351 ATT, 233 COMP, 3217 YDS, 24 TDíS, 7 INTíS). He is leading the Trojans (11-0, 7-0 in the Pac 10) toward another National Championship and is a proven winner(USC has won 33 straight; 26 in
a row at LA Coliseum). He'll be the first to tell you he is smart and accurate (this sounds familiar), but doesn't scare anyone with his arm and is not fleet of foot. Obviously, this guy can play at the college
level. But can he learn on the run, withstand the NFL game, and make the Jets competitive? Will his arrival make the Jets legitimate again?
RB REGGIE BUSH
RB Curtis Martin is a Hall of Fame running back. It's not his fault that he couldn't reach 14,000 total rushing yards for his career against Denver on Sunday (4 rushes, 7 yards), but he should do it against the Saints next week. Martin, admirably has played hurt all year, and you can never question his preparation, effort and determination. But he doesn't make defenders miss. At least, not anymore. Granted, this Jets offensive line is not exactly opening huge holes for him either. The Jets need an RB who can make something out of nothing. Enter Reggie Bush.
USC HC Pete Carroll has compared Bush to NFL greats Gale Sayers and Marshall Faulk. Bush (163 ATT, 1431 YDS, 13 TDíS) has dominated defenses at the collegiate level. His breakout performance this past week included 23 carries for 294 rushing yards and 3 pass receptions for 68 yards. On the season, Bush has 379 yards on kickoff returns and 178 yards on punt returns, proving to be a valuable special teams returner, as well as a runner and receiver. His 2338 total purpose yards in 2005 speak volumes about his versatility and outright talent.
So, on a team with seemingly so many holes, who do you take?
At this point, Bush is the clear choice. You can win in the NFL with an average passing game and a great running game (see the Bears, Steelers, Chiefs, Seahawks & Broncos). It's not quite as guaranteed the other way around. Assuming we can trust Carroll (he was a JETS HC after all) and all the other scouts who marvel at Bush's abilities, he seems like a guy who should be at a LaDanian Tomlinson or Shawn Alexander type production level. Having a threat like Bush would open up the passing game, no matter who was the QB. He'd be a guy that the rest of the NFL would fear and game plan for. Bush would lift the Jets to instant credibility in 2006. But can the Jets be bad enough to get him?
There is stiff competition for the #1 pick in the 2006 draft. Here are the remaining schedules of the five teams (at 2-8 or less) vying for this honor.
The Jets (2-8) play NO, NE, OAK, MIA, NE, BUF with a combined record of 25-35
The Titans (2-8) play SF, INDY, HOU, SEA, MIA, JAX with a combined record of 31-29
The Saints (2-8) play NYJ, TAM, ATL, CAR, DET, TB with a combined record of 33-27
The 49ers (2-8) play TEN, ARI, SEA, JAX, STL, HOU with a combined record of 25-35
The Texans (1-9) play STL, BAL, TEN, ARI, JAX, SF with a combined record of 21-39
Judging from these schedules, if the Saints can manage to lose to the Jets, they should have a pretty easy time losing to the rest of the teams on their schedule, except maybe for the Lions game. The Titans
have the next hardest schedule and the Texans are currently in the lead for the #1 slot. The Jets are really going to need to try their best to lose Ė so they can win the pick to select Reggie Bush.
At this point of a lost season, this is the only scenario all Jet fans should be hoping for. Let the hunt for Reggie Bush begin.