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New York Jets: A Rock and a Hard Place

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

As fans, we want there to be easy answers. We want to believe our team's problems are easily fixable because if they cannot be, a year of our lives is being wasted watching a hopeless team. If you travel through SB Nation's team blogs, recurring themes in the comments for struggling teams are that a coach needs to be fired or a player needs to be benched. Doing these things will fix the problem because a replacement coach will know exactly how to fix what is wrong, and a new starter will clearly be better.

Unfortunately, these are in many instances not real solutions. That is one reason teams tend to not have as quick of a trigger on moves like these as fans would like. In many cases, a problem turns out to be a fatal flaw.

I think of the Jets offense right now when I speak of these things. It is fair to say that nobody is performing at a high level. People are calling for numerous benchings and not without reason. Players like Geno Smith, Brian Winters, and Stephen Hill have played poorly enough that a benching is a fair consideration.

There is one big problem. As fans, sometimes we use idealize backups. We don't see their shortcomings because they don't play. Coaches see them in practice and are frequently not playing them for a reason. What we do as fans, though, is imagine these backups could not be any worse and do not have the same flaws when these players do in reality.

The Jets could replace Geno and Winters. They already seem to have cut into Hill's playing time. There is probably at least some merit to the idea of benching them. The problem is even if the backup is no worse, that will not fix the problem. If the backup is not a substantial improvement, the same problems will persist. At almost every position on offense, the Jets would be inserting a backup who would struggle to make most NFL rosters. Subbing bad player for bad player isn't going to magically turn things around. You can say, "You never know what a guy has until you see him," but really you do in most cases. The percentage of bottom of the roster unproven young guys who amount to anything is miniscule.

Unfortunately, the problem also is not going to be as simple as adjusting a scheme. Again, this goes back to talent. There really is not strong point on the offense. There is no player or group on whom the Jets can lean and have confidence something positive is happening. Think back to 2009 and 2010 when the Jets were cutting Mark Sanchez loose, and it wasn't going well. They eventually adjusted. They had a dominant offensive line they could start leaning on that would blow holes open so big that they could run on anybody. Having that was invaluable. First, the Jets had something they could use to gain positive yardage in almost any situation. Second, defenses knew that and had to dedicate extra resources to stop it, which meant less resources for other things. Suddenly those other things the Jets didn't do so well became less difficult as a result.

Remember how the Jets declared they were going back to ground and pound at points in 2011 and 2012? Remember how that didn't work? It's because ground and pound wasn't a birthright. It was something made possible by a dominant offensive line that was by that point no more.

Look at the St. Louis Rams. They have put up a ton of points in their last two games with Kellen Clemens playing quarterback. Has Clemens actually turned into a good NFL quarterback? Heck no. The Rams are leaning on an excellent run game. They are leaning on Tavon Austin, who got five yards beyond the defense for one easy touchdown pass and took another routine grab over the middle the distance. They are also getting a lot of nonoffensive touchdowns. They can't lean on their quarterback, but they have other players who can carry the load.

Who can pick up the slack for the Jets on offense? It isn't really clear. The offensive line has been bad. The receiving corps is below average with everybody healthy. Chris Ivory has been a disappointment. For all of his fanfare, Bilal Powell is only a little bit better than the guy he was last year aside from one out of context game against the Bills, and Geno Smith is crumbling.

The Jets need better players. If there's something the Jets can lean on right now, that thing is not obvious. Scheme can only do so much. The Jets went extensively into their bag of gimmicks to try and manufacture offense yesterday. A scheme can only maximize what a team can do well, and that isn't clear.

At this point, it is kind of tough to not look back to the first round of the NFL Draft. We all love what Sheldon Richardson has brought to the table, but that selection was a luxury pick in every sense of the word. Richardson's production has been excellent, but it also has made another young asset the team already had, Quinton Coples, obsolete. This isn't to say Richardson was necessarily the wrong pick. We won't really be able to say for years. It is easy to wonder, however, whether Coples could have done a reasonable Richardson imitation and the team might have gotten more marginal value by focusing more on the offensive side of the ball because right now it is not really clear how this team can get out of this funk. The only real easy answer is better talent, and that is not doable right now.