“I wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend.”
These are the Third Eye Blind lyrics that come to mind when I talk to the Jets fans in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Jets lover. They’re one of my least favorite teams in the NFL, but when it comes to the Jets and their fans, I just want them all to know it’s not that bad.
First things first, Rex Ryan needs to go. In order to get better as a franchise, the Jets need to cut ties with the man that runs the show. No longer can Jets fans point back to 2009 and 2010 seasons when they made it to the AFC Championship game. Looking back to the past is preventing them from moving forward.
The bright side is that with one good hire, the Jets can get exponentially better. There are countless examples showing how coaching is important in the NFL. Exhibit A: the San Francisco 49ers.
In the three years before Jim Harbaugh was hired from Stanford to coach the 49ers, the storied franchise that had an unimpressive record of 21-27. Since Harbaugh took over, the Niners are 40-14 and have been one of the most consistent teams in the league. Coaching can go a long way. If there’s one way to turn a franchise around almost overnight, it’s through coaching. All it takes is one good hire, Jets.
The other obvious problem is the quarterback position. It turned very ugly this past Sunday when Geno Smith threw an interception on three consecutive drives. Naturally, that prompted head coach Rex Ryan to pull Smith in favor of backup Michael Vick. No shocker to this football fan, but things did not get much better for the Jets with Vick at the helm. The former Falcon went 18-for-36 for a measly 151 yards, including no touchdowns and an interception on the way to a 43-23 loss for the Jets.
Unfortunately, there are no immediate answers for the quarterback position. Jets fans will have to toil away with either Smith or Vick for the rest of the year. After 2014, however, it’s time to draft a new QB. I’m not going to suggest anybody, because it’s impossible to know who the head coach will be and what kind of quarterback they might want. But, that’s not as important as the bottom line: the Geno Smith experiment is over. The Jets cannot be too proud to admit they made a bad choice with Smith in the 2013 NFL Draft.
I always believed the Jets should give Smith as much of a chance as possible, but with quarterbacks, the eye test is pretty reliable. It doesn’t take an expert to realize Smith just doesn’t have what it takes to win. If a new head coach wants to try Smith out, be my guest, but I just don’t see it.
The best news for the Jets is that they do have some serious talent on their roster. The Jets’ defense boasts perhaps the best front seven in the league. Muhammad Wilkerson has proven himself to be a blue-chip player. After a 10.5 sack season last year, the former first round draft pick continues to be a force. He has 4.5 sacks halfway through 2014, and is a guy to watch as he only gets more experience in the league.
I could go on about Sheldon Richardson, Quinton Coples, Kendrick Ellis or Jason Babin. The Jets have great depth in a unit that as New Yorkers know, can lead a team to success (see the New York Giants’ defensive front in 2007).
There’s young talent in the secondary too. Even though he tore his Achilles this year, Dee Milliner should be a mainstay in the Jets defensive backfield along with their first round pick in 2014 Calvin Pryor for years to come.
What I’m trying to say is the Jets are not as far away from being a good team in the NFL as it may seem right now. They have bundles of talent, but their shortcomings happen to be in the two most important spots in the NFL: head coach and quarterback. It won’t be easy to fix those two spots, but I’m confident that the New York Jets are only two acquisitions away from being a contender in the NFL.
Matt Rosenfeld is the Sports Editor for The Fordham Ram.