Florham Park, N.J.- “Yeah, I ain’t no suit-wearing businessman like you. You know I’m just a gangsta I suppose… And I want my corners.” (c) Avon Barksdale
See the game has changed, whether we’re talking about the drug game that Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell discuss in the greatest television series in the history of time, “The Wire,” or we’re talking about the way NFL teams run their offense. For those unfamiliar with “The Wire,” in this scene I’m referencing Avon is the kingpin in the city of Baltimore and Stringer is his business-minded number two. Stringer, fresh out of business class, is trying to convince Avon to adapt with the times. He tries to sell Avon on the idea that the days of drug dealers having to worry about territory and “corners,” are over, there’s too much collateral damage that can be avoided with that old school mentality in this new world of the present. But Avon doesn’t want to hear anything about making business deals and remaining low key, he is who he is and even though he can see the merit in some of what Stringer is saying, he still wants his “corners.”
The NFL has changed too, it used to be you would run to set up the pass, then it changed to where many teams passed to set up the run, but nowadays it seems teams pass just to pass because the defenses can’t possibly stop it. The rules have changed in the NFL, just like the laws pertaining to drug dealers have changed, from the strict enforcement of no contact after five-yards for cornerbacks, to the flags for hitting defenseless receivers, everything has been tailor made to make it easier for offenses to pass the ball.
The NFL used to be a running league, the best teams could pass the ball when needed, but to finish games off they would lean on the running game, but those days are gone for now. Now the NFL is a passing league and despite the fact that Rex Ryan comes from the old school ground and pound philosophy he has shown more of a willingness to adapt to the times than Avon Barksdale ever did. ‘We just want to win games anyway we can,’ is what Rex has been saying for these past two seasons, if that means passing the ball then so be it.
If only it were that simple.
The game has indeed changed, but everything is always changing. Things evolve whether it’s the drug game or the game of football, but some things will work forever and always, no matter how much the game changes around you. In this scene Avon sat and listened to Stringer’s pitch to work out a business deal with their new rival Marlo Stanfield instead of carrying out a war in the streets and racking up bodies. Stringer makes a bunch of valid, seemingly logical points, but the problem is he can’t see the big picture. He’s using the principles of business in the streets where there are no rules. In theory what Stringer is trying to sell sounds dreamy, but then again so does Communism. But what Stringer can’t see, and Avon can, is that he is the only one thinking that way, his idealistic business minded ideas won’t play so well with the rest of the city. They can offer Marlo all the sweet deals they want to, he has no interest in taking it. Marlo’s out for the crown and the way he sees it, Avon had his time, now it’s Marlo’s turn to wear it.
So after two years and four games of being the head coach of the New York Jets and watching the rest of the league morph into one giant passing league, it appears Rex has led the Jets too far off their track by trying to make them into something they are not. With the league changing around them, Rex understandably wanted to adapt to the times, much like Stringer did. But while saying you are going to pass the ball more also sounds good in theory, you have to be built for that and the Jets simply aren’t built that way.
In Rex’s first year, with a rookie quarterback, the Jets were all about the run game, last year they sought to even it out more with varied degrees of success, but this year the ground and pound mentality has all but disappeared. You’ll hear Rex talk about how it’s hard to run the ball when the other team is loaded up waiting for it, or you fall behind, but that never stopped him in that first year. They didn’t always start out bulldozing their way through defenses to start every game, but they stuck with the ground and pound and would eventually wear the opposing defenses down. These days it doesn’t even seem like they want to run the ball down the throat of opposing defenses, as they abandon the run all to quickly. Obviously the offensive line issues are a part of the problem, but you can’t argue with the numbers.
Through four games this season the Jets have run the ball only 92 times while they have passed the ball 147 times. Hardly a ratio that would elude to this team being a running team. With Sanchez entering his third-year it’s easy to understand why the Jets would look to air it out more, but they have clearly gone too far. The Jets need to run the ball and their lead running back is one of those backs that needs 20-25 carries a game to be as effective as he can be. Shonn Greene is a downhill bruising power runner that gets better as the game goes on and he can wear out the opposing defense, he needs the rock and he needs it early and often. With the Patriots next on the schedule and missing their best tackler, Jarod Mayo, now would be a perfect time for Rex to channel his inner Avon and demand that he’s just a ground and pound guy I supposed and he wants to run the ball then run it some more.
Nick Mangold expects to be able to play this week, which would give the Jets offensive line a boost of talent and confidence they desperately need. With the Patriots high-powered offense, it becomes even more important for the Jets to rely on the ground and pound, not only to eat up yards and put points on the board, but to also keep the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands.
Yes the league has changed, but that doesn’t mean the formula of running the ball successfully no longer works. The problem is not only that the Jets haven’t been able to find success running the ball, but how quickly they abandon the running game once the offense stalls. The offense must evolve from more than a running team at some point, but it also needs a solid foundation to work off of and right now the passing game clearly isn’t a solid enough foundation to carry the rest of the team. So it’s time for Rex to demand his “corners” back and return to depending on the running game to set up play-action and other pass plays.
Avon listened to Stringer’s reasoning, but he ultimately went with what he knows works. Rex must do the same, he tried running a more pass oriented offense to no avail, it’s time to get back to what he knows and what this team was built to do and that’s run the ball. Certain things will always be changing about the game, football like life is cyclical, but some things never change. The NFL may be a passing league now, but being able to run the ball with success will always be a winning formula.
After all, “The game is the game… Always.” And for Rex Ryan and the Jets that game needs to be ground and pound.
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