This was another must win, although the Jets would not have made the playoffs anyway if they had won, but for the third straight week the Gang Green simply forgot to show up, losing to Miami, 19-17. As the final seconds of the Jets' disappointing season were ticking off the clock, WR Santonio Holmes was sitting on the bench after being taken out of the game by the Jets' coaching staff. This was a fitting end to this disastrous season that started with Super Bowl promises and ended with a 3-game losing streak and reported locker room turmoil afterwards.
A lot of things went horribly wrong this season. It all started in offseason when for the first time in quite a few years Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum made the roster worse by getting rid of WR Braylon Edwards, WR Jerricho Cotchery and OT Damien Woody. The Wayne Hunter experiment at the right tackle, the position previously occupied by Woody, failed miserably. QB Mark Sanchez was sacked 39 times, way more than in his previous two seasons. Replacing the two departed receivers with WR Plaxico Burress and WR Derrick Mason did not work out either. The former did not have any speed and was useful pretty much only inside the red zone where he could outjump defenders. The latter turned out to be a locker room cancer and was traded to Houston just two months later. The only consistent piece, Santonio Holmes, first created a rift with the offensive line when he openly criticized them in the media and then quit on his team in the final game of the season.
On defense, the Jets failed to address the glaring problem at the safety position, relying on S Eric Smith, who might be a hard worker and good teammate but just lacks physical attributes to start in the NFL. As a result, the Jets were getting burned by tight ends in pretty much every game. Just like it was the case in Ryan's previous two seasons, the Gang Green could not pressure the quarterback without blitzing. This problem was ignored as well, giving opponents plenty of time on the first two downs to throw the football.
So, this was pretty much the same team that Rex Ryan had in his first year, minus some key players and plus some aging veterans who failed to produce. The Jets traded quite a few of their draft picks to build a win now team that did not win. Now this team is three years older and their window of opportunity just might have passed.
It's time for some major changes, as the win now through adding veteran free agents formula did not work. Rex's third year team lacked chemistry and team unity. It was especially evident in the last three must win games of the season when, instead of playing their hearts out, Ryan's Jets came out flat and lost. There was no fire in this team, they almost did not care (and some players really didn't). They obviously all bought into Rex's brash words, which were quite a difference from Eric Mangini. But as the brash talk started to grow old along with Rex Ryan's players, it just didn't seem to be the same anymore. Bravado and self belief turned into disappointment and bitterness. They talked themselves into believing that they were the best in the league, which was quite different from what they were capable of on the gridiron.
The 2011 New York Jets failed miserably but it's not all over and lost yet. This team still has plenty of quality players in their prime and with additions of good draft picks and free agents, they can make another run at it next season. The question is whether this front office and coaching staff can make the right moves...