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Chemistry Isn't the Jets' Biggest Problem

Focus on team chemistry ignores the overwhelming talent problem.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    If talent isn't the topic, the Jets are missing the point.

    The concept of chemistry on a professional sports team is always a difficult one to fully wrap your head around.

    Our current football landscape is a pretty good example of that. The Jets are being called a dysfunctional trainwreck by everyone in town for their 8-8 season while Tom Coughlin is being hailed as a man who knows how to keep a team together by pushing all the right buttons because the Giants won their division this season.

    Both narratives seem to fit, but when you really break it down the Jets were three points in Miami (and the Giants were a blocked field goal or different ref ruling on a Victor Cruz fumble) away from having the same record this season.

    That seems like a pretty narrow difference in terms to use to draw such wide conclusions about them when all is said and done.

    This isn't about the Giants, at least not about them as anything more than an example of how the tail wags the dog when it comes to much sports commentary.

    This topic came to mind on Monday while watching the Jets' season-ending press conference which became a public flagellation of Rex Ryan for "losing the team" to petty in-fighting and a lack of unity in the locker room.

    General Manager Mike Tannenbaum was only too happy to pile on while sitting next to Ryan and you can understand why he was so willing to go that route.

    Every time there was a question about what went wrong, it had to do with making Santonio Holmes a captain, Ryan's message getting lost in the mix or the decision to part ways with locker room leaders in the past couple of seasons.

    Not once did the issue of talent come up for discussion despite plenty of moments over the course of the season when it was clear that the Jets simply weren't a talented enough team to achieve their stated goals.

    Instead there was a whitewash about leadership, as there has been several other times this season when people have bemoaned the departure of players like Thomas Jones and Alan Faneca as the reason why the Jets went down the drain.

    You certainly need leaders on a football team, but they need to actually be good players and the idea that keeping Jones or Faneca would have made a bit of difference this season is more laughable than any season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

    Whether it was a defense that couldn't rush the passer, safeties that couldn't stop a senior citizen, an underpowered offensive line or Mark Sanchez, the Jets had plenty of spots where their lack of talent was obvious.

    Beyond that, they haven't gotten enough productivity from their drafts in the last two years and got very little from free agency this offseason despite being well under the cap all year long.

    There's no doubt that the team wasn't functioning like a cohesive unit for much of the season and it is impossible to ignore the larger context of the way Holmes acted in Miami, but any sober assessment of this team has to go to every corner of the team.

    But you can have the most harmonious locker room on the planet and still miss the playoffs if you are as talent-poor as the Jets were this season.

    Tannenbaum must be thanking his lucky stars that Ryan is the team's head coach. Ryan's penchant for overpromising and underdelivering makes it easy to just ignore the fact that his boasts were like a guy trying to rob a bank with an unloaded pistol.

    It was a bluff in hopes of convincing everyone to cower in fear without realizing there was nothing actually behind the threat. Tannenbaum is the reason that there were no bullets in Ryan's gun, but everyone has so much glee about finally being able to hammer Rex that they don't even think about looking to see the full picture of what led to the Jets' downfall this season.

    At Monday's presser, the Jets tried to sell the idea that they would be just fine if they made no changes other than creating a better locker room. That's almost right.

    There is a problem in the locker room, but it isn't the chemistry. It's the talent and without upgrading that, things aren't going to change all that much next season.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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