I see plenty of people dying to play devil's advocate on the criticism Jets fans have made of Brian Schottenheimer. Beat writer Manish Mehta today tweeted something to indicate fans are being too critical.
Ques for #Jets fans: Who was last off. coordinator you actually liked? Playcalling isn't perfect. But it's not biggest problem w/O right now
This isn't to pick on Manish. I think he does a good job. The sentiment he asserts is common, though. It's easy to paint the fans as irrational reactionaries. It's easy to do. I don't think this statement, even if accurate, is any reason to really say fans are wrong to criticize Schottenheimer. The offensive coordinator is not the only problem. Those who think just firing Schottenheimer will suddenly turn the Jets into a juggernaut offensively are sorely mistaken. With that said, the man calling the plays is a problem. It's not fair to have a mindset where there is only a single problem. There are numerous issues. Pointing out the problems with the offensive coordinator does not suggest there are no other issues. Making comments like the one above suggest there is no fundamental problem. Let me take you through a few things I've noticed recently that suggest otherwise.
More after the jump.
We'll start with New York's second drive of Sunday's game. Mark Sanchez was 0 for 2 and had gift wrapped a potential pick six for Sean Smith. It looked obvious he was not comfortable in the pocket or reading coverage particularly well. A 3rd and 18 came up. The odds of hitting such a play to extend the drive are scant. I'm usually not a big fan of a conservative play and resigning oneself to punting, but I think it's fair to say the situation called for that. With a young struggling quarterback, the last thing a team wants to do is put said quarterback in a position where he tries to do too much and make a mistake. The Jets took a shot 20 yards down the field, which was intercepted. It was on an out route to Santonio Holmes.
The deep out is the most difficult throw to make in football. The ball has to travel vertically far down the field and horizontally to the sideline. Because of this, it has to be delivered with a lot of velocity, on time, and through a very tight window. There is not much time to fit it into tight space. If you ever hear somebody's arm strength questioned, it regards throws like this, not long bombs. Nolan Carroll, who made headlines later in the game, jumped the pass and picked it off. This led to Miami's first score.
I find that play call difficult to defend. Again, you are in a position where you probably will not make the first down. You ask a quarterback without much confidence to make a difficult high risk pass. It was picked off, and Sanchez ended up deeper in the hole. I don't see how anybody could argue that Schottenheimer put his quarterback in a position to succeed.
Another thing I noticed was that Sanchez killed some plays at the line. Whenever you hear him yell, "Kill! Kill!" it means the team has called two plays in the huddle, and it is on the quarterback to decide whether to "kill" the first call and move to the second. I do think there are times where the quarterback should be able to audible, but doesn't it seem like this is making things too complicated for a guy who is again a struggling young quarterback? Sanchez already looked like a fish out of water. When a quarterback is having problems, coaches need to scale things back and go to basics to build confidence, not make things more complicated.
On another note, Schottenheimer called for the Jets to spike the ball and waste a down on their last drive after a completion. The Jets had huddled before the play. A 2:00 drill is a situation where teams need to call two plays in a huddle so they can avoid wasting a down whenever possible. Despite calling two plays earlier, Schottenheimer didn't do it late in the game, and it cost the Jets.
Let's talk a bit about the passing game now. Matt mentioned in his preview that Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller led the team in targets last weekend. I'm not sure this is necessarily a terrible thing. I did find something rather odd in that the Jets have had five different guys (Keller, Cotchery, Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, and LaDainian Tomlinson) who have led the team in targets in more than one individual game this year. Is that a problem? It could be a sign of balance. However, since the Jets are ranked 20th in the league in pass offense, that might be a difficult sell to make.
I keep thinking back to something I read in the summer where Schottenheimer called his three receivers "interchangable." The Jets do have a lot of different personnel groupings with different receivers. Who is the guy Sanchez can count on, though? There is no guy the passing game runs through or any real theme. The Pats like to spread the ball around in the short passing game that begins with Wes Welker. The Colts use to base their passing game off Marvin Harrison. There was talent surrounding him, but everybody had a role. Wayne was on the other side. Brandon Stokely was in the slot. Manning knew where he could find them and had a consistent progression. Now Wayne is the guy.I have heard that there was a time where Ben Roethlisberger only knew the routes of Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward. There is no indication the Jets have done so. It's not necessarily a necessity, but it again a good idea to clearly define roles to simplify things for a young quarterback. It feels at times like the Jets are more like an All-Star team in their passing game with nobody emerging as the top option, than a real team. There is no first look. There are no guarantees any one guy will even be on the field.
I find these to be real issues with the Jets. They display troubling things to me about the play calling and the overall philosophy. I do not think these are unfair to question. I do not think it is unfair to question the offensive coordinator.