The New York Jets 2011 season ended in a thud in Miami on the last Sunday of the season. They lost to the Dolphins 19 - 17 which eliminated any chance they had to make the playoffs. The Jets seemed to play in a haze the whole season but was able to get into great position to make the playoffs after a big win at home against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 14. That win placed the Jets at 8 - 5 and in the driver's seat for an AFC Wild Card spot with three games to go. They didn't win another game.
In many ways the Jets had already failed by Week 14. After losing in the AFC Championship on the road the last two years it was clear that the Jets goal for the 2011 season was to win the AFC East and possibly even take the #1 seed in the conference. They needed to get some of these playoff games in their own building and perhaps with a bye, play one less playoff game. But they sustained early losses to the Raiders and Ravens which knocked the Jets off balance. Even more devastating than those losses were the two they gave up to the Patriots, the team they needed to dethrone to win the division. Instead of battling the Pats as though they were their equals, the Jets seemed to regress back to "little brother" status after those two losses. Mix in a nationally televised disastrous loss to the Broncos (which really had critics coming after Mark Sanchez) and the Jets still found themselves a few weeks later angled for a Wild Card spot. But then came those three season ending games.
Rex Ryan will only look as good as his team will make him look. His bravado attitude about his team is unwelcomed in a lot of corners but I don't see him changing - and he shouldn't. He looks bad now only because the team couldn't cash the check his mouth has been writing. His team, as it stands now, is in somewhat of a mess. Many are questioning whether Sanchez can cut it as a winning QB. The Jets running game and defense, the staples of this organization, took a big step back. And we are now finding out that there was some disruptive in fighting within the Jets locker room. I think the Jets mess is very "cleanable". The process of the clean up though will be very intriguing. The Jets will go through what many other NFL teams will go through. They must decide which veterans to keep and which youngsters to bring along; all with the salary cap looming over their heads. Veterans will cost any team some money but their value in the locker room and their leadership on the field is "invaluable". As of now, the team looks to be standing behind Sanchez but for how much longer? If we are to believe the "whispers" some of his teammates have lost faith in him. The "powers that be" cannot ignore that and it will be interesting to see where they go from here on that front. Will Rex ultimately abandon the "ground and pound" mantra? The NFL rule book and stat sheets reveal that passing the ball wins games in this league in 2011. Where does that leave the Jets in 2012? Somebody grab some mops and some disinfectant - this clean up going to take some work - but it can be done.