This article is not about looking backwards. In the last 4 years, the Jets put together a good, some would say great, team, but its becoming increasingly difficult to argue that the Jets are not on a downward slide. Through 8 games played, the season is not over yet, but the team has structural weaknesses which make it doubtful that a successful season can still be salvaged.
The Jets roster as presently constituted can no longer be fixed with a star player or two. The starting 22 (discounting injuries), has an average of of 6.2 yrs played. There are 5 starters on their 2nd decade of service. By contrast, there are only 3 (4 if you count Kerley) starters on rookie contracts. It can be argued that up to 10 of the 22 starters need to be resigned, replaced, or substituted for. To counter that, the Jets have some $24mil in available cap space (please see previous discussion on the cap). Not nearly enough to reload through free agency.
Barring an unlikely rush to the playoffs which would let the Jets persist in their current model, this team has to be reconstituted, and this will require a minimum of 2 years because of cap restrictions in 2013. The new team needs to have a new vision and a new set of priorities. Old loyalties have to be severed. Some existing productive players with full market contracts need to be let go. Its not impossible to do all this with the existing GM, but it is much more feasible to accomplish with a new GM that has an objective and neutral stance regarding the roster. The number one priority for the new GM will be to find value in the draft. The new GM needs to have a proven eye for determining value in young players.
Step 2 in this process is to replace the Head Coach. It is essential for the new GM and the new HC to share the same vision, and not to be compromised by theories of things which may have worked in the past. Ryan is relatively young. Hopefully, he will get another chance. But it needs to be somewhere else.
Step 3 is to do everything possible to acquire productive young players and the easiest way to do this is to reverse the trend of current years and to trade down in the draft, early and often, in order to acquire more picks at lower prices. If the Jets in fact pick in the top 10 and have a chance to draft a player like Jarvis Jones, I would urge that they resist the temptation to fill an obvious need with a potential star. They are not one player away anymore, and many positions need to be upgraded. The only scenario which should change this strategy is if a QB becomes available that the new management team really believes in.
That leads to the final step, finding a new QB. Many have argued that Sanchez should and will be the starter in 2013 because of his additional guaranteed year. I would argue the opposite, that the only way Sanchez should remain the starter is if there are no other QB's to be had. Teams all over the NFL are looking up and playing with an optimistic outlook because they have found young QB's on rookie contracts that show winning potential. QB is unlike any other position. It is almost always the focal point of the team, and the priorities of moving forward and rebuilding start here.
One final point, I am aware that there are many contributors here who are significantly younger than myself. They may not have much experience beyond the Jets' most recent rise to prominence under Tannenbaum and Ryan. The Jets current losses and the thought of firing everybody and starting over is overly repugnant and seems like a tremendous lack of loyalty from critical fans. But all of this is OK. This is what happens to every franchise at various times, and quite often over the years. Calling for the replacement of Tannenbaum, Ryan and Sanchez does not mean that everybody hates them. Its just that the NFL is extremely competitive. Weaknesses are not tolerated. Turning a franchise around is not nearly as difficult and time consuming as it used to be and basement teams this year can become legitimate contenders next year. New beginnings are sometimes a necessary and positive requirement, as painful as it may be.