So the Jets finished the 2009 season, as every Jets fan has told me, “30 minutes away from the Super Bowl!” I personally think that’s oversimplifying the situation a bit – mainly because most Jets fans figured the game was over after the first half and that Peyton Manning would roll over and die, which he’s never done. If the same thing happened to the Bills I’d probably say something comparable to that, though.
Having that mindset for a few weeks is fine and dandy. Bask in the success of your season, but then move on. The problem is many fans, and really the Jets organization itself, assumed that because of the fact they got to the AFC Championship, they should automatically be a Super Bowl favorite for the next season. The Kool-Aid fans were out and drinking from the punch bowl in full force.
As I said in Part One, I think the assumption the Jets are destined for the Super Bowl this season is a bit shortsighted considering the amount of good fortune and luck that went into them making the playoffs last year. It’s true that all they can do is play the hand their dealt in terms of getting to the postseason. However, the Jets seemed to think that they got there completely on their own, which is just not the case.
Now, there’s also the issue of Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez looking very much like a rookie. Sanchez started 15 games and put up some pretty unimpressive stats for the Jets. He finished the season with only 2444 yards, 12 touchdowns through the air (he ran for three) and threw 20 interceptions. Sanchez’s 63.0 QB Rating was the worst in the NFL for quarterbacks who started 75% or more of their teams’ games.
He also only completed 53.8% of his passes which is particularly troublesome considering the Jets threw the ball less than any other team in the NFL last year. Those 20 interceptions were tied for 2nd most in the league, by the way. Again, that number is actually a bit worse than it seems considering how often Sanchez was handing the ball off as opposed to throwing it. I would argue Sanchez’s 20 INTs were worse than Jay Cutler’s league leading 26 INTs. Cutler threw the ball 555 times in 2009, meaning he threw a pick every 21.3 times he attempted a pass. Sanchez 364 times which means he threw a pick for every 18.2 balls he put in the air – the worst interception per pass thrown ratio in the league amongst starting QBs.
Clearly the numbers dictate that Mark Sanchez has a long way to go. It seemed that he might actually be on his way to being a decent QB, though, after leading the Jets to two road wins in the playoffs. The thing is, though, Sanchez didn’t “lead” his team to victory. The Jets did what they did best all year: they ran the football and played great defense – that’s why they won those game. Sanchez didn’t win them, he just didn’t lose them.
You may be asking yourself why this is important. Well I’ll tell you why. You can’t win a Super Bowl without having a decent QB, which Mark Sanchez was not in 2009. The first example people will bring up to prove me wrong is Trent Dilfer. I say that’s not a valid argument: it’s comparing apples to oranges. Dilfer “led” the 2000 Baltimore Ravens to their first and only Super Bowl in franchise history. Dilfer took over the helm at QB in week 8 for the Ravens and finished the season with 1502 yards, a 59.2 completion percentage, 12 TDs, 11 INTs and a QB rating of 76.6. Clearly he wasn’t a world beater. In fact, he was 12 for 25 in the Super Bowl against the Giants for 1 TD and 0 INT. It’s safe to say all the Ravens wanted him to do was not lose the game, much like the Jets with Sanchez.
Here’s why you’re comparing apples to oranges. The 2000 Baltimore Ravens defense had one of the best defenses in the history of the NFL. They set a record for fewest points allowed (165) and fewest rushing yards allowed (970 – a particularly ridiculous feat that averages out to less than 61 yards a game) in a season. They also had a future hall of famer by the name of Ray Lewis, one of the best and most feared middle linebackers of all time, “quarterbacking” their defense.
The Jets’ defense was good, but it wasn’t that good. Darrelle Revis is a great talent at cornerback. However, even though he allows the team to “do so many things”, as Rex Ryan is fond of saying, he still can’t help the fact that the Jets only have a middle of the pack pass rush. Their 32 sacks tied for just 18th best in the league last year and they really have no other game changers on the defense. The off-season trade for Antonio Cromartie certainly didn’t pay the dividends everyone expected as he was torched by Anquan Boldin for 7 catches and 110 yards in Week One.
You also have to factor in that the league is much different now in 2010 than it was 10 years ago. It is clear that now more than ever the NFL is a quarterback driven league and that the offense has more of an advantage than ever before. You can barely touch a receiver 5 yards past the line of scrimmage, which wasn’t the case in 2000 when Dilfer and the Ravens won it all.
Every QB who has won the Super Bowl since Dilfer has also been a good, if not great one. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are already assured of Hall of Fame spots and Drew Brees may have wrapped one up back in February as well. Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, and Brad Johnson were also much better QBs than Dilfer or Mark Sanchez. Sanchez needs to actually show he’s capable of being a better QB than completing 10 of 21 passes for 74 yards as he did against Baltimore.
The Jets also blew up their running game in the offseason by parting ways with a 1,400 yard rusher in Thomas Jones and future hall of famer Alan Faneca. Thinking that 2nd year back Shonn Greene, an over the hill LaDanian Tomlinson would undoubtedly replace Jones production was a mistake in my opinion. Especially when you consider they will be running behind 2009 6th round pick Matt Slauson and not Alan Faneca.
So that’s why I don’t think Jets are the Super Bowl bound team of destiny that so many have alluded to them being since January. Do I think they’re an above average team? Absolutely. Are they a playoff team? With that defense, they should be, even without Kris Jenkins for another season. But the fact of the matter is that Mark Sanchez is going to have to take some real steps towards being more than a below average NFL quarterback or the Jets are going to need as much luck this season as they had in 2009 to make it back to the postseason.