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NY Jets: Square Peg, Meet Round Hole

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Why do the Jets have so many players in roles they aren't suited for?

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Parcells was a great coach, one of the greatest that ever lived.  He wasn't an all time great strategist or Xes and Os guy.  He wasn't the greatest offensive or defensive mind.  He wasn't the greatest at making in game adjustments.  He wasn't the greatest talent evaluator, particularly at the game's most important position, quarterback.  Not that he was bad at all these things; he wasn't.  They just weren't the things that made him great.  The one thing that made Parcells great more than any other was that he got the best out of his guys.  Part of that was being a master motivator, knowing just the right way to push his player's buttons.  Another part was Parcells knew how to put each of his players in the best position to succeed.   He didn't insist on having players do things they weren't good at or were uncomfortable with.  Instead, Parcells worked very hard to identify each player's areas of greatest strength and attempt to tailor that player's role on the team to the strengths of said player.

A good example of this was Vinny Testaverde.  When Testaverde was brought in Parcells and his coaching staff were reported to have studied countless hours of tape, seeking to identify the little things that were causing the quarterback's turnover problems.  Among several things Parcells identified was one simple thing: Testaverde was terrible on the run.  So Parcells made sure Testaverde was put in a position to never run unless absolutely necessary, and if he did run, he was instructed to either throw the ball away or run with it, but never try to complete passes on  the run.  The result, after Glenn Foley got hurt in 1998 and Vinny got a chance to play: Vinny's best year as a professional, a year in which he threw only 7 interceptions and posted a miniscule 1.7% interception percentage, nearly 50% lower than any other full season of Testaverde's long career.  It was a simple adjustment, but an important one.  In essence Parcells asked Vinny to stop working on overcoming his weaknesses and simply focus on his strengths.  This is what you're good at, this is what you're not so good at, just go out and do what you're good at.  This very simple philosophy helped Parcells get the absolute best out of his players, always striving to accentuate the positives and put them in the best possible position to succeed.

How does this apply to the present day Jets?  Well, the current team seems to excel in taking precisely the opposite approach.  Have a promising 290 pound defensive lineman who excels at putting his hand in the dirt and interior rushing?  Hey, here's a crazy idea!  Why not turn him into a 290 pound outside linebacker, by far the most massive outside linebacker in the league, and likely in all of league history?  Why not ask him to set the edge, become an edge rusher, and even cover wide receivers on the outside?  That should really put him in position to succeed!

How about that safety the Jets have who showed nothing more than decent cover skills against tight ends?  A guy who has never played cornerback at any level at any point in his life.  Why don't we make him a starting cornerback responsible for taking on All Pro wide receivers one on one?  Let him learn the position on the fly against the best receivers on the planet.  That's sure to put him in a position to succeed.

Then there's that oversized wide receiver converted to tight end.  Here's an idea: let's make him the one tight end in on every play, essentially forcing him into the role of blocking tight end on all running plays and many passing plays.  Never mind that he blocks like a wide receiver; I'm sure he'll catch on.

And how about offensive guard?  We need a guard, why not draft a defensive tackle and turn him into a guard at the pro level?  Never mind he wasn't a very successful player at his natural defensive position in college.  Never mind that his college team had already tried to convert him to guard, and were unsuccessful in doing so.  The Jets are sure it'll work at the pro level, learning the position on the fly against the best defensive tackles in the world.

Wait, we're not through yet.  Have a running back with the worst hands you've ever seen?  Let's make him an important part of the passing attack and throw him the ball four or five times a game.

Have a prized 1st round safety who excels in the box, is a great and instinctive blitzer, and hits like a ton of bricks, but is extremely raw as a pass defender?  Let's play him primarily in single high safety coverage where his first responsibility is as the last line of defense in pass coverage and where he rarely gets to use his skills in pass rushing and run support.  Sounds like a plan.

Have a running back with little power who was brought in for his speed and ability to get outside?  Why not run him straight up the middle every time?

The Jets just sometimes seem hellbent on proving they're the smartest guys in football, and they can make any and every wild experiment work.  Instead of putting players in position to succeed, the Jets seem intent on pushing players outside their comfort zones and making them do things they just aren't very good at.  Call it the anti-Parcells approach, call it square peg meets round hole; call it anything you like.  Just don't call it a very good game plan.