For New York Jets fans, their long, irrational nightmare is finally, mercifully over after the offense's Monday-night meltdown in Music City. Playing the Tennessee Titans and its next-to-worst, 31st-ranked scoring defense, the Jets put up a pathetic 10 points and left no doubt that their onetime "franchise" quarterback will never learn to prioritize possession of the football. Mark Sanchez threw four interceptions and failed to field a low snap with under a minute left in the game well within range to score a game-winning touchdown (see video below).
But the failings only start there. Throughout the Rex Ryan era, the offense has been treated as a necessary evil that only need put up a few points while his never-as-great-as-advertised defense is expected to keep the opponent nearly scoreless. That approach flies in the face of the realities of the current NFL, whose rules have strongly favored the passing game for most of the 21st century.
Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano was brought in this season to make Ryan's "ground and pound" run-oriented offense a reality, but the coaches never seemed to realize that you can't run the ball well when the opposing defense has no reason to fear the pass, when the running backs are mediocre at best, and when the offensive line features a first-round left tackle drafted primarily for his pass-protection skills and the left guard and right tackle positions have been a patchwork of draft busts and waiver-wire pickups.
As for the front office, General Manager Mike Tannenbaum has spent much of the past four years teamed with Ryan trading away the draft choices that build team depth to acquire quick fixes and to secure back-page headlines with Brett Favre, Santonio Holmes, and Tim Tebow. He has also let a series of glue-guy supporting-cast players walk out the door, from offensive linemen Pete Kendall and Alan Faneca to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery—the kind of guys who give a team stability and maturity on and off the field. And the wide-receiving corps has been a revolving door of talented but troublesome knuckleheads like Plaxico Burris and Holmes, both of whom the Pittsburgh Steelers—a perennially winning and classy franchise—were more than willing to watch leave town.
What's left is a dysfunctional disaster that, despite its deceptively less-than-horrid 6-8 record, is no nearer to winning a Super Bowl than the squad Richie Kotite "coached" to a 1-15 record back in 1995, before former New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells brought some semblance of credibility in the late '90s. And it's not the kind of mess that can be cleaned up and papered over by yet another splashy off-season move to bring in yet another fading superstar or scandal-scarred scoring threat.
The Jets need to be dismantled at the end of the season, from the very top down—including owner Woody Johnson, who has shown he's as much, if not more, interested in garnering headlines and selling personal seat licenses as actually winning a championship. But he's not going anywhere, so fans are left hoping he'll realize that Rex Ryan isn't a head coach suited for today's offense-oriented game, that Mike Tannenbaum has overpaid for underperforming talent and locked the franchise in salary-cap jail for at least the next couple of years, and that Mark Sanchez isn't the player who can lead a team to the Lombardi Trophy.
If Johnson does somehow see the light, he'll take the hits to his ego and coffers and show all three the door. Or maybe more realistically, he'll simply bring in a new GM, who can send Ryan and Sanchez packing, no matter what the financial consequences, and start the process of once again rebuilding Gang Green, the most embarrassing team in town.