As I reflect on the last three days of the 2013 NFL draft and the players selected, I felt a little deja vu There are some developing talented individuals and some areas of strength, but the team hit a nadir in 2012 and needed a new philosophy and influx of talent. Before the draft I had commented in several posts that Idzik reminded me some of Jim Kensil, who built the Jets teams of the late 70's and early to mid-80's, a time Idzik was around the team because his father was coach during the early years of that time. When Kensil took over the team had literally hit rock bottom. The last few years of living on the glories of Joe Namath's early promise were over, the aging stars had finally departed, and while there were a few talented players, the team had no identity and no hope. Their best player of the time, John Riggins, had left via free agency after the 1975 season.
Kensil came in 1977, and started, with the 1978 draft, to build on the areas where the team did have some talent - the offensive and defensive lines Walt Michaels was a defensive minded coach who left his offense to the most part to his offensive coordinator, first Idzik Sr., then Joe Walton. The first few drafts were solid but unspectacular, but eventually came Wesley Walker, Freeman McNeil. Mickey Schuler, Mark Gastineau and others to complement Joe Klecko, Joe Fields, Randy Rasmussen, Marty Lyons, Abdul Salaam, Greg Buttle and the other meat and potatoes guys on the team. The Achilles heel of this team was never finding that magic QB to be the final piece of the puzzle, although Ken O'Brien was a lot better than people who crucified him at the time ever gave him credit for being. He just came two years too late.
If you look at the current Jets the strongest parts of the team - relatively speaking - would be the defensive secondary and the defensive line. What areas also have the best position coaches? Defensive line with Dunbar and secondary, where the prior coach Thurman is now the DC. Everywhere else is area of need. Looking at the draft, where were the strongest and deepest areas? They were defensive line, offensive line, OLB (at least in the first two rounds), and the defensive backfield.
Looking at the depth of the draft, I think the Jets did rank their players and in the first two rounds went BPA. The fact that the two players in round 1 were in the teams strongest areas was irrelevant. You can never have enough defensive backs in this era of passing offenses, and if you can't generate a pass rush from the linebackers you do it from the line. The Giants have shown you can never have enough good defensive lineman, and it never hurts to make a strong area stronger. Plus, this isn't the 1980's, where teams ran 40-50 plays on offense a game. Teams are running 60-70, and this year some teams may even hit 80 a game. You need to have a strong rotation to keep your lineman fresh over a game and over a 16 game season.
After the second round I think the Jets made a virtue of necessity and focused on making the offensive line a source of strength again. There were very few can't miss playmakers in this draft, and playmakers can't do much if the plays break down because of the failure in the line. The added Ivory as the 4th round "pick" and a new fullback who can block and catch in the 7th, to strengthen the running game - which is what carried Sanchez his first two years and should help take some pressure off of Smith. Also, the short dump and screen passes behind a strong blocking line can also make life easier for a young QB. The other three picks were probably the BPA's on the offensive line at that time. They added two more lineman as FA's and signed some more as UDFA's. And a common theme of all these picks is that they play with attitude.
I think the goal this year is to becoming stronger and ultimately be dominant in future years on the lines. The other holes this year will be plugged with FA's and other team's training camp cuts. The players returning from injuries or that were projects last year will have a chance to show what they can do. Then, based on the players' performances in 2013, Idzik and his staff will assess the team the same way they did before this draft, and probably follow the same program of early BPA followed by targeted BPA in areas of need Time will tell if I'm right, but in my opinion this is the right way to go about rebuilding a team that will be competitive for the long haul. It make until 2015 until we see the results, but look at the Seahawks as a template. They had two years of head scratching drafts and player moves, and then by the third year of Schneider's plan, they became a team that no one wanted to play. We can only hope for the same results.
One last point. The Belichick-Brady era is coming to an end. I think they have at most a two year window to grab a Super Bowl, and maybe only this coming season. There were already signs of decay in Brady's play last year, and his ability to raise the team and mask the weaknesses of the drafts and personnel moves the Pats have made the last few years is declining. In two years, there will be a changing of the guard in the AFC East. The Dolphins have made the kind of moves the Jets made when Rex first got here to win now with a young QB. If they don't they will probably find themselves in the same salary cap bind we are emerging from. The Bills are a mess and I don't think their draft helped them as much as everyone thinks. If the plan I think Idzik appears to be following is executed properly, and we find those last, hardest pieces to the puzzle - the prime time playmakers on offense and defense, the QB who can make plays and will his team to victory - then the Jets will be poised to be the successors. And that's something to root for, as I did when the same plan was executed 35 years ago. And if the Idzik teams become as exciting to watch as those Kensil teams were, then it will make all the lean years worthwhile.