By Ryan Alfieri
Some may discount the notion of a “window” to win, but there is now doubt the Jets had their best chance to win a championship in the Rex Ryan era with the 2010 squad.
The team was comprised with draft successes from Tannenbaum’s early days and a few key free agent signings from the past few years. Outside of quarterback and maybe outside linebacker, this team was as complete as any team in the NFL, and boasted the league’s best defensive player.
Just two years later, how have things turned so sour?
It starts with drafting, which has not been kind to Mike Tannenbaum since the epically sucessful 2007 draft in which he was able to land Darrelle Revis.
When you compare the Jets’ retention rate to the rest of the league from 2009-2012, the Jets have retained more players than most teams at 80 percent. This may seem like a great number, but when you look at the players they have drafted, it is more indicative of how they have refused to move on from missed draft picks.
Let’s start with the 2009 draft. The Jets only brought three players home, including Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene, and Matt Slauson. The Jets will likely be trying to move on from all of those players after this season.
In 2010, the Jets nabbed Kyle Wilson, Vladimir Ducasse, Joe McKnight, and John Conner. Only John Conner, a fullback who barely made the roster, is technically termed a “starter”. Kyle Wilson is only starting because of the injury to Darrelle Revis.
The 2011 draft yielded a bit more success with Muhammad Wilkerson, Kenrick Ellis, Bilal Powell, Jeremy Kerley, Greg McElroy, and Scotty McKnight. Wilkerson appears to be headed for stardom, and Kerley is multi-role player and currently the most dynamic offensive weapon on the team with Holmes out. However, the Jets are still struggling to throw the ball and stop the run.
So far, the Jets have gotten little out of their 2012 class, as Quinton Coples and Stephen Hill are the only players who get any real playing time. In the end, only four players made the Jets final roster.
Factor in a lack of quality free agents, and this downfall was only a matter of time. At some point, the Jets were going to get riddled with injuries that only teams with great depth and quarterback play can overcome, and the Jets have neither.
When the Jets made the playoffs in 2010 and 2009, they had great talent to make up for average quarterback play. They had players like Damien Woody at right tackle, Alan Faneca at left guard, a healthy Braylon Edwards at receiver, and a younger, faster linebacking corps.
Now, the Jets have done nothing to come close to matching the talent they had at those positions. In fact, they have trotted out the same linebackers for four years now, with (predictably) declining results.
The 2012 draft class has shown promise, but the thing is, the Jets need their rookies to produce NOW. Quinton Coples and Stephen Hill are the two biggest “project” players at their position, but the Jets need Hill to play like a season veteran because they simply have no one else to play.
Bottom line, Tannenbaum cannot hide behind a rash of injuries this season if the Jets crumble because the truth is, this day was coming sooner or later, and the Jets are simply not prepared.