New OC Mike Heimerdinger is hopefully the "Anti-Hackett" that Jets Fans have been waiting for. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
As a Jets fan you've seen it time and time again;
-The 3rd and 10 running play.
-The screen in the flat – going for a loss.
-The quick slant that opposing defenses sit on.
In summary, the maddening predictability of an offense that played not to lose rather than to go for the throat. Under the Paul Hackett regime, the Jets offensive schemes lacked variety, imagination, and match up exploitation. Despite all of this, thanks to the will of Curtis Martin and the unheralded offensive line; coupled with the resurgence of Donnie Henderson's aggressive defense, earned the Jets a 10-6 record and a near visit to the AFC Championship game. The Jets defense, which was once considered a team albatross, turned into turned into a strength in 2004. A strength that could have made the JETS "Super" - had the offense made a play here or there.
Enter Mike Heimerdinger. The gun slinging offensive coordinator that the Jets were able to seduce from Tennessee. The “Dinger” as he’s affectionately known, has a great history of turning offenses around and getting the most out of his players. Ask Titans’ backup QB about what the Dinger can do and he will tell you about how he went from an undrafted Fresno State longshot to a 300 yard a week passer when subbing for Steve McNair. Heimerdinger knows the Jets were the #3 rushing team in the NFL in 2004 and while #28 still runs the show, Jets fans can look forward to an offense that will keep opposing teams guessing for a change. The Dinger is not afraid to mix it up and throw the ball downfield.
Re-enter the very talented Laveranues Coles, who should benefit most from the only QB that truly got him the damn ball. Coles, unhappy with the run oriented Joe Gibbs led offense in Washington, had a special connection with Pennington during his forst tour of duty in NY. There’s no doubt that Heimerdinger will give Pennington and Coles the opportunity and latitude to rekindle that on-field magic. Couple that with ex-Titan WR Justin McCareins, whose team leading 56 catches in '04 will only improve with plays designed to match his physique and talent.
Perhaps the biggest move the Jets have made this off-season was getting ex-Raider TE Doug Jolley. Jolley gives the Jets their first legitimate pass receiving TE since Jerome Barkum in the 70’s and early 80’s. While the loss of Lamont Jordan was unavoidable, former Chief RB Derrick Blaylock should provide Gang Green with a young, quick change of pace back who averaged 4.6 a rush and had 9 touchdowns in 2004 with no fumbles. Clearly, the Jets kicking game got a boost with Ohio State MVP Mike Nugent, who was an unbelievable 88% (8-9) in field goal tries over 50 yards in his collegiate career. And the serendipitous Jets also picked up the controversial, yet talented Clemson CB/KR Justin Miller who led the nation with a 33.1-yard average on kick returns and ran back THREE of those kicks for touchdowns!
On the other side of the ball, the team loaded up on defense during the draft by adding youth, speed and size on both the line and secondary. If the defense can live up to what it did in 2004 it should give more opportunities to the offense and the days of a 3rd and 10 run, a screen in the flat, or predictable quick slant are hopefully officially over.
This season, Heimerdinger will likely do what Hackett never could - cater the offense to match the skills of his players. The talent pool in the NFL is so close - the design and execution of the offense can mean the difference between a win and a loss. For the first time in a long time the Jets have a man in charge who will seek to exploit match ups and
not be satisfied to play not to lose. This new offense should have the moxie and wherewithal to handle those crucial game-turning plays that last year’s attack didn’t have the mindset to execute at critical times.
With the Dolphins down, the Bills without a proven QB, and the Patriots coordinators' elsewhere, Gang Green has an excellent chance to win the division. It's just a matter of getting a little offensive.