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Not Something the Jets Needed to Start Camp

Posted by Bob Wischusen on August 3, 2010 – 9:04 am

So Darrelle Revis is a holdout. It’s not like this was unexpected, despite the rumblings recently that the door had been reopened to contract talks and there was no formal declaration from Revis that he would indeed skip the start of camp. And maybe this is only a “statement” by Revis, much like his minicamp “sick-out.” Maybe this only lasts for a few days.

Or maybe it gets uglier, and maybe it drags itself into a major camp distraction, which would obviously be a worst-case scenario.

Either way, this is not what the Jets needed as they open a camp with more hype and optimism surrounding their 2010 chances than any summer I can ever remember. Even the group that came off of the 1998 AFC Championship game didn’t have this kind of buzz.

Normally when you have a situation like this one, people will choose sides. And you’ll see/read/hear plenty of exactly that as the Revis holdout plays itself out. I used to be a talk show host, and in that profession you get paid to take sides. But no matter how many different angles one looks at this situation, I’m not sure there is anything but gray area. There doesn’t seem to be right and wrong. Both sides have legitimate concerns that have left this negotiation behind major roadblocks.

Look at it first from Revis’ point of view — and this is the far simpler side of the issue. Across the NFL, “Revis Island” is looked upon as the most difficult piece of real estate to get anywhere near. The Jets themselves, and specifically the head coach, have never been shy about lauding Revis as perhaps the best player in the NFL. Certainly they believe they have the best player at that position in the league.

Players usually get one or two chances in their careers to do a big contract, and the first time around sets the pace if you’re even lucky enough to do a huge deal a second time around. Security, respect, being paid what he feels he’s worth — these are all justifiable concerns for a player to have, especially a player as young and as good as Darrelle Revis.

However, there are two sides to every story, and the Jets have concerns that are just as legitimate. Revis can look at the short term, with respect to himself alone. The Jets have an entire organization to which they must pay attention. How will a Revis deal impact their cap situation when a cap of some sort inevitably returns? What will that financial structure be? How will the money they pay Revis now affect the jumping-off point for negotiations with other young, would-be star players and their deals that will also be coming up? (See Nick Mangold and David Harris for starters.)

Also, Nnamdi Asomugha made a killing, no doubt about it. He took his deal all the way to free agency. (Revis still has three years left on his contract.)

There are financial ramifications that are far-reaching beyond simply saying “Revis is the best. We should just pay him.” Mangold and Harris also both want new deals, but they’re not holding out. D’Brickashaw Ferguson got a big new contract, but also gave a little from his side, making the money he’ll earn attainable due to skill and taking out an insurance policy to guard against injury.

It’s a tough situation for both sides. In the end, you know how this resolves itself? The Players Association, and specifically the head of the NFLPA, stops giving interviews to every camera that passes him on the street and gets to the negotiating table instead.

Bob Wischusen is now, finally, on Twitter. You can follow the radio voice of the New York Jets and the TV voice of thousands of college sports programs on http://twitter.com/bobwischusen.


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Posted in Bob Wischusen | 42 Comments »

SHOES: Let’s Hear It for the Defense

Posted by jetsstaff on December 14, 2009 – 11:23 am

It’s funny sometimes how we bury the lead. The story last week heading into the Jets’ game against Tampa Bay was basically about two major themes. First, there was the decision by Rex Ryan to sit down Mark Sanchez, let caution prevail and start Kellen Clemens at quarterback. Second, there was the big mystery about who would start at safety, Kerry Rhodes or Eric Smith.

Sure, the Jets’ top-ranked run game got some love, because they were going up against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL in the Bucs. But that was secondary to the soap opera stories.

Truth be told, what was talked about very little again was the Jets’ defense as a whole. And that again proved to be the most important factor in the game. Just as it was in Toronto the week before and just as it was against the Panthers the week before that.

Because in reality, it doesn’t matter very much who starts at quarterback when you play defense the way the Jets do. And it doesn’t matter very much who starts at safety when the unit has proven time and time again that it’s bigger and better than any one player at any one spot.

Think about it. This thing was supposed to fall apart when Kris Jenkins went down. And you can never minimize how good Jenkins is as a player and how good he makes the interior of this defense.

But once again, the Jets as a team proved that they can survive the loss of an individual, because quite simply they have one of the best units in the NFL. (OK, maybe they wouldn’t survive the loss of Darrelle Revis, because he’s THAT good. And welcome to the club, Antonio Bryant. Call Randy Moss and Steve Smith and Marques Colston and Terrell Owens. They’re having jackets made.)

During the three-game win streak that has the Jets very much back in the playoff picture, they’ve allowed 6 points to Carolina, 13 points at Buffalo and 3 points at Tampa. Now I know the critic will say, “But it’s the Panthers, Bills and Bucs.” And true, those are far from elite offensive units. But you give up one touchdown in three weeks to any group of teams in the NFL and you’re doing something right.

And the Jets have been doing this all year. What better example than the defense giving up 10 points to the Saints in the Superdome? The numbers speak for themselves. The Jets have allowed fewer points scored by opposing offenses than any other defense in the league, barely averaging double-digit points allowed per game. How much better are you supposed to play?

So you’re the Jets offense, and you go into a game knowing this: We score 17 points and don’t turn it over, we win. With that being the case, why does it matter who’s playing quarterback? When the Jets play the way they want to play, when they’re truly at their best, they actually render the quarterback more irrelevant than perhaps any team in the NFL.

So if Mark Sanchez is ready to go for the Falcons game, great! If not … it’s probably OK. I’d put my money on the Jets defense next week either way.


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Posted in Bob Wischusen | 24 Comments »

SHOES: Sanchez Gets a Boxing Lesson

Posted by jetsstaff on October 5, 2009 – 12:14 pm

Every quarterback is going to, for lack of a better phrase, get punched in the mouth at some point. For Mark Sanchez it wasn’t just one punch but a flurry of blows in New Orleans.

It came from a Saints defense that looks a lot like the Jets attack style we’ve seen give QBs with far more experience than Sanchez so much trouble in the first month of the season. Eight men on the line breathing fire, daring a rookie to do what Tom Brady and Kerry Collins couldn’t when the Jets sent the house over and over again.

And Sanchez not only took a pretty good beating, but he beat himself with some admittedly bad rookie mistakes that cost the Jets two defensive touchdowns and created a hole that was just too deep. It’s the NFL, it happens. And now we find out even more about the Jets’ prized rookie.

You get knocked down. Can you bounce back and get up?

They wouldn’t have drafted Sanchez if they didn’t have tremendous confidence that he’ll do just that. Because to listen to him after the Saints loss was to listen to a young man that seems wise far beyond his years and certainly far beyond the four games he’s now played in the NFL.

“If I have to take ownership of this loss, I’m willing to do that, because this team played well enough to win and it was my mistakes that cost us the game,” he said.

Sanchez wouldn’t talk about poor pass protection or play calls he may not have agreed with. He couldn’t say enough again about how well the Jets defense played. Basically he was the anti-T.O. He took the blame for the loss all on his own shoulders, and they seem like shoulders plenty wide enough to handle this defeat, learn from it and get right back on the horse against Miami.

Because in the end, looking at how difficult the Jets’ schedule was to start the year, 3-1 at the quarter pole is a heck of an accomplishment. And the way this defense is playing, there is no reason to think that there aren’t plenty more W’s on the schedule going forward.

The Saints were averaging 40 points per game. The Jets defense held them to 10. And they did that in the Saints’ house, on the lightning-fast artificial turf, in the controlled climate of the Superdome, which is exactly the type of environment this team is built for.

The Jets can play … and their quarterback has plenty of game as well. He had a bad day Sunday. They all do. Monday night in Miami, the education of Mark Sanchez will continue. Stay tuned.


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Posted in Bob Wischusen | 46 Comments »

SHOES: For Mark, Jets, This Could Be Fun

Posted by jetsstaff on September 11, 2009 – 6:14 pm

There will be a learning curve, no question about it. But for the Jets, there’s a very good chance that Mark Sanchez taking over at quarterback now is the best thing that could have happened for this franchise … and not just in the long term.

Make no mistake, just because Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan did what they did last year in no way guarantees any similar success for Sanchez this year. But if you’re looking for all the attributes that made those two successful, especially from an intangibles standpoint, Sanchez has the same qualities.

He’s a natural leader, he comes from a very solid family background, and he’s become an overnight millionaire and still has stayed grounded and focused and humble. He gives credit to his teammates first, is very quick to talk about what a great job his offensive line did in front of him, how his receivers worked to get open, etc., etc.

The entire Jets locker room knows that Sanchez is the future star (Bart Scott has already taken to calling him “Sanchize”), but they already seem to be rallying around him because he does nothing to put himself on a pedestal. And for a rookie, that makes a huge difference.

Also, the irony of replacing a sure-shot Hall of Famer in Brett Favre with a completely untested rookie is that, at least from a game-planning standpoint, the Jets will be back to playing the way they’ve wanted to play all along. Brian Schottenheimer’s offense is based on presnap confusion, motioning across the ball, shifting with many interchangeable personnel groupings.

The Jets want to use all these shifts to not only confuse a defense and get them moving, but in causing that motion on the defensive side of the ball, maybe the quarterback will see some keys in the alignment and maybe a defense will give away its intentions presnap.

Favre wanted none of that. He wanted base personnel, wide receiver to each side of the field, everyone stand still until the snap and he’d take care of the rest. And to his credit, the Jets produced a lot of points at times doing it just that way. They also turned it over at an alarming rate, at times because Favre would make decisions he might not have made had he had a presnap look at what a defense was going to do.

But Sanchez will play Schottenheimer’s way. And by all accounts he has the mental acuity to handle it. The question will be how he responds, especially early in the year, when he suffers a body blow of an interception or takes a literal body blow from the countless blitzes he’s sure to see. And in the process, is he smart enough with the ball early on to make sure the turnovers that so often killed the Jets down the stretch last year are minimized?

Because even if Flacco became a darling of the NFL last year, he still threw one TD pass and seven interceptions in the Ravens’ first five games … and the Ravens used their incredible defense and run game to manage to win two of those games. They didn’t bury themselves as Flacco was going through his growing pains.

If the Jets can do the same for Sanchez, this year could be a lot of fun. Based on what he could be in the long term, the master’s degree he’ll earn playing quarterback this year could be the foundation for what Jets fans have been waiting years to enjoy.


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Posted in Bob Wischusen | 28 Comments »

SHOES: Two L’s in a Row, But All Is Not Lost

Posted by jetsstaff on December 8, 2008 – 3:54 pm

Jets fans, take a deep breath … that’s the best advice I have. After that take another. Maybe one more, just to be safe.

I know many of you have been hyperventilating for the past few weeks. For a while there it was for the best of reasons, after watching back to back road wins at New England and Tennessee many of you were probably short of breath as you started to dream dreams of Tampa and bringing your Giants fan buddy with you.

And you may have needed to grab the brown bag the past couple of weeks as well, as the Jets have dropped two in a row to two teams without near the reputation of the Pats and Titans. You’ve seen the pass rush disappear and the ball sail through the air with ease against the Jets secondary as a result, and emotions have swung back in the other direction in a huge way, which is something that happens weekly in the NFL.

And I remember doing our "Inside the Jets" radio show the week after the Jets lost at Oakland, talking to Jets fans that were panicked and depressed simultaneously, if that’s possible. And I remember preaching exactly the same thing then that I would say now.

This is the NFL. And outside of the Titans and Giants, every team in the NFL has a loss or two that is perceived to be as bad as a win over a title contender would seem good. The Jets are no different with losses to Oakland and San Francisco balanced off by those two huge road wins.

If you remember, when the Jets lost to the Raiders it was treated in some media circles as a nearly insurmountable loss that could crush a team’s season. What I said at the time was that the loss was certainly a bad one — the Jets themselves all knew that to a man. But what needed to be pointed out was that even after that loss, if the playoffs began that day, the Jets would have been a playoff team.

And in my opinion, in spite of these two most recent losses, and in spite of the fact that the Dolphins have had an amazing season to go from 1-15 to contender, and in spite of the fact that the Patriots have played themselves into contention without Tom Brady, the Jets are still the favorite to win their division. After all, if the playoffs began today, the Jets would be division champions. In the AFC East they still control their own destiny even after these last two losses.

The math is simple. The Jets have three games left. Win them all and the Dolphins and Pats can’t catch the Jets. Don’t let the tied records fool you. The Jets would win the tiebreakers — head to head against Miami because they would have to beaten them to end the season, and they would also only have one divisional loss, bettering both teams.

So take a deep breath, at least until kickoff vs. Buffalo on Sunday.


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Posted in Bob Wischusen | 47 Comments »

SHOES: Hidden Yardage Was a Killer vs. Pats

Posted by jetsstaff on September 21, 2008 – 1:03 pm

Amidst all the hysteria of the play call second-guessing and the "did the Jets forget they have Brett Favre?" nonsense (and by the way, that is nonsense … the Jets are running many of the same plays Favre ran in Green Bay … but I digress), what seemed to be lost in the background noise after the Patriots game was the single biggest reason the Jets came up short. Field position was, by far, the single most important statistical story teller last week.

Bill Parcells always had a theory about "hidden yardage" inside the game. Too often when analyzing the stats it seems people look at total offense, total defense, etc., stats that can easily be rendered meaningless if field position is a big factor. Well, I don’t think I’ve ever done a game where it played as big a part as last week.

According to Parcells (and he’s not the only one to use this formula, he’s just the one that I learned it from), 100 yards of "hidden yardage" or field position is worth 7 points.

Put simply, Team A has 10 possessions in a game and they start all 10 at their own 30-yard line. Team B has the ball 10 times and they start their 10 drives at their own 20-yard line. So before either team even runs a play on offense, Team A has a 7-point advantage on Team B. The theory being that if you start 10 drives 10 yards further up the field than your opponent, you’re going to score a TD at some point your opponent won’t score simply because your drives are easier to execute, you’re starting a first down ahead on every possession, etc.

Well, apply this to the Jets-Patriots game and you’ll see why most of the hand-wringing over playcalling this week was completely misplaced. The Jets had nine possessions and the Patriots had nine possessions. The Jets’ average starting field position was their own 21-yard line. The Pats started on average at their own 42! New England had a 21-yard advantage PER DRIVE. They opened 5 possessions IN JETS TERRITORY!

That means that before either offense even ran a play in the game, by the hidden yardage theory, the Pats had a 189-yard advantage in the game and were up by 13 points. Look at the result, the Jets lost by nine.

Everything in this game fed off field position. Brett Favre never got the short field to get the Jets offense going. Matt Cassel never once had to deal with the pressure of the crowd, deep in his own end, up against his own goal line, needing to drive his team 75 to 90 yards. This wasn’t the only factor in the game, but it was without question the most important.


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Posted in Bob Wischusen | 56 Comments »

SHOES: No Need to Play Favre in Philly

Posted by jetsstaff on August 27, 2008 – 2:42 pm

I have to admit I don’t get it. I don’t understand why anyone cares. Start chanting with me: "It just doesn’t matter! It just doesn’t matter!"

Seriously, who cares if Brett Favre plays in the last preseason game? It’s beyond irrelevant. Does anyone really think that a cup of coffee Thursday night is going to move Favre from the unprepared to the prepared category for the Miami opener?

Put yourself in Eric Mangini’s place if you’re making this call. Say you play Favre against the Eagles — how long would you leave him on the field? One series, maybe two? So we’re talking roughly 6-12 plays. Does anyone think that’s going to be the difference maker for an 18-year NFL veteran?

Now, I know what you might be thinking — he’s new to the offense, he needs as much on-field time with his wideouts to keep creating chemistry, he needs all the reps he can get to become even more familiar with the playbook.

In my opinion, all of that can be accomplished in practice. What the fans don’t see is the classroom work Favre is doing every day to learn the playbook, the reps he’s getting with the first-team offense on the practice field, maybe as many as 60-70 snaps in a given session.

That’s where the chemistry will develop, that’s where the work is getting done. Favre might total as many as 300 practice snaps, maybe even more, from the end of the Giants preseason game to the opener in Miami. What difference does anyone think 10 plays against the Eagles will actually make?

Also keep in mind that if you subscribe to the theory that Favre needs all the game action he can get before opening day and you want him to not only play against the Eagles but play a lot, there is a ripple effect to that decision that makes it even less sensible.

In order for Favre to make the night really worth the effort, all the other starters have to play as long as he does. Jerricho Cotchery would now have to play a big chunk of time. After all, what good would it do for Favre to spend the game throwing passes to receivers that will be cut the next day? Ditto for Chris Baker, Bubba Franks, Brad Smith, etc. Heck, Laveranues Coles won’t be playing in either case. You wouldn’t sit Coles and his bad ankle the whole preseason and play him in the last game one week before the start of the season.

And it goes without saying that as long as Favre is in the game, the starting offensive line would have to be on the field as well … the whole time. There’s no way you’d put the health of your star quarterback into the hands of reserve pass protectors. So now, for Favre to get anything out of the night, you’ve got all your starters playing at least half of a game that normally is a night off for just about all starters in the NFL, and this a week before the games that count get under way.

As one last aside, I know it’s a different set of circumstances — an entrenched player that knows his team’s system and doesn’t play quarterback — but keep this is mind as well, just as a frame of reference. LaDainian Tomlinson has played one snap of preseason football in nearly four years.


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Posted in Bob Wischusen | 58 Comments »
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