From the very beginning, this game had ugly written all over it. Two dumb penalties on the Miami Dolphins' opening drive and their successful onside kick were an ugly harbinger of things to come. Throughout the game, the New York Jets continually Plaxico'd themselves in the foot, leg, and face. I don't say that to mean the Dolphins didn't earn this win, or that the Jets handed it to them. They earned it, fair and square. But what we witnessed today was, on the Jets side, an undisciplined, inconsistent, and maddeningly frustrating team.
Before I go into the recap, take a deep breath. Maybe walk around the block once or twice. Horrific losses like this, especially ones that the Jets should win, or at least compete in, bring out the worst in people.
First, the positives. To be frank, there were very few positives to come out of this game. Clyde Gates, Dustin Keller, Muhammad Wilkerson, Isaiah Trufant all looked good. Nick Folk and Robert Malone were decent. That's all I'm able to think of.
Next, let's move to the bad. To the special teams meltdown. I honestly can't remember the last time the Jets had a special teams collapse quite like this. First came the successful onside kick by the Dolphins. Then they blocked Robert Malone's punt and returned it for a touchdown. Then they blocked Nick Folk's field goal attempt. When the Jets almost broke a Clyde Gates kick return for a touchdown, he was knocked down by his own teammates with not much left in his path. It was just a total, epic, collapse. Mike Westhoff is going to have nightmares watching the film on this one. I saw someone joke that they knew Westhoff was retiring, but they had just hoped he did it after the season, not before this game. Joking or not, without watching the film, I don't know if the fault lies with his schemes or the player's execution, but the way they executed everything else (which is to say, they didn't), I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
The offensive line in this game was just brutal. There was almost zero push whenever the Jets tried to run the ball. They had a few good plays, most notably Shonn Greene's 37-yard run, but for the most part, the blocking was not there. I've been saying this for a while, but it's time to replace Matt Slauson with Vlad Ducasse. They're comparable in pass protection, but Ducasse is far superior as a run blocker, and has significantly more potential. As for pass protection in general, it was pretty bad. Austin Howard was getting manhandled on the edge with Cam Wake's speed. I'm not an offensive line expert, but I wonder how much the line is to blame for all of Mark Sanchez's batted down passes. When the line can't keep the defender engaged, they can get their hands up and tip it. Sanchez was pretty horrific, as I'll discuss below, but I will say that it's difficult for any quarterback to do much when the run game isn't working and there's barely any pass protection to ease some of the pressure.
I mentioned Sanchez above. Well, here's the rest of it. Sanchez was horrific. Horrible. Horrifying. Horrendous. Hideous. Heinous. You get the idea. I'm over-exaggerating a bit for emphasis, but I think it's time we put the Sanchez debate to bed. John B. said it best when it looks like Sanchez will never be more than a good backup, but a bad starter. What magic he had in his first two seasons, when he was running around and throwing bombs and having fun, is gone. He's still making so many of those rookie mistakes. I don't know that Tim Tebow or Greg McElroy would be any better. Tebow offers more of a running threat, and McElroy is more accurate on short passes. I do believe that it's time to bench Sanchez though. Rex Ryan said in his post-game press conference that Sanchez would remain the starter, but accountability has to start at the top. Personally, I'd rather see McElroy in there than Tebow. If I were Rex, I'd bench Sanchez and give the team the bye to adjust.
We've been discussing drafting a new quarterback for a while. You all know I'm on the Geno Smith train. Although he hasn't been quite as amazing as he was early in the season, I still stay firmly onboard. Who else should the Jets start looking at? Matt Barkley? Tyler Bray? Aaron Murray?
Rex Ryan simply did not have the Jets prepared to play today. They were out-executed and out-coached by a mediocre, at best, Miami team. Even after the Jets knocked out Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins were forced to rely on their backup, they still dominated the game. Do you think the same would have happened if the Jets had lost Sanchez? This was a full loss by everyone on the team, although mostly on the offense and special teams.
I'm not sure who, if anyone, from the front office or coaching staff I'd like to see go, like Juan Castillo of the Philadelphia Eagles or Marty Hurney of the Carolina Panthers, at this point in the season. Tony Sparano has had half of one season as the offensive coordinator and has very limited talent to work with. There is no good replacement to Rex Ryan if he were to get the boot (which he won't). Even if Mike Tannenbaum is the goat, what will that do? Trade deadline is coming up anyway, and what can a temporary general manager do this far into the season? We'll need a homerun GM in the offseason, so getting rid of him now and using a probably inferior temp doesn't make much sense.
The mark of this team, heading into the bye, is inconsistency. It's been a roller coaster of a season, starting off high, dropping unimaginable depths against the San Francisco 49ers, a steady climb back up with gutty games against the Houston Texans and New England Patriots, and then this complete collapse. There doesn't seem to be a steady hand guiding the team that's keeping them playing at a consistent level. As we said after the loss to the 49ers, there are a lot of problems with this team, and there are no easy solutions. And the worst part about this, at least in my view? That this happened on Dennis Byrd Day. He, along with all of us fans, deserve better than the showing we saw today.