Smoke and Mirrors

By Kevin Newell
Jets Head Writer
September 16th, 2003
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Does anyone see a pattern here?

Following Sunday’s 21-10 loss to the hated Miami Dolphins, the Jets not only find themselves alone in last place of the rugged AFC East Division, but they’re 0-2 start is eerily similar to the precarious positions they have found themselves in for the past two seasons – digging out of a hole.

We all know that Gang Green limped to a 1-4 and 2-5 start before gaining momentum a year ago. The team rallied from a 1-2 mark in 2001 before winning five of its next six to right itself for a playoff run. So if history is any indication, the Jets should be OK. Or will they? Can we honestly expect this team to continue its Houdini act or have they run out of lives? Let’s be honest with one another. If not for the foot of two kickers – John Hall and Adam Vinatieri, respectively – we don’t go to the playoffs two successive years nor do we win the AFC East title last season.

You have to be both lucky and good to win in the NFL. However, most people will take talent over a rabbit’s foot any day of the week. And based on what we’ve seen the past two weeks, the Jets just don’t have the talent to pull themselves out of a tailspin.

The smart money says the good fortune may have finally caught up with Gang Green. The core of the team is getting old and the overall team speed is not fast by current NFL standards. That’s why you get Dolphins 21, Jets 10. Miami’s coaches exploited those two weaknesses perfectly.

So the question begs: Who is to blame? There is plenty of finger pointing to go around. But like everything else, it all starts at the top. From general manager Terry Bradway to Herman Edwards, Paul Hackett and Ted Cottrell, all the way down to offensive line coach Doug Marrone and the scouting staff. Of course, the players must also share the burden.

Inevitably it all lands at the feet of Bradway. He has done nothing to distinguish himself as a competent GM. He has basically been living off leftovers from previous regimes. Not one of his drafted players has done anything to distinguish themselves or make the Jets a better football team.

The heart and soul of the team – Curtis Martin, Vinny Testaverde, Kevin Mawae, Wayne Chrebet, Mo Lewis, Marvin Jones, et al, were all brought in by Bill Parcells and his predecessors and are in the twilight of their careers. Even the 2000 draft bonanza that netted John Abraham, Shaun Ellis, Chad Pennington, and Anthony Becht was part of the Parcells-Al Groh regime.

Lest we forget, Pennington saved Bradway’s and Edwards’ collective behinds last season. I dare anyone in the organization to stand up and admit that Pennington was their guy – the quarterback of the future. There were strong rumors within the halls of Weeb Ewbank Hall that no one thought Chad had what it took to become a top-flight QB in the team’s West Coast offense. Boy were they wrong!

If Testaverde doesn’t get hurt in Jacksonville, Chad is still toting a clipboard.

Here’s what Bradway has done in his three years. His last two first round picks, Dewayne Robertson and Bryan Thomas, have been non-factors. Thomas is a missing person and Robertson, a work in progress, doesn’t appear to be worth the two first round picks Bradway gambled on the next Warren Sapp. He’s been more of a sap.

One thing is for certain: Bradway has a penchant for trading away a slew of picks for a player he covets. In 2001, his first draft, Bradway gave up the Jets first round pick (No. 19), along with its second pick in the fourth round and a sixth round pick in order to move up three places to select Santana Moss. As for Robertson, Bradway surrendered the 13th and 22nd picks of the first round and a fourth rounder to jump to No. 4. Suffice to say, neither Moss nor Robertson appear to have been worth it, although Santana had a break-out game the other day.

Basically, Bradway has eschewed the teams’ clear need to draft for depth and speed for one player.

Here’s something else to chew on: Of the 19 players Bradway chose in his three drafts with the organization, only two – Kareem McKenzie and Jon McGraw – start. I don’t count Robertson because we all know that if Josh Evans hadn’t been suspended by the NFL, DeRob would be a back-up. The only other player to have any kind of impact is Lamont Jordan, who was the No. 2 pick in 2001. That’s pathetic.

Conversely, Bradway has lost Aaron Glenn, Marcus Coleman, Kerry Jenkins, Ryan Young, Randy Thomas, Laveranues Coles, and John Hall to either the expansion draft or free agency.

As for free agent acquisitions, Bradway has also failed. Here’s some of the so-called talent that Bradway has assembled: Cowart, Evans, Donnie Abraham, Sam Garnes, Dave Szott, and Tom Nutten, who retired. Not a star in the bunch. And we’re still waiting for that big receiver we’ve been promised. Hey Terry, how’d Matthew Hachette work out?

Yes, I understand salary cap ramifications and all that. But today’s NFL GM must do his due diligence. Just look at what’s going on in New England and Buffalo, where the Bills’ Tom Donohoe and the Pats’ Bill Belichick are not only stockpiling draft picks, but signing quality free agents at key positions. All Bradway has done is make do-do.

The present day configuration of the Jets is nothing more than a good ole boys network. Bradway, Edwards and Hackett all worked together in Kansas City, where unless I missed something, was not a bastion of football greatness during their tenures. Edwards used his Tampa Bay connections to bring in some of his former players like Donnie Abraham, Damien Robinson, and Steve White – the latter two being total wastes of time. And Cottrell coached Sam Cowart in Buffalo, where the latter seems to have left his Pro Bowl talent.

In some ways the Jets middle management and coaching staff is the NFL version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. You know the game: Gene Hackman starred with Morgan Freeman in Unforgiven who starred with Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption who starred with Tom Cruise in Top Gun who starred with Kevin Bacon in A Few Good Men. Get the picture?

At least the aforementioned actors have a couple of Oscars between them. The Jets actors don’t own a Super Bowl ring between them.

What transpired on the field Sunday at Co-Tenant Stadium was horrific and a possible sign of worse things to come. For several years the Jets and Jets fan have reveled in the Monday Night Miracle against Miami. The latest effort could be remembered as the Sunday Afternoon Debacle. It was that bad.

Not only were the Jets outrushed by the Fish, 187-21, but at the end of the second quarter Miami held a 136-9 advantage.

The Jets run defense is putrid and the teams’ run offense is non-existent. The defense is allowing a staggering 173.5 rushing yards per game while the running game is averaging an abysmal 39 yards per game and 2.4 yards per carry. And we all know that games are won and lost on the lines.

Replacing one cog in an NFL offensive line is tough enough. To replace three in two years is almost impossible. While McKenzie has stepped in wonderfully at right tackle for Young, the losses of both Jenkins and Thomas have been more significant.

That has been apparent in the lack of production by Martin, who likes to run between the tackles. Poor guard play has resulted in a poor running game. Left guard Szott and right guard Brent Smith are both playing on surgically repaired knees. Smith, a converted tackle, is also playing out of position. The lack of drive and speed is obvious.

As for the defense, it’s become more and more apparent that the Cover-2 scheme is not working. In order to have success with the Tampa defense, you need run stuffing lineman, track-star linebackers, and read-and-react corners. The Jets have neither. Jason Ferguson is overmatched in the trenches. Robertson is playing like a rookie. Chester McGlockton is showing his age. Lewis and Jones are dinosaurs and are continually out of position or too slow to stop the run. Donnie Abraham, Aaron Beasley, and Ray Mickens are serviceable but not the prototypical corners for the Cover-2.

In successive games, both Redskins’ QB Patrick Ramsey and Dolphins’ QB Jay Fielder have hung the LB’s out to dry with pivotal running plays. Ramsey’s resulted in the game-winning field goal. Fielder’s went for a 9-yard touchdown run.

This is not meant as a doom and gloom column. It’s just telling like it is. The Jets have good enough talent to stay competitive, particularly with Chad at the helm. However, if the team’s brass doesn’t start putting their fingers in the dike, Pennington may wind up like Joe Namath in the 70s and be a great quarterback on a poor team getting the crap kicked out of him week in and week out.

No one wants to bear witness to that.

All we’ve heard for the past couple of seasons from Bradway, Edwards and Co. is that the players must be held accountable. While they make a valid point, doesn’t that also apply to the organization’s hierarchy?

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