The season full of promises and expectations ended last night for the New York Jets, as their attempt to come back in the second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers fell just a little too short. After totally forgetting to show up on defense in the first half, the Gang Green desperately tried to salvage their campaign but 24-point deficit was simply too much to overcome. The Jets fought back admirably but you just don't win championships without playing all four quarters on a regular basis. They did so last week against New England and won. They failed to do so last night against the Steelers, and well the season is now over along with all the high expectations to finally end the 42-year drought.
The Jets put it all on the line this year, signing veteran free agents and trading their draft picks for key players whose contracts were up after this season. This really was a Super Bowl or bust, as nothing less than a Super Bowl win would be accepted as a successful ending. The front office did their best, but once again the team failed to deliver. So what really happened there and why once again the New York Jets came up short?
1). Lack of consistency
This has been the case all season and it finally came to bite the Jets in the AFC Championship Game. Remember all those hard fought wins against the teams that the Gang Green was supposed to walk over? Remember the Lions (6-10), the Browns (5-11) and the Texans (6-10)? Yes, the Jets won all those games, barely squeaking by either late in the fourth quarter or overtime. Yes, good teams find a way to win no matter what, and that's what the Jets did in all those games - they found a way to win. But even against those weak opponents Rex Ryan's Jets failed to consistently play all four quarters of good football. Trailing in the fourth quarter by two scores against the Lions turned out to be manageable for the Gang Green, but you just don't play 6-10 teams in the playoffs.
2). Notoriously slow starters
Anyone remember a game where the Jets scored on their opening possession? I know I don't. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer usually uses the first quarter to "feel out" the opposing defense. Unfortunately for the Jets, football is not a 12-round boxing match where one can use the first few rounds to "feel out" the opponent. Once you're down after the first two quarters and finally pick it up on offense in the second half, sometimes it might just be too late for a comeback.
3). Questionable calls on offense
Here I go again on the Schottenheimer subject. He's shown some flashes of brilliance from time to time, but on the other hand, his stubbornness to run on first downs and just flat out questionable calls have surely cost the Gang Green at least a few games during his tenure with the team. The mind-boggling decision to pass on the 3rd and 1 and then run it on the fourth against the Steelers last night will surely go down as one of those calls. Not only did he decide to call those plays, but he also used Tomlinson who averaged a measly 1.8 yards/carry in this game to ram it through on the fourth down. The stronger Shonn Greene would have been a much better choice, especially considering that he had already converted a 4th and 1 earlier in the game.
4). Lack of pass-rush
This has been the Achilles heel of this defense all season long. They just can't get to the quarterback without some creative blitzing. The so-called pass-rushing specialists such as Calvin Pace or Jason Taylor just don't cut it. Taylor is too old and should retire. Pace is a decent player but he's just not a consistent pass-rushing threat. Can you imagine this defense if they were able to bring even 50% of pass-rush generated by the crosstown Giants? Unfortunately, they can't. How many times have we seen the opposing quarterback just sit back there having all day to throw the football? The Jets haven't had a solid pass rusher ever since they traded John Abraham to the Falcons in 2006.
In any case, the season is over. The Scouting Combine is a bit over a month away, then the Draft, training camp, preseason, and here we go again... 42 years and counting, but keeping the faith nonetheless.
J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS!!!