Jets head coach Rex Ryan began this season proclaiming point blank that the Jets would be in the Super Bowl. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Now there are a few big ifs, as in if the Jets don't beat Miami and if they don't get some help from other teams, they wont even be going to the playoffs this year. Sexy Rexy is looking more and more like a Jerry Glanville. A brash, smack-talking coach who lacks a filter between his brain and his mouth, and who after a quick-fix of the team he takes over, begins to see diminishing returns. Twice the Jets have finished 2nd in the AFC East, and twice they have lost in the AFC Championship game. But the disturbing part of what's happening to the Jets isn't in the W/L columns, but rather in their inability to play the kind of "ground and pound" football that is supposed to be their trademark.
|Can the Fins lay the smackdown on Sanchez and the Jets?|
While we are touching on the Jets and "inability" we might as well talk about Mark Sanchez. I'm not sure that Sanchez is the answer in New York. Not that he can't be a good quarterback, or that he's not a winner...but I don't know if he's the guy who is going to ultimately fit into what the Jets want to do. Big problem here is, the collective fate of Sanchez and Ryan are basically joined at the hip now. Ryan has time and time again offered his unwavering support for his young quarterback, and to flip sides on Sanchez now would ultimately spell doom for them both.
The Jets main issue is that as the running game goes, so go the Jets. And this year, the running game hasn't gone much of anywhere for them. If they want to impose their style of football on opponents, then they will need to have a premier, A-list running back to carry the load. Otherwise, defenses will harass Sanchez all day long, just as they have most of this season. With that type of running game will come consistency, which is something else the Jets lacked this season. They opened by winning two straight games, then losing three straight, then winning three straight, then losing two straight, then winning three straight, and then losing two. Streaky as a car window wiped with sweaty shirt. A win in either of those last two losses might have locked up a wild card spot of them.
So how about the other side of this divisional spit-in-your-face game? The Dolphins began the season looking about as pathetic as any Miami team ever, going 0-7 and looking like they were absolutely quitting on (now former) coach Tony Sparano. Then they won 3 straight and it looked like the ship may have been righted, only to split wins and losses down the stretch. With a victory over the hated Jets they still have a chance to stay out of the AFC East cellar, but that's a small consolation for Dolphins fans.
The Dolphins aren't going to the playoffs, and they aren't going to be in the top 5 for draft picks most likely. They are mired in that middle-of-the-pack no man's land where all you can do is figure what the best way to trade up in the draft will be. So what do they do? Look for a premier player? Stockpile draft picks like divisional foe New England has done for so many years? Trade for a quarterback? This team needs a lot of help, and a lot more talent. Not to mention, a new head coach. Lots of names thrown around, but nobody has emerged as the front runner yet. Personally, I'd love to see Brian Billick take over that team.
Matt Moore has been a pleasant surprise at quarterback, but it's still not really clear if he'll blossom into one of those out of nowhere type guys who makes fantasy owners giggle every week, or if he'll just plateau and never be more than an NFL journeyman. Chad Henne's contract is up, and it's doubtful the Dolphins will resign him. So they may try to trade up for a shot at Andrew Luck, or possibly RG3. The retirement of Jason Taylor wont leave as big a hole as some might think. He's essentially been a player/coach this year, but Miami does need some serious help in the secondary. And at running back, there's the Reggie Bush question. After being a complete non-factor at the start of the season, Bush has come on strong and possibly solidified his place as Miami's top back. However, Bush is noted for being both inconsistent and injury-prone, so the backfield might be another area where the Dolphins need to upgrade.
Right now, the best thing the Dolphins can do is try to knock the Jets out of playoff contention, while at the same time climbing their way out of the division's basement, and see what a new season and a new head coach will bring. I'm watching this game just to see if the Dolphins can make Rex Ryan eat a big piece of humble pie...and then watch him go back for seconds.