Let me paint you a picture. An NFL team with offensive line issues ignores the problem and instead spends their top two draft choices on a defensive player and an unproven wide receiver. That newly-drafted wide receiver is known more for what he accomplished at the combine than what he accomplished in college. At the helm, the team has a quarterback that the franchise has invested heavily in and who, thus far, has accomplished little more than notable media scuffles with teammates and bottoming out in quarterback efficiency lists. Worse yet, their only proven wide receiver is coming off the worst season of his career. Meanwhile, the General Manager insists on filling his roster issues with failed top draft choices from other teams, while he fondly stares at his large stable of cornerbacks (to be fair he does have the best cornerback in the league).
It is at this point in the article I have to ask you: am I talking about the 2009 Oakland Raiders or the 2012 New York Jets? At this point in time it is pretty hard to tell.
The 2009 season, known to many Raiders fans as JaMarcus Russell's last ride, started with drafting an extremely raw wide receiver named Darrius Heyward-Bey and ended with a disaster of a season that finally forced the franchise to shift course. That change in course meant dropping draft-bust JaMarcus Russell, head coach Tom Cable, and the notion that by having the best athletes meant having the best football team. The Raiders spent the following 2010 draft trying to fix their past mistakes, addressing the soft run defense and the poor offensive line, while waiting until the late rounds to choose "freak" athletes. Despite this shift in strategy, the Raiders have not rebuilt quite yet and are still waiting on their first playoff appearance in a decade.
This is the model the Jets have decided to follow.
Ranked 21st in passing yards and 22nd in rushing yards during the 2011 season, the Jets offseason goal should have been to improve the offense. Instead they used their first draft pick on Quinton Coples, a talented player who has issues with consistency and effort. This would be a major problem on a team with a good locker room culture.
Following the draft selection of Coples the Jets decided that, to fix an offense, they should choose a workout warrior at the wide receiver position. To give you a sense of how raw Stephen Hill is, here are his numbers compared to the Raiders' Heyward-Bey, a similarly raw wide receiver coming in to the draft. Heyward-Bey finished his three year collegiate career with 2,089 career receiving yards and 13 career touchdowns. Hill finished his three-year collegiate career with 1,248 career receiving yards and 9 career touchdowns, numbers that some receivers get in a single season. Even if Stephen Hill had a better college pedigree, he would still not be the immediate answer to the Jets' passing issues. Rookie wide receivers traditionally struggle in their first NFL season, with difficulties stemming from issues like complex route trees and increased press coverage at the line.
To address the run game, the Jets have rested their hopes on the shoulders of Tim Tebow and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. Sparano, famous for his wildcat formation, plans to use Tebow to run the wildcat in the hopes that it will spark the run game and add a new dynamic to the offense. Unfortunately for the Jets, the wildcat formation has not worked in the NFL for a few years, eventually prompting Sparano to be fired from his head coaching job with the Miami Dolphins. The offensive line issues have similarly been left unaddressed. The Jets only notable offensive line move was trading starting right tackle Wayne Hunter for Jason Smith, a former top draft choice who could not make it with the two-win St. Louis Rams. Yikes.
Not surprisingly, the offense has not worked thus far. Held without a touchdown for the first three preseason games, the Jets finally scored a touchdown when Greg McElroy threw a touchdown to Terrance Gannaway, two people hardly expected to contribute this season.
The Jets are on a path to becoming the 2009 Raiders and their season looks like it could end similarly. With the issues at key positions on offense the Jets could be looking at another season without making the playoffs. What would follow would be truly raider-esque: dump the quarterback, dump the head coach, and begin anew.