I’m no Mark Sanchez apologist. But that doesn’t mean he’s the only one to blame for the Jets’ passing game struggles.
The Supporting Cast
Jeremy Kerley, Dustin Keller, Chaz Schilens, Stephen Hill, and Jeff Cumberland are the team’s leading receivers. Clyde Gates has started two games at wide receiver. Kerley would be a great #3 receiver, but he’s the Jets #1. Schillens and Gates are best left as fifth receivers, while Stephen Hill is incredibly raw and has struggled most of the year. Keller would be a good tight end on a good passing offense, but is overmatched as the team’s #2 target. I don’t think anyone would disagree that the Jets’ receivers (including stone-hands Shonn Greene) rank in the bottom five of the league.
Tannenbaum has come under heavy criticism from Jets fans of late. While I think much of that is probably unfair, there are several areas to point the finger at Tannenbaum — starting with drafting Sanchez in the first place. The Jets general manager listens to eternal optimist Ryan too much when it comes to personnel decisions, which led the Jets to start Wayne Hunter at right tackle last year and enter the pre-season with him, somehow, still entrenched at the spot. The Vlad Ducasse pick has been a bust, leaving Matt Slauson to cover at left guard (you know, when he’s not being rotated out of the game). Trades for Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes yielded immediate dividends, but have only added to the disruption in the locker room without helping the 2012 version of the team. Sanchez is playing with one of the worst supporting casts in the league, so the man who picks the talent certainly bears some of the blame.
There are very few head coaches who are excellent on both sides of the ball, but Rex Ryan is one of the most specialized head coaches in the NFL. He’s a defensive mastermind — no doubt about that — but he’s as helpless on offense as he is strong on defense. He vowed this year to get more involved in the offense, which should start sending red flags to begin with since 2012 is his fourth season as head coach of the team. To the extent that he has been more hands on in 2012, the results aren’t any better.
Perhaps Ryan is the mirror image of a Gary Kubiak, who took awhile to find the right man to run the other half of his team. But from the standpoint of developing a quarterback, Ryan may even be counterproductive. The red light-yellow light-green light system he gave Sanchez in his rookie season was Ryan’s first attempt to right the ship and a sign of what the coach expects out of the quarterback position. The bottom line is Ryan is focused on playing good defense and running the ball, and as long as his quarterback doesn’t mess up, he thinks his team will win. That’s not the ideal environment for a young quarterback to blossom in, and we learned exactly what Rex thinks about his quarterback when this off-season he chose to hire as his offensive coordinator…
Tony Sparano (hat tip, Brian Schottenheimer)
The former Miami Dolphins head coach did a masterful job his first season, turning the team from 1-15 to 11-5 and pulling down Bill Belichick’s pants on a national stage. Unfortunately, his Wildcat offense in New York has been the least imaginative offense anyone under the age of 90 has ever seen. Ryan hired Sparano because he fit Ryan’s vision of a ground-and-pound offense, but what about finding an offensive coordinator that would help develop his quarterback?
Chad Henne was the star pupil in Miami, and he was looking for a job after 2011 just like his former head coach. Sparano is a former offensive line and tight ends coach with no reputation for mentoring young quarterbacks. Of course, Sparano’s resume looks like Bill Walsh’s compared to the man actually responsible for the position.Matt Cavanaugh
One of the least inspiring resumes of any quarterback coach you’ll ever see. Matt Cavanaugh’s first major job was as the offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears in 1997 and ’98 under Dave Wannstedt. Chicago went 4-12 both seasons and ranked 25th and 28th in points scored. Wannstedt was fired, but Cavanaugh landed in Baltimore. In six years in Baltimore, Cavanaugh’s offenses ranked 28th, 24th, 20th, 25th, 27ths and 31st in Net Yards per Attempt. In addition to a string of mediocre veterans, Cavanaugh personally presided over the development of Chris Redman and then Kyle Boller. After it was clear that Boller, a first round pick in 2003, was not progressing — and the coach had earned the nickname “Cavanawful” from Ravens fans — he “resigned” following the 2004 season.
he then went to the Pittsburgh Panthers as Dave Wannstedt’s offensive coordinator in 2005; there, the dynamic duo named Tyler Palko the starter over Joe Flacco, causing the future first round round (spoiler: not Palko) to transfer to Delaware. In 2007 and 2008, the Panthers threw 21 touchdowns and 31 interceptions.
Which brings us to the Jets. Because Cavanaugh was on the Ravens staff, he received VIP access to the Rex Ryan coaching staff. I don’t know how much a quarterback coach is actually responsible for developing a quarterback, but even if it’s 1%, I don’t see what Ryan saw in Cavanaugh to make him the hire. Even worse, how has he stuck around on the team? After nearly four years, he is still the Jets quarterbacks coach. The man who chose Palko over Flacco and was fired for failing to develop Kyle Boller was tasked with the most important job in the organization. Even if you think expectations for what a quarterbacks can do, is there a justifiable explanation for why Cavanaugh was brought back in 2012?
Sanchez isn’t very good and he’s never been very good. Sanchez ranked 21st in NY/A as a rookie and then 29th in NY/A in his sophomore year, which were the two years the Jets made it to the AFC Championship Game. Some Jets fans mistakenly viewed his 26 passing touchdowns last year — 9th most in the league — as a sign of something, but the real takeaway was that he ranked 27th in NY/A in 2011. So far in 2012 he ranks 29th in NY/A, and he’s had turnovers issues in each of his four seasons (which NY/A, of course, ignores).
Right now, Sanchez isn’t good. Period. The question I have is whether even a good quarterback would look good on this team, playing with these teammates and being coached by Cavanaugh, Sparano, and Ryan.