With the season over it's time to look back and reflect on the things we learned about the people we have, the people we should have, and the people we we wish we didn't have:
Geno Smith is not an Elite QB - in my opinion there are many kinds of QBs: Stars (Peyton, Brady, Brees), potential stars (RG3, Newton, Luck, Wilson), deserving starters (Romo, Flacco, Eli), guys who can play at a high level or a low level at any given time (Cutler, Dalton, Palmer), guys who can play good once in a blue moon (Sanchez, Campbell, Cassel), and the dregs/busts/rest (Simms, Clemens, Gabbert). As far as Geno Smith goes, we've seen too much of the Sanchez or Gabbert-style football and barely any star-caliber ball to say with certainty that he can be a real star - a Top 10 QB. But there is evidence to support that he can become a player like Jay Cutler and maybe even grow into a Flacco or Romo type QB. We won't no for sure yet, which leads me to the next thing we learned.....
The Jets Need REAL Offensive Weapons (Speed Preferably) - As much as people may want to say that this team could've/should've won more games considering how well Kerley and Nelson were playing at times, we need players that can jump up and fight viciously for a ball (and win 50+% of the time), or can get real separation from DBs so the QB can throw into larger windows. Another RB or two who can catch the ball out of the backfield wouldn't hurt - Ivory can't catch at all and Powell can't execute a screen pass.
Ducasse vs. Winters Means Everyone Loses - Ducasse deserved to be benched when he was, but Winters did not deserve to start this year. Winters' poor blocking played a critical role in the 3-game losing streak that cost the Jets a trip to the playoffs. If the battle for the LG spot in 2014 is between the two of them, the Jets will struggle mightily. They need someone better to secure the spot.
Kerley and Nelson Belong on this Roster - Two straight years Kerley has been the leading Jets receiver and two straight years he has proven that when he plays well the team plays well. He will be a reliable #3 or even an emergency #2 WR for a while. Nelson is a nice safety blanket with a body like a TE that can catch a ball in traffic - he should stick around, heal up and return to a high level of play. On the other hand.......
Holmes and Hill Do NOT Belong on this Roster - Holmes no longer has a place on this team. His attitude, his inability to get open, his increasing age and declining speed do not give him the latitude to remain on the Jets with his contact as it is. Meanwhile, the mistake that makes me really hate Tannenbaum to this day is that we took Hill instead of Alshon Jeffrey. Even when he wasn't injured (which wasn't often enough) he was either not getting open, not fighting for the ball and not catching the ball, hence his lengthy drought. Idzik has nothing to prove by keeping Hill around so he should force Hill to fight for his roster spot in 2014.
Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell Make a Good (but not great) Team - These are two guys that with the right blocking can win a lot of extra yards. If you merged their strengths into one player he would be a perennial Pro Bowler - but as of now: Ivory can make big plays but can't catch and lacks breakaway speed, while Powell can catch but lacks big plays and breakaway speed. See the connection? The Jets need to find someone who is a burner in the open field a la C. Johnson or McCoy to compliment those guys - then the backfield will be truly Great with a capital G.
Dee Milliner is OK - I can't say based on what I saw this year if Milliner will ever live up to his draft position. But with his last 2 games against two very good WRs he proved that he probably won't be the eternal disappoint Kyle Wilson has been.
The Secondary Needs Ballhawks - If Cromartie were really as hurt as he claimed to be he probably shouldn't have been on the field in the first place. Then again, to the coaching staff Cromartie at 50-70% may have seemed better than Walls or Trufant at 100%. Nonetheless, after following-up a Pro Bowl year with one of the worst defending seasons we've ever seen - Cromartie can't stay in NY with his current contract. There must be a restructure. Meanwhile, Dawan Landry vastly underwhelmed as a SS starter and I think we can agree Antonio Allen will earn more reps once Ed Reed finally leaves town. By the way, I think Ed Reed starting at safety in the 3-game stretch was a huge mistake. This secondary needs guys who can attack the players who get the ball and prevent YAC, and more importantly - attack the ball itself and get some darn turnovers.
Our D-Line Gets No Respect....Because it Doesn't Deserve it yet - Wilkerson had a great season, but unless he can harass the QB every play and becomes unblockable 1-on-1 (which he wasn't against Bryant McKinnie - I saw with my own eyes), he won't get 10+ sacks again and certainly won't have a shot at the Pro Bowl again. Meanwhile, Richardson and Harrison play non-glamour positions that won't see them get any accolades until they start pressuring the QB. Which leads to my next point.....
It Doesn't Matter How Good You At Stopping the Run / If You Can't Stop the Pass You Can't Win - This is a passing league. Being the #1 rushing defense won't make you a #1 defense, much less a #1 team. The 2009 Jets had an awful run defense, but a great pass defense, which is why they went to the AFC Championship game (albeit with help from a resting Peyton). If you allow 50 yards rushing but 300 yards passing every game, defenses get worn out having to play catchup all the time. The blowouts started happening when the team started giving up the massive passing plays - not the huge run plays. Tennessee, Cincinnati, Buffalo #2, Miami #1, New England #1 - those were games where we could've survived with a below-average run defense, but really needed a better pass defense.
We Have a Kicker We Can Rely On - As much as Folk's misses upset people, I'd like to remind everyone of a few interesting facts about Folk: 1. A Folk miss has never been the cause for a loss - i.e. he has never missed a potential game-winning kick that ultimately cost his team the game (his games against the Browns and Lions in 2010 may have, but ultimately did not), 2. He has the 2nd highest FG% of any kicker in the 4th quarter in NFL history - I checked the stat during the season and discovered that only Stephen Gostowski has a higher accuracy in the 4th quarter of games in NFL history. Yeah, this is a guy you want to trust when the game is on the line - as we did in 3 key wins this season.
Cutting Malone and Switching to Quigley May Have Been a Mistake - I know Malone has 1 or 2 games where he really struggled and was ultimately cut, but Quigley was not improvement. It may surprise you to know that Quigley's 45.5 yards per punt was the 3rd highest in team history (minimum 16 punts) - but do you know who has 1st and 2nd? Yup, Robert Malone (2013 - 46.3 on 16 attempts, 2013 - 45.8 on 84 attempts). Something tells me that Mallone had enough leg to turn things around.
Rex Ryan IS the New York Jets - Can we name one NFL team that is represented by its coach and not one of its players? No, because with his combination of bravado and player loyalty to him he has become a star on his own that the NFL has frankly not seen since Nick Saban briefly coached the Dolphins. For better or worse, the Jets are represented by a coach and not a player, which is probably why Woody Johnson feels Rex is too important to the team to let go despite falling short of the playoffs once again.
This Offensive Coaching Staff Got the Absolute Most Out Absolutely Average Players - The stars of old like Mangold, Ferguson, and Holmes didn't play up to par by any means, but the guys we picked up off the street midseason like Nelson, Cribbs, Sudfield, and Salas blew me away with how well they were able to play with such a short amount of time to learn and such a low ceiling as far as athletic ability. Kellen Winslow had a mini-rebirth in September, Jeremy Kerley played great and even Bilal Powell suddenly seemed like a star (recording 5+ yards per carry on 3 separate occasions). No one will ever accuse that offense of being great, but they played well above their perceived ability - by the teams that cut them, by the media and even by us at times.
The Team Lacks Discipline - Penalties will kill a team, especially on defense. This team led the league in pre-snap penalties. I don't know myself what leads to pre-snap penalties, but how many great stops were nullified or opponents fading drives given new life because of a free 1st down? Too many for my comfort, and on the offense especially.
Rex Ryan Struggles With the Easy Stuff - Clock management, challenges, timeout usage - all of the stuff that should be academic for coaches seemed impossible for this guy.
Rex Ryan Won't Survive 2014 Without An Improved Offense - The 2013 Jets were able to win 8 games with a combination of good defense with a strong running game (New Orleans, Cleveland, Miami) timely opponents' errors (Tampa, New England #2), injured opponents (Buffalo #1, Atlanta) and a game against the Raiders. But rarely was the offense able to bail out the defense when they found themselves in a 10 point hole against teams like the Ravens and Panthers. For the 2014 season to be a success, the Offense must move into this decade and become a proper passing offense that using the running game as a tool, not a crutch. Whether the Jets have or will have the players on the roster to make that possible is unknown now, but if they don't have that by early next year, Rex Ryan will not be the Jets coach in 2015.