Albeit, I am a little late with this forecast, as I wanted to wait until I was able to assess the off season, preseason and at least, the first game of the season before making forecasts. Alas, all of that has passed and it’s time for me to run down my assessment of the upcoming season for the NY Jets.
Let me start off with the assertion that I am a die hard Gang Green Nation citizen and would not trade my team for anything in the world. Also, for the record, I am a major critic of anything I love wholeheartedly, as it’s just in my nature. As such, it is always my top priority to see the best in whatever it is that I love, while also taking great cause to unravel the beauty of what could make it better. In such, my forecast will focus on the areas that need improvement, as opposed to the improved areas.
In particular, there are three pervasive problems plaguing the NY Jets, which have unapologetically troubled me for the past four seasons. Rex Ryan, 3rd down conversions and the offensive line. In that order.
1. The Big & Bad, Rex Ryan
A lot of Jets fans, though, not as many in the last two seasons, melt over the idea of Rex Ryan as our head coach. They’re soooo in love with what he did as defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens more than six seasons ago and love his ability to develop a stronghold defense that can top any other team.
The problem with Rex Ryan is simple, though. Defenses don’t win games. Hands down. Don’t get me wrong. I love the defensive line and all that it’s capable of. My favorite positions in the league have first been the corner back position, and then the quarterback position (particularly in the last five seasons that the NFL has begun to allow more Black quarterbacks to start and lead teams). In any regard, the defense, just by nature of the word, is meant to be the secondary line of duty that ensures a game win.
A strong defense makes sure that the other team does not get yards, let alone score points, putting the offense in the prime position to score points without the stress of battling the score board. In theory, the best games (for the teams more so than fans, as many fans like to see some sort of competition) are those played against a team that scores no touchdowns and gets no yards against your defense. Who doesn’t love going home saying “we beat them 33-6”? You can’t really beat the excitement that comes from a night like that.
Such excitement doesn’t solely or even primarily lie in the 6 points that the other team scored but instead, in the 27 point differential fortified by the powerhouse of the offense. If your defense kept the opposing team at 6 points for an entire game, while your offense was only able to score 3 points for the entire game, well, that means you lost. Not only did you lose, but you had your defense bust their asses the whole game for no damn reason! Why do I say that? Again, because in a quarterback focused football league, offense will most often be the deciding factor in who brings home the W.
Your defense could cause all of the fumbles and interceptions they could suffice but if your offense can’t turn those turnovers into points by getting the ball down the field and into the end zone, then it does not matter.
I say all of that to say this, Rex Ryan is still and always has been a defensive coach. We, just like any team in the NFL, need a head coach, not a defensive coach, to lead our team. Each and every season we come out on the field with a supposed “new game plan”, etched in new players, new defensive and offensive coordinators, and even in the last 2 years, new team leaders; all led by the same damn man, Rex Ryan, with the same damn game plan, defense. I digress.
2. The 3rd Conversions; Or Lackthereof
That leads to my second critique, our inability to convert on 3rd down. The difference between a good team and a great team, between a winning team and a losing team, between a regular season success and a Lombardi trophy take home, is your ability to convert on 3rd down. Whether or not 3rd down conversions are the most singular difference, is debatable. But whether or not 3rd down conversions make a significant difference, is not debatable.
If your team cannot convert on 3rd down, they’re not going to beat the best teams and if they can’t beat the best teams, then they’re not going to be a winning team and they’re damn sure not going to be a Super Bowl team. The Jets 3rd down conversion rating over the last few years has been indicative of everything outside of a winning team.
Here’s my science of the correlation between 3rd down conversions and winning teams. According to the statistics of the Team Rankings website, for the past five seasons, the NY Jets has averaged 37.75% for 3rd down conversions. In 2009, we completed 3rd down conversions 37% of the time, 40.43% in 2010, 34.74% in 2011, 36.87% in 2012, and 38.96% in 2013. That leaves us ranking as the 21st team in 2009, 11th team in 2010, 22nd in 2011, 21st in 2012 and 13th in 2013, on the list of 3rd conversions.
During the most successful season we’ve had in the past five seasons, as winners of the AFC Divisional Playoff game, we also ranked the highest of the last five seasons for 3rd down conversions at 40.43%. Our closest season to making it to the playoffs outside of 2010, was last season, where we ranked our second highest in 3rd down conversions, at 13th.
Now, when you compare these stats to the winning Super Bowl teams of the past five seasons, things get really interesting. The NY Jets’ average for 3rd down conversion rankings is 17th. Every season, excluding the last two seasons, the winning Super Bowl team ranked 12th or lower for 3rd conversions. The last two seasons are particularly interesting because although, both winning teams, the Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks, ranked 18th, neither was the favorite for winning, and in fact, caused unprecedented upsets.
The favored team, during the 2012 AFC championship and the 2014 Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos, ranked 3rd and 1st respectively. In essence, during the past five seasons, the average for 3rd down conversions for the predicted Super Bowl winning team, is only 5th.
When you compare the 3rd down conversions of both winning and losing Super Bowl teams for the past five seasons, almost every team that was favored also held the highest 3rd down conversion ranking, being the Colts in 2010, the Steelers in 2011, the Patriots in 2012, and the Broncos in 2014. Only in 2013, when the 18th ranked Ravens upset the 3rd ranked Broncos in the AFC Championship game, leading them to play the 22nd ranked 49ers, was the lower ranked team favored, being the 49ers (who lost, btw).
3. The Infamous Offensive Line:
This easily leads to my last and most distinct critique, my Jets have a shitty offensive line. 3rd down conversions typically work better when the people meant to protect those with the ball and those seeking to get the ball, actually do their job of protection. Almost every week I watch the Jets, during every season, sitting back and wondering, what tapes our team reviews when they’re back in the locker room? Because if they saw the tapes of the same games I saw, they’d have to see that on any given play, half the O line is somewhere in lala land! Seriously!
I wanted to be extremely happy and overjoyed with our season opener win on Sunday but I just couldn’t pretend like I didn’t see the wildest shit with our joke of an O line. On one hand, we did protect Geno more than last year, and we made more 3rd down conversions than last year, ranking 41.67% in Week One. On the other hand, I watched Geno closely, very critical of his every move and hands down, he is a far better and more mature player than he was last year. In my singlehanded opinion, he grew more in the last year as a player, team leader and quarterback than that bum Sanchez did in his entire career with the Jets.
In any regard, it was often difficult to fully see the extent of Geno’s progress because he was far too often, under pressure, if not being sacked. While everyone is questioning what Geno will do with the ball when under pressure (which he held on almost all of the time btw =), I was asking the same question that I ask every damn game I see any quarterback under pressure, where is their protection?
When Tom Brady throws a blatant interception, the commentators, his coach, teammates and even his damn wife are quick to point the finger at his lack of protection and make point that people on his team aren’t doing their job, disallowing him to do his job. Despite the fact that everyone has a cop out for the fact that Brady’s career is going downhill, despite his team’s ability or lack thereof, there is great truth in the assertion that when his protection doesn’t do their job, he can’t do his job. Simple.
That’s what leads to my confusion about the Jets. How is it that virtually no one whose mouth is big enough to be heard, whether on the team, at the game or on ESPN, is willing to point out the obvious elephant in the room?! Our couch has no clue on how to lead an offense to victory. That fact makes it impossible for our offense to convert on 3rd down, most particularly because our O line refuses to protect the ball or anyone with the ball, albeit the quarterback, running backs, tight end or receivers.
My Week One Conclusion:
Football, more so than other sport I would argue, is the essential team sport! It is literally impossible for one man to win a football game, or a few men, for that matter. Everyone, at every position, has to be fully engaged in their position for your team to be the winning team. It’s really that simple. Look at the last few winning teams. The Seattle Seahawks. The Baltimore Ravens. The NY Giants. The Greenback Packers. The New Orleans Saints. Each of them shared this fact in common, among other important winning qualities; that when it was time to win, every player in each position did his job, helping every other player succeed at their job.
The NY Jets is a winning team! In spirit, in practice and I pray this season, in reality! We have the talent, skills, drive and determination. We just need a little more direction and a more concrete team leader to say the obvious out loud. Rex is fucking confused and should stick to defense, 3rd downs are a fucking must if you want to keep a job on the team and if you can’t do your job on the offensive line, then go sit down and watch someone else do it. Instead of a quarterback competition, we should begin considering an offensive line competition. I’ll bet that will get Geno more protection.
Anyway, I leave my Jets family with these words for week 2, we’re better than the rest and it’s time for everyone else to see what we’ve already known! Let’s show them what we’re really made of! Until next time, peace, love, joy, and more W’s!