The 2011 season was a failure. There's no denying that. But it wasn't because we didn't win the Superbowl or because we didn't go on a deep playoff run. It was a failure because of organizational arrogance. It started at the top and it trickled down to every player in the lockerroom. They all drank the kool-aid and bought their own BS. In the movie Scarface, drug dealer Frank Lopez imparted some very prescient words of wisdom for young upstart Tony Montana. One of his famous "lessons" included this little nugget: "Don't get high on your own supply." Well 2011 was a bit of a binge for the Jets
, and now its rehab time.
We saw the beginnings of this... intoxication as early as the 2010 pre-season, during Hard Knocks. We saw how self-congratulatory Mike T was with himself for the Santonio Holmes
acquisition. Literally pointing "that guy" that he got out and then slapping himself between the shoulder blades until he bled. We saw Rex's fiery "see what happens" tirade at Revis' agents during his holdout (referring to how well his defense would perform in the first game of the season against Baltimore without Revis). We then saw this team enter the 2011 season completely content with the safety and right tackle positions, despite the obvious lack of talent there. Heck, we even took a big bong hit and then traded away a key piece at safety for peanuts for absolutely no logical reason at all, footballwise or monetarily. I guess we figured "eff it... we got to the AFC Championship game two years straight with no talent at the position, guess we can stick any stiff with a heartbeat back there and still have a top of the league defense." Brilliant. It was really generous of Rex & Co. to let every single TE we faced have a career game against us. But hey, we were still ranked top 5 over all, right? [Slow clap]
Fortunately, despite the disappointment, we still finished the 2011 season 8-8. I say its fortunate because it will only take a couple of minor tweeks to get us back to where we want to be. And I think that just the refocus of the task at hand will do that for us. An increase in overall talent will make us very very dangerous. I mean, seriously... if a couple coulda shoulda woulda losses turn into wins (i.e. Oakland, Denver and Miami) and we're at least 10-6 and poised for a playoff push. I'm in the camp that believes that a recommitment to the running game will do wonders for the offense.
Last season we went 3-wide with a crappy Derrick Mason
in the slot. We lost our identity, and by the time we got it back it was too late. I think the simple shift back to ground and pound will do wonders. Its not just a shift in scheme, but its also a shift in mentality. From what they're saying, we're going to be more aggressive. Lineman will be aggressively coming off the ball and imposing their will. Running backs will be attacking the with the football and will be better able to establish a rhythm with more carries. And we'll be attacking down field in the passing game. I think that just this subtle shift in mentality from passive/reactive to aggressive will do more than anything else to improve the offense overall. The defense, however, needs an infusion of talent.
The defensive line looks ready. Pouha and Devito are pillars. Wilkerson looked really solid last year with the potential to be dynamic. I though Dixon was surprisingly solid with the potential to be dynamic as well. Kenrick was a bit of a disappointment, but I think he was really hurt by the lock-out and not being able to get more individual coaching. This year we'll see what we really have with Kenrick. With guys like Wilkerson, Ellis and Dixon I'm really hoping we start to transition to more 40 fronts this year. I think those guys could really beast in more of an attacking style of play. And with the league becoming so pass heavy, defenses are going to be forced to generate a pass rush using only 4 guys. Hopefully we can grab a couple long,athletic pass rushers in the draft. Guys like Andre Branch and Chandler Jones are protypical. They're both probably better suited to be 43 DEs (especially Jones), but they're both athletic enough to rush the passer from a standing position as a 34 OLB. The linebackers as of right now look old and slow.
Pace, Thomas and Scott need to go. I'd like to add Mychal Kendricks in the draft if we could. He'd add a lot of much needed athleticism in the ILB spot; and if we go to more 40 fronts, he can play in the middle and we can slide David Harris
over to the strong side. If we plan to stay in more 30 fronts, I'd like to add guys like Bruce Irvin and/or Shea McClellin to the OLB spot. Irvin is an athletic speed rusher, McClellin is a versatile, high intesity guy. The safeties need a desparate infusion of talent.
We've begun the process with the signing of Landry. But its only a one year deal, so we need to find a replacement, and need a free safety NOW. I really like Harrison Smith
. He's got the size and range to play in the box or single-high deep, and he seems to have a knack for making plays (picks, strips, etc). I'm also really intrigued by Markelle Martin to play the FS spot.
All in all though, I really think that we're in a good position. Our 8-8 2011 season will sober us up a bit. So far the inflammatory rhetoric has been toned down, there's been no splashy free agency signings... It seems we're finally getting down to business. It seems we're valuing the guys that we have, like Bryan Thomas
and Sione Pouha
, that can make a contribution and give us solid depth. If Landry stays healthy, our defense will be on another level with his ability to make dynamic plays. The natural progression of guys like Kyle Wilson
, Mo Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis
will make that group even more formiddable. A recommitment to the running game and an establishment of an offensive identity will do wonders for our offense. With a couple of good picks in the draft, 2012 Jets have the potential to be a very good team.