As badly as you want your Jets to make a deep post-season run in Rex Ryan's first season as an NFL head coach, as reluctant as you may be to concede this season falls somewhere between "rebuilding" and "win now or never," you'd be wise to be patient.
The Jets are starting a rookie quarterback. Yes, you respond, but so did the Ravens and Falcons last season! Yes, you exclaim, but the Jets have a good running game and aggressive defense to protect him! This is New York and we don't want to be patient. We want to win.
Risky as it is making predictions in this wacky league (raise your hand if last September you picked the Dolphins and Falcons to make the post-season), I predict the Jets will win 9 games and miss the playoffs in a very tough AFC.
There are so many reasons to be excited about Mark Sanchez. He's got "it." He plays with an edge. He's fearless, athletic, and fiery. But there are also many unknowns at this point in his fledging career and judging him week to week, which is unavoidable given the enormous expectations he faces, isn't wise. Judge him on his complete body of work when all 16 games are in the books.
Recently NFL columnists have drawn comparisons between Sanchez and Eli and Peyton Manning, John Elway and Troy Aikman, to name a few. Those eventual Super Bowl QBs all struggled mightily in their rookie campaigns.
The 2009 Jets are not the 1989 Cowboys. Rookie Aikman's team was 1-15. These Jets have most of the pieces in place to make a playoff run. It may not happen as quickly as you want it. While Sanchez scintillated at times during the preseason, he showed his rawness against an overwhelming Ravens defense.
Praised for not repeating mistakes so far, Sanchez has yet to play a full NFL game against a defense that game-planned during the week. How will he manage the ups and downs of four quarters? Read defenses? Deal with getting hit and confusing fronts? Manage the clock in a two-minute drill? It takes time for a young QB to marry his skills and instincts to the game on the field, all sixty minutes.
So enjoy watching Sanchez grow as a pro quarterback. Celebrate his successes, but don't beat him up when he fails. Remember that Joe Flacco threw only one touchdown pass and 7 interceptions in the Ravens 2-3 start last season.
Remember, be patient.
* * * * * Some other observations as the 2009 Jets season approaches.
• It appears Schottenheimer isn't scaling back the offense because he has a rookie under center. The Jets need to establish an identity with their running game, but it looks like Schotty is in love with empty-backfield, shotgun sets. In my view, those formations invite hits on the quarterback and turnovers.
• Lito Sheppard. Speaking of patience, fans may be running out of it already when it comes to Lito. His was shaky in the preseason, but let's not hit the panic button yet.
• The Jets enter 2009 with two of the same questions with which they entered 2008. Deep threat at WR? See above. Pass rush? They still don't have an elite pass rusher. Calvin Pace is suspended four games. I'll closely be watching how many blitzes Ryan calls in the early weeks.
• Rex Ryan. We are all curious to see how this brash son of Buddy will approach the game as head coach. He's going to be aggressive, but aggressive turns to reckless when it doesn't work.
• Punter? This isn't funny. Hopefully Steve Weatherford will be consistently adequate. I'll take decent punts as long as I don't get any 20 yarders.