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Tanny’s Ticking Time Bomb

Despite all the huffing and puffing from their loud-mouthed head coach, the foundation of this Jets team was built on straw and stick instead of brick. This team was never built to win. They were built to be entertaining, sell tickets, and sweep headlines, but not contend for championships. Awful decision making, no relevant draft picks since the Mangini era, bad personnel moves and poor judges of talent and character have created a media circus and a culture of losing in New York. You can already see the vultures circling above MetLife Stadium, licking their chops, waiting for the impending doom. A once promising organization on the rise and destined for greatness (in their own delusional minds at least) is now reeling and imploding right before our eyes. And it all starts at the top with Woody Johnson, Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan.

Photo Credit: William Perlman/Star Ledger

Two years ago, I was their biggest fan. I was convinced if the Jets kept the combination of Tanny and Rex together, Super Bowl rings were in their immediate future. I still believe to this day that the best shot Gang Green ever had to win a Super Bowl was in 2010. That year they had the perfect blend of talent, youth and experience. They had their ups and downs during the regular season, as all Jets teams do, but come playoff time, Rex had his boys ready to rock and roll. The Jets shocked the world by beating the Colts and Patriots on the road in consecutive weeks, in two of the best wins I have ever seen in my brief Jets career. “One of the worst starting QB’s in the NFL” according to many of his peers, took down two of the greatest QB’s of all-time.

Hold your applause, because of course in typical Jets fashion they followed up those wins by playing the worst first half of football imaginable against the Steelers in the AFC Championship game. “Can’t wait?” More like “Can’t play”. Pittsburgh came out swinging and left the Jets bloody and broken. Despite being down 21-0 going into halftime, the Jets roared back in the 2nd half, showing off the heart and never-say-die attitude they displayed during numerous late game comebacks that season. On 3rd and 10, with under two minutes to go and no timeouts, the Jets had the Steelers right where they wanted them.

On the previous drives, the Jet offense was humming and Sanchez was picking apart the old & fatigued Steelers defense, who didn’t have an answer for the young gun QB. On the other side of the ball with Chef Rex cooking up blitzes and dialing up the pressure, the Jets D played inspired football and held the Steelers to a measly field goal in the 2nd half, keeping the Jets slim hopes alive. On that fateful 3rd down, everything was on the line for the Jets. If the Steelers got a first down, the game would’ve been over along with the Jets season. If Gang Green got a stop and put the ball in Sanchez’s hands and allowed him to attempt to complete what would have been his 7th comeback victory that year, they would have marched on to play the Packers in the “Big Game”. It sickens me to think how differently everything could have turned out.

I knew in my bones that Jet team was destined to play in their first Super Bowl since 1969. I was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt they would be champs before that season even started. I was so sure it was “our year”, especially after they took down Goliath, aka the Evil Empire, aka Brady and Belichick. But I guess I let my arrogance and supreme self-confidence get the best of me (the same way Rex and Tanny have) because the vaunted Jets D failed to stop Big Ben on that fateful 3rd down and the Steelers went on to win the game 24-19. The Jets Super Bowl hopes were pronounced dead on the scene – and still are ‘til this day. The organization has never seemed to recover from that devastating loss. Instead of keeping that core group of players and locker room leaders who were proven winners, Mike Tannenbaum decided to axe them one by one in order to get younger, faster – and ultimately worse.

It all started by pushing beloved veteran Damien Woody out of New York, into retirement, and replacing him with a revolving door at right tackle, Wayne Hunter. The Jets offensive line, arguably the best in football prior to Woody’s departure, was the rock of their team for many years and provided plenty of “pound” for the ground game. How else can you explain Shonn Greene briefly resembling Walter Payton and convincing the Jet front office he was a running back to build around? LaDainian Tomlinson followed Damien Woody into retirement a year later after he realized the Jets were toast and decided he wanted no part of the toxic mess that was sure to follow. The Jets slapped Shaun Ellis, their longest tenured player and anchor of their d-line for over a decade, in the face by offering him the veteran’s minimum and all-but forced him to seek revenge on the organization by signing with the Patriots. Tanny also allowed Braylon Edwards, the only legitimate deep threat on the team, to walk and decided to give Santonio Holmes one of the biggest contracts for a wide receiver ever. In Tannenbaum’s eyes, even if ‘Tone was never going to be a true #1 wide receiver, at least he had great chemistry with the “franchise” quarterback… The following year, Tanny sent the well respected and fan favorite Jerricho Cotchery to Pittsburgh in favor of signing the fresh-out-of-jail and slower-then-ever Plaxico Burress. But unfortunately for Jets fans, the head scratchers didn’t stop there.

In the spring of 2010, they whiffed on their attempt to lure Nnamdi Asomugha to New York and settled on re-signing the epitome of inconsistency and by far the most maddening player on the Jets, Antonio Cromartie. The dude has more talent and physical gifts than almost any defensive back in the league but has never been able to harness his full potential. They have still yet to re-sign arguably the greatest football player to ever don green and white, Darrelle Revis, and have beyond frustrated him in three consecutive off-seasons. Gang Green also hasn’t had an impactful draft class since the “glory days” of Mangenius. In recent years they have selected Mark Sanchez, Kyle Wilson, Vlad Ducasse, Joe McKnight, Jeremy Kerley, Sedrick Ellis, Muhammad Wilkerson, Stephen Hill and Quinton Coples. The only players who have been serviceable and shown any promise are Kerley and Wilkerson. Everyone else has been a bust, but the jury is still out on Hill and Coples. And of course, I’m saving the best for last, the infamous acquisition of Tim Tebow. (Read my initial thoughts on the Tebow trade and my Nostradamus-like predications here. I don’t wanna say I told you so…oh wait, that’s exactly what I’m doing). When you take a step back and analyze all these personnel moves and bad investments over the past two off-seasons, it’s mind boggling Mike Tannenbaum still has a job.

In order for Gang Green to get back to being serious Super Bowl contenders instead of the laughing stock of the league, it will take a complete remodeling of the front office and a complete rebuilding of the franchise. The Jets need to clean house and cut ties from Sanchez, Santonio, Tebow, Rex, and of course Tanny. They need to suck it up, no literally suck-it-up on the field for the next few years, get some high draft picks and build around a new core of players. They also need to bring in a real general manager who has proven he can rebuild an organization from the ground up and begin the search for a new franchise quarterback (something they should have been doing last year).

The Jets are destined to be bottom dwellers of the NFL for a few seasons before hopefully rising up to be contenders once again. Thankfully the NFL has more parity than any other league in the world and is built to allow each and every team to re-tool and compete each year. It will not be easy and it will certainly not be fun to watch, but it is absolutely necessary. Can Woody Johnson put his ego aside, not worry about selling tickets and stealing headlines for a few seasons and deal with the mediocrity while planning for future success? Or will he lead the Jets franchise down a dark tunnel like fellow New York owner, James Dolan, by making stupid but splashy signings with little substance and regard for winning. Only time will tell. For the sake of Jets fans, I pray Woody Johnson puts that billion-dollar mind of his to good use. If he doesn’t, I’m not expecting a Jets Super Bowl for another 43 years, or at least until the Ghost of Namath brings this organization back from the dead.

-Sgambati

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Kevin Sgambati attends Syracuse University and proudly reps his home state New Jersey. He happens to be the biggest die-hard Jets fan you will ever meet...so please send him your deepest sympathies.

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