Rather than doing the typical recap style looking at individual performances, I have more scattered thoughts on today’s game and the big picture.
- My opinions on players and coaches evolve over time. Over the last eight games there might be a transformation to change my mind. With that said, right now I really don’t want Jeremy Bates to be the offensive coordinator to oversee Sam Darnold’s development beyond this season.
Bates has to be graded on a curve for the way the Jets offense performed on Sunday. He didn’t exactly have great personnel to begin with, but it was further hampered by his top two receivers and best running back being out of the lineup.
If you look at the league’s great offenses like the Chiefs and the Rams, there are many different elements making them great. Promising young quarterbacks, top notch supporting casts, and the ability to exploit mismatches all are high on the list. Bates had the first, but he was sorely lacking in the latter two.
There is another factor that makes these offenses work so well, however. That is design. The Chiefs and Rams have some of the best drawn up plays around. They make constant use of motions, shifts, formations, and postsnap creativity to stretch defenses, force busted assignments, and create space.
There was a stark difference on display when comparing the plays these teams ran early in the game. The Bears run an offense based on the Kansas City system. If you watched the game, you might have noted that Tony Romo pointed out one downhill run for a back where a receiver ran across the formation to fake a jet sweep. The linebackers were late to fill their gaps defending the downhill run because they had to respect the possibility that the receiver was getting the ball on the sweep. This in turn created space that made the run play easier to block and increased its chances of success. This stood in contrast to the Jets constantly slamming Isaiah Crowell into the line. The great offenses in this league frequently bring a receiver on a fake sweep on their run plays to have this effect. The Rams do it on practically every run play. We don’t see these things with the Jets.
We also don’t see many of the bells and whistles from the Bears offense such as complex motions. The Bears had some read option plays with screen passes built in as backup plans. They incorporated other misdirection concepts into their system.
A well-designed system will create a certain number of successful plays per game based solely on scheme. The design will create an easy read and a big game that is easy to break off because of the space and/or busted assignment created. In this Jets offense, you rarely see players schemed open. Everything seems to be based on guys winning one on one battles.
Yes, Bates and the Jets were dealt a bad hand, but the Bears had to deal with a shaky quarterback who was throwing consistent ducks to open receivers. They were still able to create some big plays solely on scheme.
I have other quibbles with Bates. He was too run-heavy on first downs. Tony Romo said the Jets were protecting Sam Darnold, but unsuccessful runs consistently putting the team in long yardage situations isn’t really protecting the young quarterback. I also would have liked the team to at least try getting the ball to Trenton Cannon in space. But the alternatives might not have worked.
One thing that has been clear is the Jets don’t create easy to execute plays. Bates was out of the NFL for four years, and it shows. I’d prefer the Jets match Darnold with an offensive mind who knows how to make the offense run easier.
I don’t think it would be fair to criticize Bates for failing to deliver 30 points with the ragtag crew he had, but I also think it’s difficult to argue that the offensive coordinator and the system the Jets have are maximizing their chances of having success.
- Jermaine Kearse seems like a pretty popular guy in the fanbase. Two weeks ago we saw what he brings to the table. He is an intelligent receiver who understands how to read coverages, find the soft spots in zones, and utilize leverage. Today we saw that he is a limited, inconsistent receiver. While he’s clearly miscast as a number one option, his inability in this game to beat coverages or win contested catches held back the offense a lot.
- It’s easy to let the offensive line off the hook because they were playing the backup center. But with the way the backup has been playing, he isn’t much of a downgrade from the starter. There are just too many examples of well-compensated players getting manhandled in the run game to ignore.
- With the offense down so many key players, the least the team could do would be avoid shooting itself in the foot with presnap penalties. Mission not accomplished. False starts were a regular part of this game.
- The defense for the Jets was given plenty of gifts in the form of Mitchell Trubisky’s inaccuracy. They were up against a well-designed offense with plenty of playmakers, though. A shutout was not going to happen.
Self-inflicted errors are difficult for me to accept, though. It wasn’t a secret that the Jets were undermanned on offense. The least the defense could do was not make avoidable mistakes.
Instead, we got a long touchdown that was the result of a busted coverage. We had the leader of the defense jumping offsides on a critical third down play on the goal line. We had a cornerback in good coverage not locate the ball.
And then right when the offense finally found a rhythm to get the Jets back into the game late, the defense promptly allowed a touchdown drive to put it out of reach again.
- There has been much debate over whether the current regime is capable of building something special. One vocal group of fans is adamant the answer is no. Another group has a cautious optimism about what Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles are doing.
- My personal view is the cautiously optimistic view is getting tougher and tougher to see. I think that during his tenure Mike Maccagnan has gotten a lot of mileage out of simply not being John Idzik. In a general manager’s first season, it is fair to judge him based on a comparison to his predecessor. By the time we are in year four, however, such comparisons have little relevance. A general manager should be compared to his peers with the league’s elite teams. Is his team among them? Are there signs his team will soon be among them. At this point in time, simply being better than John Idzik is an irrelevant accomplishment. Idzik left behind arguably the worst roster in the league. Asking Maccagnan to improve that is too low of a bar to clear.
What I fail to see is how Maccagnan has the Jets on a trajectory to contend anytime soon. After four Drafts and a bounty of cap space to build, the roster finds itself thin. Yes, the Jets were missing Bilal Powell, Quincy Enunwa, and Robby Anderson. All three of them are credible NFL players. But on a Super Bowl caliber offense, these are supporting role players, not the entire offense.
There is also the matter of depth. Depth isn’t just about having quality backups who can step in when the starter is hurt. It is also about having more than one area of major strength so that when the team suffers a glut of injuries to one key unit, it can lean on another to get by. The Jets clearly don’t have this.
- When it comes to Bowles, one of the biggest topics people discuss is whether he is growing as a coach. It’s tough to argue Bowles is growing when his game management is so poor. A consistent issue reared its head again in this game. The Jets trailed by 14 with the ball in the the fourth quarter. Bowles punted on fourth down.
The punt made no sense. Any reasonable estimation of the game makes it clear that the Jets lose the game if they don’t score a touchdown on that drive. Whether the failure to score comes as the result of a punt, a turnover, or a failed fourth down play is irrelevant. If you don’t punt, there is at least a chance the Jets get the score they need. Punting eliminates that chance and evaporates what small chance the team had of coming back to win.
Bowles has now done something similar to this four times in the Jets’ last forty games. This is not a coach who seems like he is learning and improving.
Coaches can’t control the talent level of their team. For me, the judge of a coach is whether he does everything within his power to maximize his team’s odds of winning. This is just one of many examples to me where Bowles does not.
Next week the Jets travel to Miami to try and avoid a three game losing streak.