NFL

Jets need to clean house from top to bottom this offseason

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The New York Jets have finally admitted the season is over. We can tell, not so much by the decision by head coach Todd Bowles to name Bryce Petty his starter for the remainder of the season, but by the complete lack of effort most of the team put forth Monday night.

That 41-10 drubbing handed down by the Indianapolis Colts wasn’t just a matter of being outclassed by a better quarterback and a more talented team. It happened because the team—specifically the veterans—quit on Bowles.

Darrelle Revis can’t be bothered to tackle. Sheldon Richardson saw his playing time cut and had zero tackles. Expensive Mo Wilkerson had seven tackles but was absolutely a non-factor. Brandon Marshall was ineffective.

One of the rumors around Bowles initial decision to go back to Ryan Fitzpatrick after Petty’s game against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 10 was that the coach might lose the locker room if Petty started.

Guess what happened anyway?

It’s time to start looking to the offseason—long past, really—and the Jets have to consider some big changes.

It starts with the top—well, not Woody Johnson, though there is a fair amount of criticism to be aimed at an owner who is more obsessed with keeping up with the New York Giants than he is making solid football decisions.

Nor does it really start with Mike Maccagnan, hired after the coach was hired and therefore hamstrung a bit in the hierarchy. I’m willing to give him another year or two based on the overall job he did fixing the mistakes John Idzik made. But there’s not much time on the clock.

No, this starts with Bowles. Sure, he’s only in his second year as well and had to help clean up the messes the previous regime left behind as well. Many will point to last year’s season and its ten wins as a reason to not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Let’s consider those ten wins, though, and the end of last season—which looks an awful lot like what we’ve seen in 2016.

Last season was an incredibly soft schedule, one where the Jets were able to beat up on very weak teams. While you shouldn’t take away anything from the overall achievement—you can only play who they schedule you to play—it’s something nobody, including the coaching staff seemed to realize. Which led to an over-inflation of the value both of those wins, as well what certain players on the team were worth.

And yes, I’m looking at Ryan Fitzpatrick, who Bowles crowned his started after the end of last season, when the quarterback was not under contract. That led to Fitzpatrick holding out for money he didn’t deserve as well as a mini-mutiny among the wide receivers who felt Fitzpatrick was their one and only choice for wins.

Everyone involved was deluded.

So was the fanbase, if they didn’t look closely at the last few games of 2015. As I wrote at the beginning of October, Bowles has a lot of holes in his coaching game—clock management, in-game and pre-game adjustments, managing his players and getting them prepared to play on Sunday (or Monday, or any day really).

While these things are obvious now, there were also obvious in Week 17 last season if you were looking.

The Jets lost to the Buffalo Bills because they were unprepared, because they were sloppy and because of poor playcalling and preparation. They didn’t look ready to win that game, and Bowles and his coaching staff looked equally unprepared.

You could say the same about the other five losses, and a few wins, last season.

Clock gaffes and coaching blunders happen with a new coach with no head coaching experience. There should be an improvement, though, and we’ve seen nothing but it getting worse.

This is a guy who has decided to start Petty from now on, and yet supposedly decided Petty would be the starter the rest of the way before the Monday night debacle.

How does that make any sense? If nothing else does, Bowles’ absolute disastrous handling of the quarterbacks should cost him his job, or at least move him from a cushy office to a broom closet at the team facility until they do fire him or he does better.

Finally, it’s clear that Bowles has no better control of the locker room than Rex Ryan did. The lack of effort Monday was the icing on the cake, but letting Mo Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson repeatedly skip meetings, allowing the veterans to influence his quarterback decisions, and his complete lack of reaction to Fitzpatrick’s whining in the media are all examples of a coach with no control and a lack of respect from his players.

More than anything else, that will end his Jets tenure. You can’t suddenly become a disciplinarian. As former Giants defensive lineman, Chris Canty, said on the Hahn and Humpty Show on ESPN Radio in New York, the team knows who you are two years in. If you try to change now, players—even the young ones won’t buy it.

Whether Bowles goes or not, one thing is certain—there is plenty of dead weight to cut from the team.

The Jets can’t get rid of Wilkerson, as his contract is too onerous in dead money if they do. He has to be on a short leash, though, and the team has to find a way to motivate him. If not, once 2018 hits, they should send him on his way.

Sheldon Richardson shouldn’t even get that much leeway.

He has one more year on his contract and there is no way the Jets should be looking to repeat the mistake they made with Wilkerson which, to be honest, was one nobody saw coming. Richardson has many red flags though, including off the field, and unlike Wilkerson, isn’t expensive to cut. Letting him go before next June saves the Jets just over $8 million in cap money. They should use it to find his replacement.

Both of those guys have to be managed before they influence Leonard Williams, the lone bright spot on the defensive line this year.

Following Richardson out the door should be Darrelle Revis. Never in all my life watching football have I seen someone go from “Hall of Fame” to “I don’t give a damn” as quickly as Revis.

Revis’ contract runs until 2019 and represents $8 million in dead money next year but he’s dead weight and I suppose you can off-set the money with what you save from Richardson.

If he was just an aging cornerback you might cut Revis some slack, especially given his coach seems to refuse to give him safety help. However, Revis has gone from being a solid tackler to being someone making ‘career decisions’ and not even trying to tackle a runner. He jogs, he toddles, he barely tries.

He’s checked out. Which means the Jets should remove him from the equation permanently.

Ditto Brandon Marshall, one of the loudest complainers in the bunch. Eric Decker is lucky he’s hurt because both of them were partially to blame for the Fitzpatrick offseason mess, with their demands he should be their quarterback. The last stretch of games Marshall has obviously checked out—not extending for passes, not making the extra effort he used to.

The Jets have a lot of young receivers who they can turn to. Marshall has to go to make way for those players and he costs nothing to release.

We can give Decker another year, given that he’s been hurt. Like Wilkerson, though, he should be on a short leash.

We don’t even need to mention Fitzpatrick, save for in passing, right? If everyone else is leaving, Fitz should be holding the door open for them and helping them steal office supplies. In fact, if Fitzpatrick hasn’t been stealing staplers and pens since midseason, that Harvard degree is going to waste because his departure has been obvious from the preseason.

That list is a start, but by no means complete. The Jets have to embrace the fact that this team has a lot of work to do to rebuild and get rid of dead weight while putting on notice those players they can’t dump for money reasons.

Anything else is a disservice to the few players who showed up Monday night, and to a fanbase which has been suffering through incompetence for too long.


About Andrew Garda

Andrew Garda is a freelance writer primarily covering NFL football, with frequent side trips to everything else. A member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he is a contributing writer for Sports on Earth and Pro Football Weekly. He also covers fantasy for Footballguys.com. Garda is the host of the At the Whistle podcast and has been credentialed for many NFL drafts, Senior Bowls, pro days and various NFL events.