If you could experience such a strange episode, you would feel like the New York Jets of 2007. Eric Mangini's team is without an identity on both sides of the ball. At 1-6, the Jets lack talent and personality.
If you were asked to describe your team, what would you say? When you think Patriots an identity immediately comes to mind. Unstoppable and dynamic passing offense. Same for the Colts. Ravens? DEFENSE. The history of the NFL is woven with teams that symbolized an indelible aspect of the game. The Steelers of the ‘70s. The 49ers of the '80s. You get the idea.
The 2007 Jets don't know who they are. On defense, they may have 4-3 personnel but think they should play a 3-4. Regardless, there are no difference makers, hard hitters, or speed demons in the front seven whom the opposing offense must account for on every play, players fans in another NFL city would think of immediately when hearing the words "Jets defense."
On offense, the Jets sometime run the ball to Thomas Jones but most of the time seem to throw short passes to two players, Laveranues Coles and Jericho Cotchery. The Jets said they wanted to run the ball this season, but have abandoned the ground game in several close games. The play calling late in the Eagles game on 3rd and then 4th and 1 from the Philadelphia 4 yard line was a glaring indictment that the Jets are grasping, not dictating.
Identity is crucial. Players and teams who know themselves are confident, deliberate, and motivated to impose their will. Here it comes, try to stop it. In key situations, such teams know exactly what will work. In games, such teams don't merely hope they will win, they know victory is inevitable.
The Jets identity crisis can be blamed on both a lack of talent and coaching. On offense, the Jets should be better. However, Brian Schottenheimer's offense has become predictable. Outside of Coles and Cotchery, no one else is consistently involved in the passing game. One week, it looks like the Jets are serious about establishing Thomas Jones. The next, it seems Schottenheimer forgets he's on the team. Jets fans must cringe when they see Pennington prepare to throw another short out or fade pass down the sideline. Opposing corners are drooling. The Jets are clearly going to those routes far too often at the expense of attacking the middle of the field.
Defensively, the Jets have a rather negative identity. They are small, not very strong, not very fast, and can be dominated physically. Mangini's 3-4 defense is, once and for all, a flop. General Manager Mike Tannenbaum also deserves blame for failing to bring in enough players for the system.
Add it all up and it's easy to understand why the Jets play non-descript, uninspiring football.
Some other thoughts from the exasperating loss to the Bengals:
Ben Graham is hurting the Jets. If Mangini wants to make some changes, he can include a new punter.
You shouldn't be surprised a back-up running back gashed the Jets. This defense can't stop anyone, remember? Most pro running backs can pick up yards when the defensive front is being pushed back on skates.
After the Bengals 3rd quarter, 14-play drive that ended with a touchdown, cutting the Jets lead to 23-17, didn't you know right then and there the Jets were in trouble? If you didn't then, Ben Graham's 20-yard shank after New York's ensuing 3-and-out should have clinched it.
Pennington is throwing too many fades. The incomplete fade to Coles on a 3rd and 2 in the 2nd quarter, which left the Jets to settle for a FG, was a low percentage play. Coles has tremendous hands and attacks the football, but he's 5'11".
The Jets struggle picking up blitzes. Some credit has to go to the opposing defense, but too many defenders are coming clean and crushing Pennington. Pete Kendall's smarts and communication skills are missed.
Chad Pennington has underrated pocket presence. He feels the rush and buys time for himself. His first down scramble in the 4th quarter showed a lot of guts, too.
The QB issue, in my opinion, is moot. The Jets have so many holes, QB should be the least of the franchise's worries. Pennington has been a winner; Clemens has a lot of promise. The season is lost regardless who starts from here on out.