Rex Ryan, emulating the late, great Orson Welles, will name no quarterback before its time. And today wasn’t the time for the Jets head coach to designate his starter for Jacksonville on Sunday.
“I’ll definitely need a little more time to make that decision,” Ryan said one day after Greg McElroy replaced Mark Sanchez, with Tim Tebow sidelined, and rescued the Jets’ 7-6 win over Arizona with a touchdown drive and a clock-draining final drive to the Cardinals’ 1-yard line. “I’m comfortable and confident with all three quarterbacks. I think all three guys now have proven they can win — Greg at the end of the game, Mark’s history here, and the way Tim has played.
“We have three guys I’m confident in and I’ll make that decision as the week goes on.”
So does that mean any of the three QBs on the Jets’ roster has a chance to start against the Jaguars? We’ll leave that odds box for sports editors with time on their hands to pitch to their beatwriters for tomorrow’s sports sections. But it may a measure of the decision ahead for Ryan that there are pros and cons for him to name any one of the three as his fire-starter for the Jags.
To help him in formulating his call this week, Ryan said he might turn to his confidantes in the coaching fraternity for some guidance, but more than likely it will be a decision formulated solely behind the walls of the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
“I want to make sure I talk to Tony [Sparano], Matt [Cavanaugh] and everybody, make sure I get a sense of what will be the right decision,” he said. “I think I’ll just lean on the guys in here. Again, the decision will be made based on our situation and our football team, on what ultimately I feel will give us the best opportunity to win.”
The opportunity to win means Jacksonville, of course, but also Tennessee, San Diego and Buffalo after the Jags, and conceivably there are considerations for even beyond this season.
“A lot of things go into every decision you make,” Ryan said. “There are three priorities — the team, the team and the team. If you follow that, the decision’s always easier. You’ve got to take away personal feelings outside of it because it’s bigger than just me or this person or that person.”
“Never Let ‘Em See You Sweat”
However it shakes out, McElroy made a statement in his first pro action. Not every Jets QB guides his offense to a touchdown in his first full drive in green and white. Vinny Testaverde did in Game 3 of the 1998 season against then-rookie Peyton Manning and the Colts. Chad Pennington did, too, if you count the last drive of the blowout Sunday night loss at Oakland in 2000. But Sanchez didn’t, nor did Ken O’Brien, nor did Richard Todd, nor did Joe Namath.
It’s not an achievement you put high up on the NFL résumé. On the other hand, it was a TD drive that the Jets needed quickly, and in more ways than one, and McElroy helped deliver.
Then the Jets’ final drive secured the victory as it melted the final 7:55 off the clock. That was the fourth-longest game-ending drive by time since 1990, trailing Kellen Clemens’ monster 11:09 final drive in the rout of St, Louis in 2008, O’Brien’s 9:13 march at Indianapolis in 1991, and Neil O’Donnell’s 8:47 closer in the wind-aided shutout of Tampa Bay in 1997. Fifth on the list was then-rookie Sanchez’s 7:20 deal-sealer in his and Ryan’s first game with the Jets at Houston in ’09. None of those games was as close as this one was.
McElroy explained his rising to the moment on a conference call with reporters this afternoon.
“That thing, confident bordering on cocky, I would like to think its leaning a little bit more towards confident,” he chuckled. “But yeah, basically one thing that I’ve always tried to learn, one thing I’ve always tried to approach this game with, is you just never let them see you sweat. And that includes the players in your huddle, the players in the opposite huddle, the players on the opposite sideline, on your sideline. Regardless of the situation, always stay with an even keel, always have a positive mindset, and good things will happen. And that’s been the case up to this point.”
Tebow also spoke with reporters on this “Victory Monday” and said he’s “not sure” how close he is to playing. “I feel like I’m healing up and getting there,” he said. He shrugged off all the questions about if he could have played Sunday, if he’ll start this weekend — in his hometown of Jacksonville, no less — and the unfairness and controversy of it all.
“Obviously, Jacksonville is where I grew up and it will always be a special place for me. It doesn’t matter how many family members or friends are going to be there. You just have to look at it as another game,” he said, adding of his opportunities this season: “I’m thankful for every one I am given. I think you just try and handle every situation the best you can and I’ve tried to handle every situation this year the best way I know how and make the most of every situation.”
Odds and Ends
The Jets defense against Arizona set, well, if not an NFL record at least a milestone for other big, bad defenses to try and pass as they ride roughshod over struggling offenses. The Elias Sports Bureau revealed that by blanking the Cardinals on 15 third-down conversion attempts, the Jets posted the first 0-for-15 in the NFL since the 1970 merger. The previous oh-fir mark was 0-for-14, set by Denver against San Diego in 1975 and equaled by the Jets at Tampa in 2009.
The Jets achieved a rarity by getting Sunday’s win despite a minus-3 turnover margin. The last time they won with a minus-3 was Game 7 in 2008, the 28-24 comeback win over Kansas City with Brett Favre at the controls. The Jets all-time are 5-56-3 when they have three more turnovers in a game, 5-105-4 when they have three or more TOs.
Sanchez’s interception on the Jets’ first play from scrimmage was not his first time. He also threw a pick on the opening play vs. Jacksonville in Game 9 of 2009. Interestingly, he’s at least in good company. Vinny Testaverde threw interceptions on the Jets’ first plays in back-to-back games in 1998, against Buffalo in Game 9 (win) and at Indy in Game 10 (loss).
Ryan said of the two injured offensive players that TE Dustin Keller’s ankle injury “doesn’t look like a high ankle sprain” but that he “has some swelling,” and that RB-KR Joe McKnight has a rib injury but that tests “were negative as far as broken ribs or anything.”
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, Greg McElroy, Jacksonville Jaguars, Ken O'Brien, Mark Sanchez, Matt Cavanaugh, Rex Ryan, Tim Tebow, Tony Sparano, Vinny Testaverde
Posted in Randy Lange | 175 Comments »
When a team is scuffling, and especially when a team is scuffling without one of its main men, it will take everyone on the roster to get the job done and keep the wins coming.
Such as Sunday at Miami, when the Jets’ kickoff and punt coverage teams put together one of the finest field position games in recent team history.
“Eight times we had our opponents inside the 20, and five times inside the 10 — that’s a lot,” special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff told newyorkjets.com today. “They’re off to a solid start. We can cover.”
Eleven of Miami’s 13 possessions began after a Jets punt or kickoff, and the Dolphins’ average start on those drives was their 14.5-yard line. Add in the possessions after their two interceptions and for the game the ‘Fins’ average drive start was their 17.8-yard line.
That’s the Jets’ best opponents’ drive start in the last 22 seasons. The only better game since 1990 was their 17-12 victory over Houston in the Astrodome in ’90, a game that featured a 42-yard touchdown pass from Ken O’Brien to Al Toon and the only individual “trifecta” fumble-recovery touchdown by a front-seven player in franchise history when rookie DT Darrell Davis sacked Warren Moon, forced the fumble and recovered it in the end zone. The Oilers’ drive start was their 17.0.
On Sunday the Jets needed every spare yard since Miami mounted six marches of at least 40 yards, two for touchdowns and four for field goal attempts.
“Field position, to me, I look at last year, when we finished first in kickoff returns and I think we were sixth in [kickoff] coverage. That adds up to seven and I think that led the league,” Westhoff said. “It was pretty close between us and San Francisco but they had 40 touchbacks and we had 12. We had to cover a heck of a lot more, yet we were still first. I’ve been able to do that a lot of times.”
Unlike opening day, when Nick Folk had six touchbacks, he had only one at Sun Life Stadium. But Folk did put all five of his kickoffs into the end zone. Then Nick Bellore, Josh Mauga, Josh Bush and Joe McKnight made tackles, and the kick coverage also forced a pair of illegal blocks.
Then there was Robert Malone, who had his best day yet as the Jets’ punter. He hit six punts to the tune of a 45.7-yard gross — very good — and a 42.5 net — excellent. His four inside-the-20 punts is tied for fifth-most in a game by a Jet since 1991. No Jets qualifying punter has ever finished a season with a 40-yard net average, and Malone’s got 13 games to go, but his net after three games is at 40.0.
On punt coverage, Bellore had another tackle, as did Isaiah Trufant and rookie Demario Davis. “Zaiah” also downed a Malone punt at the Miami 5, the Dolphins’ fair-caught two others, and yet another illegal block was flagged against Miami.
“I think Malone’s off to a good start. He’s got a big, powerful leg that I like, and a very powerful, explosive lower body,” Westhoff said. “Now we just have to keep working with him on his timing and technique and all those little things. But he can bomb the ball. He’s done a real good job.”
As head coach Rex Ryan said Monday following his announcement of the severity of Darrelle Revis’ knee injury, “It’s going to take everybody we have, pulling together like we are and just keep competing, and we’ll see what happens at the end of the day.”
And everybody includes the hidden-yardage crew, not just the kickers and their coverage teams but the return teams led by McKnight and Jeremy Kerley, and the offense and the defense turning very good field position into great position if not points.
The numbers show how important that can be. In the eight games since ’90 that the Jets have held opponents to lower than an average drive start of less than their 20.0, their record is 7-1. And in the 60 games that opponents’ drive start has been lower than 25.0, the Jets’ record is 48-12 (.800). Field position is one major area in which the Jets can help optimize their opportunities in the wake of having to spend the rest of their season on Reeve-Less Island.
Tags: Al Toon, Astrodome, Darrell Davis, Isaiah Trufant, Ken O'Brien, Mike Westhoff, Nick Bellore, Nick Folk, Robert Malone
Posted in Randy Lange | 68 Comments »
Long before he was appointed NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell served as a public relations intern for the Jets.
“The team was coming off an AFC Championship appearance. It was Joe Walton’s first year and a lot of things happened in that year,” Goodell told me of his 1983 season with the Green & White. “It was interesting for a young guy like me to be able to see that from the inside. As far as my duties — I did anything, but my main job was to arrange interviews for the players with the media.”
It was our privilege to sit down with Goodell for this special “Four Quarters” interview that was shot inside MetLife Stadium. Much has changed for the Jets and the league since the Commish was a Jets seasonal employee in 1983 and the team played its home games at Shea Stadium in Queens, N.Y.
“It’s spectacular,” Goodell said while looking around MetLife Stadium. “What a great place for fans. It’s a great place to watch a game.”
Walton’s ’83 Jets finished 7-9 and out of the playoffs just one year after Walt Michaels’ ’82 team advanced to the infamous “Mud Bowl” AFC title game in Miami. But Goodell treasured his one-year stint with New York’s AFC representative and the relationships he made.
“Kenny O’Brien and Freeman McNeil and Marty Lyons — these guys, I just had a great relationship with them,” he said. “And I still see them from time to time and they always like to tease me about being their intern and I love that. They’re just great men and so are our players in general. I’m so proud of our players.”
Goodell, on hand at the Met in Week 10 for an NFL Health and Safety Forum for 200 youth football players, has placed an emphasis on the health of his players. As part of the new CBA, the NFL will spend more than $100 million over the next 10 years on concussion research.
“It’s our No. 1 priority and I think the game is safer and more popular than ever. But safety is critical for us,” he said. “The men play a very tough game and we have to make sure we have the right rules in place, we have the right equipment and the right medical attention when injuries do occur. And I believe we have and I think we’ve made improvements on that. And we’ll continue to see those techniques that we want to take out of the game that will make the game safer but still keep the toughness of football and keep the competitiveness of football.”
The 5-5 Jets have been competitive this season again, but they’ve yet to meet their high standards. Over the past few seasons, they’ve become a team with a national appeal and international zeal. Could the Jets be at team targeted for an overseas game in the future?
“They’d be great internationally and they’ve expressed some interest in wanting to do that. The great thing about our international series is as it grows in popularity, more and more teams want to participate and they want to be part of that international series,” Goodell said. “We’re going to expand the international series to be more than one game a year in the U.K. We have one game in Canada and we’d love to get back to Mexico.”
Tags: "Four Quarters", Freeman McNeil, Ken O'Brien, Marty Lyons, NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell
Posted in Eric Allen | 11 Comments »
The Jets aren’t in need of a quarterback, but one of the most prolific passers in franchise history is assisting heralded Washington prospect Jake Locker.
Ken O’Brien, who called signals for the Green & White from 1984-92, is mentoring Locker as the draft nears.
“It’s going great,” Locker told newyorkjets.com today. “He’s an awesome guy. He knows what he’s talking about on the field. He’s very encouraging and is very smart in the game of football. He works with Athletes First, the agency I signed with. So I’ve had the opportunity to work with him now for a couple of months and it’s been a great experience for me.”
The 50-year-old O’Brien finished his career with the Eagles in 1993, but that was only after he threw for 124 scoring strikes and 24,386 yards with New York’s AFC representative. Kenny O’s best statistical season came in 1985 when he hit on 60.9 percent of his passes for 3,888 yards with 25 TDs and eight INTs. A talented pocket passer, O’Brien is helping the athletic Locker with his mechanics.
“A little fundamentals, shortening the stride and being consistent where the ball is coming out — the little things that make a big difference,” Locker said. “He’s been a pleasure to work with. He’s very encouraging and pushes me every day.”
There is another Locker connection to the Jets. Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian taught Mark Sanchez in college when he was Pete Carroll’s offensive coordinator at USC.
“We ran a lot of the same concepts they ran when Mark was at SC,” said Locker, a 6’3”, 230-pounder who threw for 17 TDs last season. “We were able to watch the film of that and kind of see how he had success in that offense. He was somebody who was on in our film room quite a bit.”
Ellard Hoping for the Trifecta
The Jets would like to re-sign their talented trio of unrestricted free agent wide receivers — Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith — and WR coach Henry Ellard would feel fortunate if that triple does occur.
“What they bring to the team is amazing — their playmaking ability,” he told newyorkjets.com. “Not only that, but the character, especially in a Brad Smith, who does a little bit of everything for us, sometimes you don’t appreciate that until it’s gone.
“To be able to get everybody back, I’ll tell you what, I would be a happy guy for sure because it makes my job coaching a lot easier.”
In his first 12 games as a Jet, Holmes caught 52 balls and scored six times in the regular season. Edwards benefited from his first full offseason with the Jets, averaging a team-high 17.1 yards a reception and also pacing the club with seven touchdowns.
“Being together for an extended period of time, you can’t help but get better,” Ellard said of the continuity. “Going through the games and the playoffs, you get better in all those situations. Mark has gotten a lot better from the experience.”
Smith caught a career-low four passes, but he was used frequently in the Seminole formation, rushing for a career-high 299 yards, and added two scores on kickoff returns.
“The guys just work hard. The more you do it, the more comfortable you are in the system so the more you react and start to make plays,” Ellard said.
“And Santonio is just special. Just watching him you can’t help but get excited.”
Tags: Jake Locker, Ken O'Brien, NFL Combine, Steve Sarkisian
Posted in Eric Allen | 34 Comments »