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Brian Schottenheimer's Hard to Like, But He Has to Stay

Valid criticism matters less than stable working environment

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    The Jets season started with torrents of criticism being dumped on Brian Schottenheimer for doing a terrible job calling plays in a loss to the Ravens.

    It ended with Schottenheimer hearing even more catcalls as a result of his failure to dial up any winning plays in the first half and completely failing with the team on the goal line for four plays in the fourth quarter. The defining image of the Jets loss will be Mark Sanchez running to the sideline to get a call from Schottenheimer, both men looking confused before running three baffling plays that resulted in failure.

    The reaction to that flop was swift and unanimous. The Big Lead put it together in a handy word cloud of chatter about the game with "Schottenheimer Must Go" looming much larger than anything else. Santonio Holmes seemed to agree with the fan reaction in the moments following the game when he expressed disgust with the way he was used against his old team.

    "Ask Coach Schottenheimer what was the reason behind that," Holmes said. "I just had to go with the game plan. That's the way things were called at the time, and that's what I had to do."

    Holmes was targeted infrequently on Sunday, which is baffling because he came up with the biggest offensive play of the game. His 45-yard touchdown got the Jets back in the contest, but he only had one other catch all game. Braylon Edwards had three catches for 50 yards, but neither of the big-play wideouts was a regular target even though Schottenheimer continually called plays out of the shotgun instead of keeping the ball on the ground. It wasn't new. The offense made far too little use of Holmes and Edwards all season, even though they made more big plays than any Jets receiving pair since Wesley Walker and Al Toon.

    Schottenheimer's entire five-year tenure has been filled with this kind of infuriating business. Game plans that don't accentuate the best players on the Jets are used with numbing frequency and the entire 2010 season was marked by offensive futility early in games that forced comebacks that were as thrilling as they were frustrating. All of it adds up to a compelling argument that it is time to change things up and nudge the offense in a new direction. 

    Or it would add up to that if Sanchez and a work stoppage weren't part of the equation. The steps he took in his second season are the things that leave you with a warm feeling about a season that mostly feels like the Jets underachieved despite making the AFC Championship Game. Keeping him pointed in the right direction and on a trajectory that promises further improvement is absolutely the most important thing about this offseason. That means keeping Schottenheimer.

    We're pretty confident that Sanchez would be able to grow under a new coordinator, but not this year. Thanks to the fact that the NFL owners want to horde even more money, there's a good chance of a work stoppage that makes the offseason a sliver of its normal length. That means less time to install a new scheme, less time to work with whoever will make up the rest of the offense and it would ultimately leave the Jets at a serious disadvantage. 

    Schottenheimer isn't perfect, but he is familiar and he will allow Sanchez to concentrate on honing his skills instead of mastering the unknown. That's why Rex Ryan made the right call to stick with Schotty on Monday, although we hope that vote of confidence also came with an exhortation to be better in the future.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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