The Jets may or may not return to Super Bowl contender status in 2012. But they proved this offseason they remain a year-round championship-caliber team when it comes to generating headlines.
The Jets, fresh off the most headline-happy 8-8 season in the NFL last year, remained in the news the last six months, especially during an eventful March, when they flirted with free agent Peyton Manning, signed starter Mark Sanchez to a long-term contract extension, inked free agent Drew Stanton to a one-year deal to serve as Sanchez's backup and then acquired the world's most famous backup quarterback, Tim Tebow, in a trade with the Denver Broncos. They then traded Stanton.
That was a whirlwind process even by the Jets' standards and left the Green and White with a simmering quarterback controversy as the Jets prepare to head to upstate Cortland for training camp in late July. Management has been steadfast in declaring Sanchez the starter, but fans' patience with Sanchez is growing short and Tebow is one of the most popular players in the league after he took over the reeling Denver Broncos last season and mounted several stunning fourth-quarter comebacks in helping to steer them to the AFC semifinals.
Whoever takes the snaps for the Jets will be at the helm of a revamped offense that will nonetheless look familiar to observers. With Tony Sparano taking over offensive coordinator duties from Brian Schottenheimer, the Jets will return to the "ground and pound" approach favored by head coach Rex Ryan. Sanchez or Tebow will be expected to oversee a unit that will be powered by running back Shonn Greene, who is entering his first full season as starter.
But there will be plenty of drama on offense even if Sanchez solidifies his standing during training camp. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes, fresh from getting yanked off the field during the Jets' final series of the 2011 season, continued to mope this spring and asked out of a workout June 7 because he'd felt he'd already taken too many snaps. Holmes ended up missing the Jets' final minicamp with a sore hamstring.
The Jets also rebuilt their defense and are hoping top draft pick Quinton Coples can contribute immediately to an aging pass rush and help usher in a new 4-3 scheme. The Jets remain top-heavy in the secondary, where stars Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie man the cornerback spots, but safety remains a giant question mark.
The Jets signed injury-prone LaRon Landry to a one-year deal with the hope he'd solidify one safety position, but he missed OTAs as he continued recovering from the Achilles and left foot ailments that he battled the last two seasons with the Redskins. With Landry's status uncertain for training camp, the Jets signed steady veteran Yeremiah Bell to a one-year deal in May.
This being the Jets, though, even their one sure thing on defense is no sure thing. Revis, two years removed from missing all of training camp in a contract dispute, refused to guarantee he'd show up to Cortland on time this summer. A second holdout in three years would be par for the course for the Jets, who can only hope their play on the field in 2012 is as captivating as their activities off it.
Super Bowls aren't won or lost during offseason team activities. But coach Rex Ryan and the Jets are hopeful a foundation for a successful season-one that will lack the drama and inconsistency that ruined the Jets' 2011-was created over the past few months.
On the field, Ryan believes the Jets made strides towards building his type of team-one that is dominant on defense and efficient on offense, where new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano is reintroducing the run-first approach Ryan loves.
"I'm excited about where this team is," Ryan told reporters as the Jets' minicamp concluded last week. "I really am. Anytime you put in a brand-new offense, I'm excited about how far we've come. All the formations changed, everything-the motion, the tempo and the verbiage.
"Are we there yet? No, but we made strides." Off the field, Ryan is also hopeful the Jets made strides and are in the process of becoming a more cohesive unit than the fractured bunch that dominated New York's back pages for all the wrong reasons last year.
"I don't know how many wins we'll have, but I know we'll have that corrected," Ryan said. "We will have a close football team. We're not going to beat ourselves with some of the in-fighting or all that other stuff. That's a thing of the past."
Well, he hopes so, anyway. From sending pointed Tweets earlier in the winter to storming off the field because he was being overworked and avoiding the media during the last week of minicamp, wide receiver Santonio Holmes has continued to act as if it's still New Year's Day in Miami.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis isn't as divisive a force as Holmes, but his bubbling unhappiness over his contract status and the potential for a training camp holdout looms as a distraction.
Nor is the Jets' offensive overhaul a sure thing to succeed. While Ryan and Sparano have the personnel to implement "Ground and Pound"-the Jets have plenty of depth at running back, where starter Shonn Greene is coming off his first 1,000-yard season, while rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill is expected to start as much for his blocking ability as his big-play talent-it remains to be seen if Mark Sanchez can fend off Tim Tebow.
The Jets insist Sanchez is the unquestioned starter, but Tebow is one of the most popular players in the league and the often-sensitive Sanchez will be under the microscope like never before. Sanchez raised some eyebrows during the final practice of minicamp, when he was 1-of-10 and took a sack during team drills.
The adjustments the Jets made on defense this spring, on the other hand, appear more sustainable. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said the presence of promising defensive linemen such as Quinton Coples, Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis will allow the Jets to play more of a 4-3 scheme this year, which should place more pressure on quarterbacks in an increasingly pass-heavy league.
"We have two pretty good bookends in Quinton and (Wilkerson) and we have a pretty good rotation of guys inside," Pettine said.
Only time will tell if a successful 2012 season began in the offseason. But at least the Jets are heading into their final break before training camp feeling much better than they did after the season finale in Miami.
"I feel like we accomplished a lot, made a lot of strides-nowhere near where we need to be, but we accomplished a lot in the time we had," guard Brandon Moore said.