The funny thing about the Jets: Looking at their overall history, this last decade has been a high point.
The Jets have had eight winning seasons since 1996 and have made the playoffs five times. In their prior 36 years of existence, they had eight winning seasons and qualified for the postseason seven times.
Of course, that's small comfort to Jets fans and comparing the Jets to the Jets is damning with faint praise. Also, the franchise has burned through five head coaches during this relatively happy stretch (including one who famously "resigned as HC of the NYJ" before even strapping on the headset). And now the team is in a holding pattern until they hire another coach. And it's here where this 2008 Jets postmortem must begin.
According to Newsday, Jets honcho Mike Tannenbaum really wants to hire Brian Schottenheimer as head coach but is worried about the fan and media backlash. We're fortunate then that Tannenbaum doesn't have the courage of his convictions, because this would be a baseless choice. And you don't have to be a psychology major to figure out that Tannenbaum, young and completely unproven as a football man, wants someone younger and even less proven than he is under him so that there's less of a chance of Tannenbaum's power being threatened. And Tannenbaum's grasp of the Jets crown should be shaky given his poor track record in making key decisions. Those include Eric Mangini (by his own admission) and his two top-10 draft picks: decidedly mediocre D'Brickashaw Ferguson -- drafted over Jay Cutler -- and Vernon Gholston, who didn't even have a ghostly presence for the team as a rookie.
The smart money now is that Rex Ryan will be the choice and I think it would be a good one. I previously championed both Mike Shanahan and Mike Leach above Ryan, but I continue to believe that Ryan is a sensible choice with a lot of upside given his attack-first-ask-questions-later style of defense. That's fashioned after his father, Buddy, who began formulating the unbalanced fronts that ultimately would become the 46 defense as the Jets defensive coordinator during their Super Bowl era.
Assuming Ryan is the new man, he will have to adapt the Jets personnel to his system and fortify it with a stronger corner to complement All-Pro Darrelle Revis. The second order of business is to have linebackers who can at least cover well or rush the passer well. Right now, the Jets' backers, including Calvin Pace, aren't great in either of these areas. (Let's not forget that Tannenbaum also chose to sign Pace over Asante Samuel because he was afraid of tampering charges.) Ideally, of course, you want backers who can both rush and cover, but let's take baby steps first.
An impact pass rusher is needed. Gholston was supposed to be that man and still may be. He didn't practice well and apparently did a poor job on Mangini's mid-week pop quizzes. But maybe Gholston needs the heat of battle to be fully charged and thus prove that his entire stellar career at Ohio State was not a fluke.
I'm tired of writing about the Jets problems at quarterback. Yes, Chad Pennington made a monkey of the Jets and me, too, with his stellar play. But he's very limited. Remember, the Dolphins had a gimmick offense. Pennington executed, but he'll never get you deep into the playoffs, especially if he must fight through inhospitable passing weather with that weak throwing wing.
Brett Favre didn't work out. Whether it's Schottenheimer's fault or not doesn't matter. It's occurring to me now that Tannenbaum could slyly offer the job to Ryan on the condition that he keeps Schottenheimer on. I doubt Ryan, a hot candidate, would take a job with preconditions. Then he can say that Ryan turned down the job and that Schottenheimer was the only available option. OK, this is paranoid. But, to paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, when it comes to the Jets, 99 percent of paranoia is justified.
So where do the Jets go to solve their one glaring offensive need? In house with Kellen Clemens? I admit that Clemens has done nothing to prove he can play the position yet, but he hasn't quite proven he cannot, either. The fact that the Jets apparently don't think he can is meaningless. Look at the Chiefs' Tyler Thigpen or even the 49ers' Shaun Hill. Teams often don't see the quarterback right under their nose.
Derek Anderson fell into this category in 2007 but struggled last year along with the rest of the Browns. He's probably available via trade and has a Northeast, blustery Meadowlands weather arm. Will Mangini and Tannenbaum be able to deal? I have no idea but a trade (for the Jets No. 1 pick) should be pursued.
The Jets have one impact player who never plays -- Leon Washington. He's shown no evidence that he cannot be Brian Westbrook if made the focal point of the attack. Thomas Jones did grind out some yards and moved the chains well enough, but he's a beat-the-clock, not a beat-the-opponent kind of guy. It's Washington who can make the game-changing, explosive plays that give teams the lead and set them up to run out the clock late with the between-the-tackle toughness that Jones can still provide.
Mangini should have been fired just for burying Dustin Keller just when it looked like Keller was ready to pop as the Jets main receiving threat in the two wins at New England and Tennessee. He dropped a pass at San Francisco and was sent to the doghouse. You never punish players for physical mistakes. That just makes them think about what should come naturally, invariably leading to more physical mistakes.
We will do our annual offseason primer just before the free-agent period when we look at the Jets cap, free-agent and draft prospects. Then, in April, our full before-and-after draft coverage will commence. But the Jets are in a weak position in free agency at this point and must wait until the 17th pick in the first round to make their first amateur selection. So it's very unlikely the quarterback problem can be addressed effectively on draft day.