Sunday, December 28, 2008

Brett Farce! Season Culminates in 24-17 Loss to Dolphins

The collapse is complete!

Blame Eric Mangini or the defense all you want, but if you want the most simple answer for the dramatic collapse, look no further than #4.

Brett Favre completely fell apart down the stretch. In the last five games, he managed just two touchdown passes with nine interceptions. His quarterback rating did not exceed 61.4 in those games.

The question from a Jets' perspective should not be "Will Brett return?" It should be "Should Brett return?" And the answer to that question is a resounding no.

Of course there is a caveat. His shoulder has been a constant source of speculation this season. Without a full offseason of preparation, he probably isn't in the pinnacle physical shape that a quarterback needs to be in to succeed, especially at 39 years of age.

Until an MRI clears the air though, the shoulder cannot be an excuse for his poor play.

In what turned out to be a meaningless football game after Patriots and Ravens wins, Favre completed 20 of his 40 passes for 233 yards, but for just one touchdown and three interceptions, one returned for a touchdown.

He's just been completely inaccurate lately, and his deep ball has rarely found its targets. At one point in this game, he was just 12-31 before rallying on a couple short passes to get up to 50%.

If I am Mike Tannenbaum, I tell Favre that if he does not decide by March 1st whether or not he wants to quarterback the Jets next year, he can find a new home. It's tough love for one of the best players in the history of the sport, but the Jets owe him nothing the way he's played this season.

They cannot afford to go through what Green Bay went through this offseason. They need to either have a fully committed Favre for the entire offseason or a new quarterback next year.

Personally, I would prefer the latter at this point.

Favre led the NFL in interceptions with 22, four more than his closest "competitor." His completion percentage was 65.7%, but his 6.7 yards-per-attempt was below average.

And at 39 years old, how much better can he get? Sure, a full offseason in the system would help him immensely, but how much longer can he play before his performance drops even further?

This isn't to say Favre hasn't had his moments. He brought an energy and a confidence to this team that it hasn't seen in years. But when the team needed him most, he simply could not deliver. Whether it's because he's washed up, injured, or just slumping isn't completely known, but the Jets can't afford to invest too much of their future in a guy who very well could be facing the end of his career.

This team is too good for that.

Look at the talent around him. Runningback Thomas Jones struggled against Miami, but he set three team touchdown records this season, and Leon Washington, who was finally given the ball a decent amount Sunday, is an electric playmaker.

Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery are not elite receivers by any stretch, but there are a lot of teams that would love to have either one. The same goes for Dustin Keller and Chris Baker, and the rookie Keller has the potential to be a very good tight end down the road.

Not to mention the offensive line has become one of the better units in the NFL. Clearly, the offensive talent is there.

The defense also has a lot of talent, though its struggles at times have been well-documented. Cornerback Darrelle Revis, safety Kerry Rhodes, and linebackers Calvin Pace and David Harris are all good building blocks. Bryan Thomas, Eric Barton, Shaun Ellis, and Kenyon Coleman could also start for many teams.

But the biggest piece in every way is nose tackle Kris Jenkins. When he was dominant, the entire defense played well as a result. However, he wore down significantly down the stretch, which is a major concern. He is the key to the entire defense, and the Jets need to do whatever it takes to keep him in shape because as he goes, the defense goes.

The team is far from perfect. There aren't many impact players on either side of the ball, and the linebackers are slow and have been abused in coverage. There is no player that teams need to gameplan against besides Jenkins. However, the team needs to be tweaked, not overhauled.

As for the coaching, that's something I haven't yet made my mind up on. Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is probably about 50-50 to come back, and I'm waffling on my personal opinion on him. I've had a lot of problems with his playcalling at times, but the execution by the players has not made his plays look that much better. I wouldn't mind if he came back.

Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton should and probably will be fired. The 3-4 defense is completely unimaginative, and the blitz packages have been completely ineffective for three years now.

The big question about the defense is how much input does Eric Mangini have on it? He's a defensive coach by trade, and firing Sutton might just be scapegoating him more than anything else. Mangini likes to play by the percentages, but rarely does he adjust to the flow of the game.

I like Mangini. I like his overall temperament to the game, and I think he's a smart young coach who has a bright future in the NFL. But something has to give for this collapse.

I don't want to hear that the Jets were 4-12 last year. That's irrelevant. That team was 4-12 because the offensive line was a sieve and the front seven could be run all over. Alan Faneca, Damien Woody, Calvin Pace, and Kris Jenkins filled those holes beautifully.

This team was 8-3 and one of the healthiest in the NFL. They controlled its own destiny for the division, and facing five teams down the stretch that they were more talented than in games they were favored in. It's inexcusable and deplorable the way they choked.

Mangini deserves credit for the start of the season, and the decline in play from Favre and Jenkins was the primary cause for the collapse.

But when the New England Patriots can go 11-5 despite losing half of their team to injuries and starting a quarterback who hadn't played since high school, how much confidence can I have in Mangini and the Jets to beat the Patriots when they are healthy?

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