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The Coaches and The Quarterbacks

There is no player-coach bond in all of sports as important as the one between quarterback and coach in the NFL. The success of each, and of the team, often rests on how the two get along, how much trust the coach instills in the signal-caller, and how the quarterback likes the head-honcho’s system. You don’t need to be an NFL expert to figure out that the future of the New York Jets rests on who will be their quarterback and who will their head coach be for 2009 and beyond. The only question is which will come first, and how that will impact the other. This can go in several different directions.
The first thing that must be determined is the health of Brett Favre’s right arm. If there is significant damage, does that explain his end-of-the-season slide? Jets fans know how secretive ex-coach Eric Mangini (How good does it feel to read that? It felt even better to type it) was when it came to injuries, something he learned from Bill Belichick. But does Favre have the patience at 39-years-old to recover from an injury? Could he fully recover? Let’s look at each realistic scenario:
1. Favre is injured and retires- The search for a new quarterback begins with looking at the current roster. Kellen Clemens showed some ability two years ago, but it seems like if the Jets believed he was the guy, Favre wouldn’t be here in the first place. Jets management is high on youngsters Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge, but they are both unknown quantities. Sure, one of them could turn into the next Tony Romo, but how much do you want to bet on that? The Jets have the 17th pick in the draft, can they use that pick on a QB, especially when they desperately need a pass-rushing defensive end? There’s also no guarantee that a difference maker like Georgia’s Matt Stafford (possible new QB in Detroit) or underclassmen Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) or Mark Sanchez (USC) would be available in the middle of the round (or in the latter two’s case, enter the draft) so Jets fans can stop dreaming about their own version of Joe Flacco. It’s likely the Jets would sign a quarterback, but the potential list of available QBs won’t lead to Super Bowl aspirations. Derek Anderson, Jon Kitna, Gus Frerotte, Marc Bulger, Brian Griese, Alex Smith, and Rex Grossman could be some of the quarterbacks that are available, but does any Jets fan think they can get the job done?
With no quarterback in place, the Jets will likely go for a younger coach who can build their own system. Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, and maybe University of Florida head coach Urban Meyer could pop up on the Jets radar in that case. Spags would be the top choice of Jets fans, after watching two years of his blitz-happy Giants wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines, would love to see the Jets form a sorely-needed pass rush.
But like it or not, Favre might still be the Jets best hope at quarterback entering 2009. And don’t kid yourself, if Favre leaves the Jets it will only be because he wants to. Jets owner Woody Johnson loves the idea of Favre as a Jet, and would love to have him for at least one more season, maybe two so Favre can open the new stadium. Which leads to the other scenario…
2. Favre stays on as Jets QB: With Favre back and several pieces still in place, the Jets will go for a big name coach for a short-term shot at glory. Rumors are already circulating about how the Jets will bend over backwards for Bill Cowher. He would be the one coach you do that for. His Pittsburgh Steelers teams blew some home games, but he has two Super Bowl appearances and a win, with his teams consistently in contention. But that’s still a pipe-dream at the moment; Cowher won’t leave his cushy CBS job unless the situation is perfect. Other possible vet coaches include Marty Schottenheimer, who would keep his son Brian on as offensive coordinator, Jim Fassel, who has taken a New York team to the Super Bowl and has been begging to get back into the league, or a west-coast offense guy like Steve Mariucci could be brought in, or maybe Mike Holmgren would put off retirement for one or two more years to reunite with quarterback who got him his only ring (and vice-versa). The big question mark with one of these scenarios is what the Jets will look like a few years down the road. Many of the veterans will be long gone, and how many of those aforementioned coaches are looking for a rebuilding project?
No matter what the Jets do, they need a timely decision from Favre to do it. There will be plenty of competition for these top coaches, and the Jets don’t want to be left in the dust. A rookie coach can’t build a system with a short-term quarterback, and a vet head coach most likely won’t want to train a QB on the fly when they expect to be in contention. The Jets need an answer from Favre in the next few weeks, and they need to accept that answer as final, whatever it is. That strategy didn’t work for the Green Bay Packers this season, but it’s the only way it can work. Come Kickoff 2009, this could be a very different Jets team.

Jason Levy


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NY Jets Mix blog featured writers Paul Malamood
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