Oftentimes, seasons aren't made in December or January. Success or failure can be predetermined by the moves that the team makes in March and April, but it can be tough to judge a trade or acquisition until September, when the games actually begin. A week into the regular season, we can now say with moderate confidence as to who will be making significant contributions to the team. So, what better time now than now to go back and revisit the transactions that will make or break us down the line.
January 10, 2012; Brian Schottenheimer Announces His Resignation as Offensive Coordinator: This was a glorious day for all New York Jet fans. Schotty was infamous for trying to outsmart the opposition, but this often resulted in outsmarting himself. If Shonn Greene was tearing up the opposition, why not call FIFTY NINE pass plays? The Giants would never expect it, right? If its 3rd and ten, why not send all eligible receivers on curl routes eight yards down field? My personal favorite: on 3rd and one, why try to disguise the upcoming play? Why not line up in the shotgun, with no runners in the backfield. It wouldn't make sense to present the defense with the possibility of a run, right? As a Jet fan, I'm not asking for an offensive genius to come aboard as a play caller. Just having a guy that does what makes sense would be nice, and Schotty was not that guy. This move was officially labelled as Schottenheimer choosing to leave the Jets, but all reports indicated that he was forced out.
January 10, 2012: Bill Callahan Leaves His Position as Offensive Line Coach, Joins Dallas Cowboys in Same Capacity: Callahan was a highly touted assistant coach for the Jets, in charge of an offensive line that performed admirably in 2009 and 2010. It took a dive in 2011, largely due to the incompetence of Wayne Hunter. Is that Callahan's fault? Well...its Callahan that coaches the line, and Callahan that ultimately decides who the best candidate for RT is. Was it Callahan that decided that he could make something of Hunter, and didn't stress the importance of finding a replacement? Perhaps, but losing a respected offensive line coach might hurt the Jets in the long run. On the other hand, maybe a fresh voice was needed. Only time will tell...
January 13, 2012; Named Sanjay Lal Wide Receivers Coach: Lal comes courtesy of the Oakland Raiders, where he developed guys like Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore into legitimate weapons. Hopefully he'll have a positive affect on Stephon Hill and Jeremy Kerley, but he doesn't have the experience of some of his counterparts.
January 11, 2012; Tony Sparano Announced As New Offensive Coordinator: Jets fans were hoping for somebody else (like Todd Haley), but hiring Sparano is a solid move for the Jets. His philospophy on the same page as Rex Ryan's (Schotty's apparently wasn't) and his play calling is a better fit for the team. All things considered, not too bad. Definitely an upgrade. He displayed a very balanced attack against the Bills in week 1...lets hope this continues.
January 24, 2012; Dave DeGuglielmo Hired as Offensive Line Coach: DeGuglielmo was the Dolphins' o-line coach, and Miami runners rushed for almost 2,000 yards last season behind his line. They did struggle in pass protection, so this guy comes with some questions to his resume. He is familiar with Sparano, so that boosts the grade a little.
February 13, 2012; Karl Dunbar Announced as Defensive Line Coach: Dunbar comes highly regarded as one of the premier d-line coaches in the NFL. He was in charge of the Vikings d-line which brought pressure every year, and held opposing running backs down. His defense allowed the least rushing yards and ranked sixth in sacks during his time there. Probably the biggest acquisition of the offseason, given the talent that we have on our defensive line. Coples, Wilkerson, and Ellis could all become beasts under his tutelage.
March 9: Extend Mark Sanchez' Contract: I liked the move. It doesn't necessarily give the Sanchize more money, it just guarantees his contract for a longer period of time. Amidst a pursuit of Payton Manning, this deal may have given Sanchez the confidence he needed going into the season, and he certainly looked in charge during the season opener. I give it a B, but it could become an A if Sanchez proves that last week wasn't a fluke.
March: Bring in Reinforcements for the Defense: Sione Pouha was resigned on a 3 year deal, LaRon Landry was brought in to bully the opposition and shore up the safety spot, and Yeremiah Bell was brought in (albeit in early May) for veteran leadership and solid tackling. I was initially skeptical about Landry (given his injury history), but he is the perfect safety for this defense if he manages to stay on the field. Before his Achilles injury, Dirty Thirty was generally a healthy player, so it wouldn't surprise me if he returns to form.
Grade: INC (If Landry plays 14 games or more, I'd give it an A. If Landry misses more than 5 games, its still a B because he's only on a 1 year deal and the risk was minimal, while the potential reward is huge. Getting Pouha back is also a solid decision, and signing Bell has looked smart up to this point)
March 21, 2012; Trade a Fourth Round Pick for Tim Tebow; I personally believe that Tim Tebow does have some things to contribute to this team, but the attention that he brings along (not purposely, but nevertheless) can throw off the team's dynamic. So far, the team looks to be rallying around the fact that they are receiving all the negative attention, so maybe the downside of this move has been a little overblown. On the field, Tebow will probably contribute minimally, but the preparation time that opponents need to waste on him will help the regular offense succeed. If opponents don't prepare, then Tebow has the talent to break a long run or snap off a bomb out of the wildcat. The Jets have found ways to make it work, but I think it was still poorly thought out.
Draft 2012: Whether you like Mike Tannenbaum or not, you have to admit that drafting two opening day starters in Coples and Hill and two more rotation players in Bush and Davis can be considered a success. Obviously its too early to grade this draft, but early returns are positive.
Grade: INC (But B+ for immediate contributions)
July 24, 2012; Announce Trade for Jeff Otah: This trade shows that the Jets were seriously trying to upgrade the RT position. Otah has all-pro potential, if only he was in shape. Too bad he's never in shape.
Grade: A for effort, F for execution. Try Again!
August 27, 2012: Independence Day, AKA Wayne Hunter Removal Day: August 27 marked the day that the Jets finally traded Wayne Hunter, and they miraculously received a breathing human being in return. The return was actually similarly embattled RT Jason Smith, but Smith is only 26 years old and has the type of potential that allowed him to be drafted #2 overall. Getting rid of Hunter and getting an actual player in return? I salute you, Tanny.
I must note that this didn't actually find a replacement for the RT position, but Austin Howard has looked very solid since being named the starter. 1 regular season game does not make a career, but shutting down superstar Mario Williams is a great start for young Mr. Howard.
Grade: A- (For not doing it sooner, and for not replacing him with an experienced alternative)
Conclusions: Despite what the media has called a "disastrous" off-season, most of Tannenbaum's move look much better now that the regular season has actually rolled around. I still would have liked him to pick up an experienced RT during the offseason, but free agent pickings were slim and teams aren't willing to gift good RT's. Last season, we were plagued by a few problems:
1) Our Offensive Coordinator was awful; he is now gone.
2) Our RT seemed more interested in escorting defenders towards Mark Sanchez then actually blocking them; he is now gone as well, and is replaced by a young guy that looks very promising.
3) Our safeties couldn't cover anybody; they are now replaced by two sold athletes that are very valuable in the middle of the field, even though their coverage skills aren't ideal
4) We didn't have a downfield receiver to make the big play; Stephen Hill provides just that.
5) The defensive line couldn't provide pressure; now Quinton Coples looks like he'll be a beast.
In short, Tannenbaum identified the main problems and worked to solve them. Sure, the team still has issues. The lack of experience at wide receiver and right tackle is concerning, especially if the young guys don't pan out. Trading for Tebow might have screwed up the locker room chemistry, but so it appears that the team is extremely motivated and very much on the same page. There were times that Tannenbaum's moves made me rip my hair out, but the end result looks close to a masterpiece. I give the Jets a solid B+ for the 2012 offseason, with the potential to move up to A- if Laron Landry and Austin Howard succeed.
Sound off, GGN. How would you grade the Jets offseason?