The Road Back for the Jets

How can the Jets make their way back to the playoffs?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    The Jets need to rediscover their smiles this offseason.

    Last week was a very rough one for the Jets.

    You knew it would be ugly the first time that Rex Ryan failed to deliver on even the most modest of his many promises, but last week was particularly morbid. Ryan cried, fingers were pointed in every direction and no one spent a single moment finding fault with anything other than the fact that the team had captains.

    It might have been cathartic to approach things that way, but it didn't accomplish much toward creating a better team for next season.

    Simply saying that the team needs to be more unified isn't a reaction to what went wrong in 2011, it is a dodge that almost assures more of the same because no one has ever really figured out if teams win because they're unified or if they are unified because they win.

    So here's a list of actual changes the Jets should make (or not make) before next season to turn things back around. We'll start with the guy who has been made the scapegoat for the 2011 season.

    Keep Santonio Holmes - Holmes acted terribly this season, from his early complaints about the offense to the moment he infuriated his teammates in Miami, but simply cutting him or trading him for five cents on the dollar just doesn't work. The salary cap ramifications of cutting him aren't something the Jets can work with and they need a player with his skills on the offense, so they need to work things out with Holmes as part of the team. One way to do that comes next.

    Drop Brian Schottenheimer - This seems less and less likely to happen with every passing day as the Jets are crossing their fingers and hoping that someone hires Schottenheimer away so that they don't have to deal with the money they owe him after bizarrely deciding to extend his contract before the season. You sell PSLs for a reason, though, and one of those reasons is correcting a problem like Schottenheimer.

    This isn't merely a question of Schottenheimer's playcalling or game plans, although there's plenty of fodder on each front. There comes a point where there is too much water under the bridge to move forward and the Jets have reached that point with a guy who had no idea how to make the pieces work this season.

    Admit the Problems - Thanks to some poorly timed breakdowns, the Jets defense didn't look nearly as good this season as it did in the previous two years. Overall, though, the Jets, on a per-drive basis, were very good and clearly suffered from repeated exposure to the opposing offense thanks to the heavy dose of three-and-outs Sanchez produced on offense.

    At the same time, the offense regression was partially caused by a regression to the mean on fumbles after two years of incredible luck in that department. You could take these things and see them as a reason to keep on doing the same thing in hopes that it will start working.

    A far better idea is to be proactive and be aggressive about building a better roster for the 2012 season. The final two points address the ways to do that.

    Act Like a Coach, Not a Dad - It's fine for fathers to look at an awful painting done by little Jimmy in art class and find some reason to praise it to the heavens. It is quite another for Ryan to do it with paid professionals who aren't living up to their job description.

    People love to make a big deal out of Rex's bombast, but his habit of building up the worst players on the roster into All-Pros is far worse. It creates an atmosphere where no one feels threatened and anyone who has a job knows that the prospect of losing it is pretty good motivation.

    Plug Every Hole - This goes hand in hand with the previous suggestion as the Jets felt far too good about their roster this season, even when it was clear there were problems. The offensive line needs to get better, the safety play is nowhere near the caliber necessary to succeed on defense and there aren't enough guys who can make big plays on offense.

    Tim Tebow completed twice as many passes of 40-or-more yards on Sunday than Mark Sanchez made all season. The quarterback bears much responsibility on that front, but it would have a greater chance of happening if the Jets offense had a few more players capable of breaking something simple into a huge gainer. The Victor Cruz play that ended their season was just a 12-yard catch before Cruz gained the other 87 by himself.

    That's five places to start when it comes to next season. Check those boxes and there's a pretty good chance that there won't be a need to trade green for black at this time next year.

    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.