We all know how close the Jets have come the last two years to reaching the SB. All we fans know what the weaknesses were with the Jets prior to the lockout (rushing the QB and covering TEs and RBs over the middle), but did our FO? My analysis after the jump.
With the lockout, absence of OTAs and mini-camps, the late start to TC and FA, in my opinion (and that of many others on this board based on comments I have read) is that the wisest course of action would have been to keep the core together...to re-sign as many of the Jets' own FAs as possible. Those guys already know the system, had great chemistry, want to be here, and the team has had a lot of success with them. With the shortened time to prepare for the season, this would have had the team the best prepared for the season as possible.
With the lockout, and having their two top WRs FAs, that created a third major area of concern.
To address these areas of need, there were different ways they could have approached them. With the WRs, I'm assuming they knew they wouldn't be able to re-sign both Holmes and Edwards, so they would have to choose who they thought would be the best option for the team and do their best to re-sign him. For the other spot, they could seek to sign an older name FA, seek to sign a younger FA, or hope that Patrick Turner or one of their two young WR draft picks (Kerley and McKnight) would be able to contribute immediately. While I don't agree with their choice of Holmes over Edwards, I can understand why they made the choice they did. amd can't fault them too much for that, although I do think they weakened both the passing and running games by not bringing back Braylon. I'm not a fan of Burress at all, and have to wonder at his age and with a 3-year layoff from the game if he'll be able to contribute anything at all, but prefer him over T. Owens. IMO, the plan to bring in Moss, Burress or TO to replace BE was idiotic. I think the better move would have been to go after a young receiver like Floyd or Naanee.
With regards to the pass rush, in a traditional 3-4 alignment it is usually the OLB who rushes the QB, but Rex seems to prefer using the blitz and DBs to get to the QB. One can make the point that they possibly improved the pass rush by drafting Wilkerson and Ellis, as both should consistently draw double teams and more push and energy than Devito or the gray beards the Jets have had on the DL for the last year or two, but neither has done anything on an NFL field yet. With Thomas' contract up following the 2011 season, and Pace's after the 2012 season (I believe), a fair point could be made that they perhaps should have looked to sign young players with potential, or mid-tier FAs that would improve the depth, and hopefully be able to step in and contribute by at least mid-season, then be ready to take over for Thomas next season and Pace within another season or two. That would have caused the least disruption to the lineup and kept the team intact, and wouldn't have presented a big financial risk. In addition, their two best blitzing DBs last year were Coleman and Ihedigbo. They allowed Coleman to sign elsewhere and have only just now reached out to Ihedigbo. Why not re-sign those guys immediately? With supposedly greater push from the DL in 2011, they should have been even more effective as blitzers.
With regard to covering TEs and RBs over the middle, that is usually the responsibility of the LB corps. None of the Jets' LBers have the footspeed or skills to successfully cover TEs or RBs over the middle. Further, none of the Jets' safeties last year, outside of Pool perhaps, had that ability. Nothing was done to address that in the draft, and to date, nothing has been done to address that glaring need in FA either. The Jets' chief rival, the Pats, has two good young TEs and also a receiver in Welker who exploit the middle of the field. If the Jets plan to be able to consistently beat the Pats, they really need to address this weakness and be able to shut down the middle of the field. There is at least one OLB available in FA who is very good at covering TEs and RBs over the middle, Manny Lawson. Matt Roth may be another. At any rate, there have to be better players than Cody Brown and Jamal Westermann.
In addition, surely Michael Huff or one of the FA safeties has to be better in coverage than E. Smith and Leonard. I am totally puzzled why the Jets have not made a move to sign a S in FA, didn't take one with one of their lower round draft picks, or sign one of the "better" UDFA safeties.
So far in FA at least, it seems the Jets three top priorities were re-signing Holmes, adding Nnamdi Asomugha and Todd Heap. I can understand Holmes. I can even understand going after Aso, but don't think it was the wisest course of action. I think Rex was thinking more like a fan than a HC. Yes, potentially Aso and Revis could have shut down opposing receivers and been the best CB tandem in the history of the game. As much fun and as exciting as that would have been, it wouldn't have necessarily gotten the Jets over the hump and into the SB, as it wouldn't really have significantly addressed either the pass rush or their inability to cover TEs and RBs over the middle. It would have used most of the Jets' cap space, and left little money for even re-signing some of their own depth players, much less bringing in any upgrades at S. Injuries are a part of the game, and with the questionable depth that would have left the Jets with, the season could have unraveled very quickly with a major injury or two. Further, I think the pursuit of Aso reveals a serious flaw in the Jets' FO. I think that flaw is arrogance and I think both Tanny and Rex are consumed by it. Tanny thinks he can sign anyone he goes after. Rex obviously must have read what many Jets fans have been saying that all players love him and would love to come play for him. He also must be too much in love with his unorthodox ways of attacking opposing offenses. IMO, the wiser and safer course, that should have paid the most dividends for the team, would have been to target and OLB and S, and after re-signing their own FAs who were priorities, going after them. The other thing about the Aso pursuit, as with some of the FO's other moves in the past, is that they never seem to have a Plan B or Plan C in place. They always seem to be reactive, flying by the seat of their pants and scrambling on the occasions when things don't work out the way they want them to.
Similarly, I don't understand going after Todd Heap. Yes, he's a very good or great player. It would have helped ease the loss of BE in terms of blocking for the running game and given Sanchez another big target over the middle. The problem is that Brian Schottenheimer is clueless on what to do with the talent he already has had on hand. There would be little time for Heap to even learn the system, much less for Schottenheimer to think of creative ways to use him. We know that Schottenheimer is at his worst when he over thinks and tries to get too creative. He needs to stick to the basics, i.e., maximizing the strengths of his offensive players, hiding their weaknesses, game planning to take advantage of mismatches, and learning how to call a game. He has too many formations and is too predictable. He wastes time. He has too many plays that don't work that he continues to use. He needs to learn how to keep Dustin Keller involved in games and to fit in Kerley, both McKnights and Bilal Powell. Heap would just complicate that further.
Another issue is that the OL is also far from set. While Heap would have helped some with the blocking, RT is a big question mark, and with Brandon Moore being very limited still, even RG will be a question mark to start the season. Why not bring in a cheap veteran OL to push Hunter and Ducasse?
To be fair, the Jets may have talked to some of the players I've mentioned or have plans to talk to them or others that would address these areas of need. I'd just like to see more movement. I believe the Jets were used and abused in the Aso negotiations and wasted almost the whole week. While they didn't have the cap money the Eagles did, they still could have had plans in place to go after several players and quickly get them. Again, they might have had such plans, but we have seen/heard no evidence of that.
I love Rex Ryan as a defensive football coach, and still have hopes that he will learn as a HC, but I'm starting to think that as long as he is saddled with Schottenheimer and Tannenbaum, the Jets will never win a SB. They will be very good every year, but never get over the hump. Tanny is a number cruncher and cap guy. He knows nothing about building a football team talent-wise, and has no clue how to evaluate players. He goes after the players that Rex and the scouting dept. tell him to. The GM's job is to put together the team and let the football coach, coach those players. Unless or until the Jets add a President or GM like Ozzie Newsome, Ron Wolf, or the Steelers or Colts GMs, I fear the drought will continue and we will continue to be frustrated.