New York Jets’ fans finally got our wish! After six seasons with the Jets, Brian Schottenheimer is moving on.
Last night, I went to bed with the understanding that the Jacksonville Jaguars hired Mike Mularkey over Schottenheimer as their new head coach. This was disappointing because I thought we’d be stuck with Schotty for another season, or at least until someone else decided to take him off our hands. But with that contingency, I figured if anyone is remotely aware of the play calling decisions he made this past season, there was absolutely no way anyone would hire him, save for his dad, Marty Schottenheimer, who’s up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coaching job.
But as it turns out, this decision was made before the season ended. Reports suggest, prior to the last game, Schottenheimer personally decided not to return next season. He recognized that in the six seasons he’d been with the Jets, there was no more left for him to accomplish. In fact, he was once looked upon as a young talented coach, but the past couple of seasons have done nothing but reverse the positive perception of someone with a career on the rise and tarnish his image. As a result, Schottenheimer made a game-changing decision we can all agree with, finally!
While it’s water under the bridge, I believe the timing of Schotty’s announcement contributed to the reason the Jets showed zero signs of cohesion in the final three games of the season. Schottenheimer’s head nor heart were in the game and it manifested itself in the horrible on field performance of the team. Although Rex Ryan attempted to put up a unified front by denying media reports that offensive coaches would be gutted, the truth has since been revealed as Schottenheimer also joins offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who was hired by the Dallas Cowboys, and wide receiver coach Henry Ellard as former Jets employees.
Although the offensive line and wide receiver coaching positions remain vacant, reports indicate former Miami Dolphins head coach, Tony Sparano will replace Schottenheimer. Considering Sparano is a lot green in the play-calling area, it remains to be seen if the Jets are better off. However, Sparano is known for and respected as an offensive line/running coach, which is another area of improvement for the Jets. The team will absolutely benefit from his experience because the offensive line deteriorated before our very eyes over the course of the season.
So what can we expect from Sparano besides the obvious wildcat? The Jets will return to what’s worked in the past, focusing on the running game. Although he was fired, Sparano helped transform Reggie Bush form an injury prone under performing back to a stud who rushed for over 1,000 yards for the first time in his six-year career. Similarly, Shonn Greene also rushed for his first 1,000+ season, and with LaDainian Tomlinson leaning toward retirement, we’ll need to get someone who can get the same, if not more, mileage out of Greene and LT’s replacement. Sparano may be that guy.
Also, making the running game a priority will take pressure off of Sanchez. With Schottenheimer’s suspect play-calling aside, Sanchez was exposed for his inability to make fundamental decisions expected from a three-year NFL starting quarterback. Mentally, his brain cramped up mid-game which resulted in too many interceptions, sacks, wasted timeouts, fumbles and so on.
Having said that, the Jets are rumored to hire a quarterback coach to work with Mark Sanchez, because until he’s fixed, the offense will remain broken. The team has invested in Sanchez and have no intentions of going in a different direction, so the Jets must prioritize and guarantee he gets the help he needs. Under Schottenheimer, Sanchez regressed, big time, and it’s going to take a lot of physical and emotional coaching to regain Sanchez’s confidence.
Thankfully with the lockout behind us, the Jets (read: Sanchez) will benefit from OTAs and a full training camp, this off season. Unfortunately, Sanchez isnt the type of player that can be effective with on-the-job-training. This past season, Sanchez was surrounded by a completely different receiving corp and he never had a chance to develop chemistry with his new go to guys. That, and the shaky playcalling by Schotty set Sanchez back, in a major way.
So far the decision to hire Sparano indicates that Jets brass are not deaf nor blind to the problem areas of the team. I’m optimistic the Jets will continue to develop a coaching staff that addresses all of the major concerns of the team. But if this coaching experiment with Sparano and whomever else comes aboard doesn’t yield a return to the playoffs, the 2012 season could and should be the end of the Rex Ryan/Mark Sanchez era.
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