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Game Plan Fail

A look at some questionable coaching decisions in the Jets- Seahawks game.

Kevin Casey

Rex Ryan is 1-3 in his tenure coming off the bye week. That is indicative of some real failures in game planning for opponents. The bye week should be an advantage. It's a chance to rest up and get your guys healthy. It's also a chance to spend additional time and effort in putting together an effective game plan against your opponent. This should in theory translate into a not insignificant advantage when playing your first game coming off a bye. With the Jets that has been anything but the case.

The Seahawks game exposed some of the coaching problems the Jets have. On offense the Jets made the curious decision to go almost exclusively with a short passing game. Yes, the Jets hit on a couple of plays down field. But it seemed that the vast majority of passing plays were short throws of ten yards or less, many 5 yards or less. For the most part these were not checkdowns, or outlet passes thrown in desperation when all other options failed. Rather, it seemed like most were designed plays, with the short route being the primary option.

This was a curious decision on two levels. First, it plays to Sanchez's most glaring weakness as a passer. He is simply the worst QB in football at the short stuff, struggling to complete even 50% of his passes on the shortest and simplest routes. He exhibits absolutely no touch on his short passes, throwing them too hard, too soft, wide, high, low - you name it, Sanchez does it, badly, with his short throws. In addition, Seattle's big, physical corners play almost exclusively press coverage, providing extremely tight windows on the short stuff. The way to attack such aggressive coverage is going with a max protect alignment, giving your QB time to wait on a double move. The middle deep stuff, Sanchez's greatest strength, should be effective against the aggressive press coverage Seattle plays, but that was an afterthought on Sunday, as we opted instead for a short passing game that highlighted Sanchez's greatest weakness, while at the same time playing into Seattle's greatest strength. The fact that this is the game plan the Jets' coaching staff came up with after having an extra week to prepare for the Seahawks is a ringing indictment of this coaching staff's abilities and a good indicator of why the Jets struggle so much coming out of the bye.

Another curious aspect of the game on Sunday was Lex Hilliard's blitz pickups, or lack thereof. On several occasions Hilliard allowed an edge blitzer to come through completely untouched. It wasn't a case of him getting beat or being late on a block - Hilliard never made the slightest effort to go after the blitzer, choosing instead to focus on helping out against the inside rushers. Now, this could have simply been a really bad game by Hilliard. But one of the reason's the Jets picked him up this year was to help out in pass protection and blitz pickups. He is supposedly pretty good at this. Yet he didn't just fail to pick up the blitz in time, it was like he never saw it coming. This leads me to think that perhaps he did not blow his assignments. Perhaps he was told to ignore the outside blitzer in this game, and to focus solely on helping with the interior rushers. That certainly appeared to be his mindset. There's no way to know if this was on Hilliard or on the coaches, but if the Jets defensive game plan instructed the backs to ignore Bruce Irvin on the outside in favor of picking up the inside rushers, then this too was an epic fail in Jets game planning.

It appears that one of the hallmarks of the Ryan era is a continual failure to put together effective game plans on offense. As limited as Sanchez is, the coaching staff fails to pick up on those limitations and put him in the best possible situations for him to succeed. While there is plenty of blame to be attributed to Sanchez for the Jets offensive failures, the Seahawks game was yet another reminder of how inept the offensive game plans continue to be, even after the departure of Schotty. Ultimately, the buck stops with Rex. It is his team, his staff, and ultimately, his offense. He and his staff must find a way to better put the team's limited offensive talent in the best position to succeed.