Last year was a nice story. A new regime that brought not only a new coaching staff but more than two dozen players, either through the draft or free agency. Plus, a new attitude. That, plus a weak as hell schedule was barely enough to change the loosing culture in south florida and get us into the playoffs. This year we all had big plans for this team, and along the way forgot about the famous three year rebuilding process. Today it might be time to remember what is supposed to be going on with this franchise.
After three - one way or another- disastrous performances this season it is time to evaluate not only our roster, but the whole franchise, from the water boy to the owner (this is not cliche, I saw what seemed to be a water boy laughing the night away on our sideline while we where getting our asses handed).
This were the main goals of the rebuilding process entering the 2008 season:
1- Get young through the draft.
2- Change the loosing culture.
We had a fantastic 2008 draft, where we got 5 starters: Long, Langford, Thomas, Bess and Carpenter. Plus two future contributors: Merling and Hilliard. And our future starting Qb- Chad Henne. Pretty successful. The 2009 draft is still to soon to call but at least most of those guys our developing steadily on our roster. So the team is successfully getting young.
The culture also changed. In few words; we got into the playoffs last year and we were expecting to get back there again this year. That gives you the idea.
So to the point. Along the way we started to believe we were ready to contend and that we had turned this thing around already. Right now, after watching a high school offense on the field week in and week out, or an ironically called "defense" try to pass rush or cover receivers down the field, its just clear that we are not there yet.
These are, in my opinion a couple of steps we need to take from this day to next year's draft to become a true powerhouse in the NFL, because right now from watching Manning and Warner on SNF I can say mistake free football and hard work are not going to cut it. Just ask the Niners.
Player changes- As much as it might hurt to say this; this season we are not going to contend to make the playoffs, much less win the division. That is not necessarily such a bad thing because it gives us a chance to keep or start developing our second year players and our rookies. For instance:
1- Bench Gibril Wilson and play Chris Clemons- His coverage skills are killing this secondary. He couldn't manage or even contain TGonzales or Dallas Clark, not to say the humiliation he was administered by Vincent Jackson today. Play the young guy, see what he's got.
2- Bench Will Allen and play Vontae Davis- A lot of people were throwing around this offseason the words "shut down corner" every time they mentioned Allen. That, is laughable. He is not terrible or anything like that but we just spent a first round pick on Vontae Davis, who by the way has all the talent and more to be an All-Pro corner in this league, to watch him sit on the bench instead of starting to develop on the field and get NFL ready to be there when it matters.
3- Bench Chad Pennington and put in Henne- If someone has stood up for CP10 it has been me, but it is time for Henne to start playing. Like I said before, this season we are not going anywhere, plus we need to find out if Henne is the long term answer for the QB position on this team. He doesn't need garbage time or emergency time, he needs to be the starter and do all the things the starter does: practice with the first team offense all week long, get most of the snaps in practice, be game planed around him, etc. Today he was sent in there in a rough situation where his "#1" receiver didn't help much. To judge him based on his play today is laughable.
4- Give Camarillo's snaps to Hartline and Turner- As much as Greg has helped since the 2007 season, these rookies need to play. Some say Camarillo couldn't even be a 3rd receiver in some teams, I disagree, but since this team's priority is not to win now but to prepare its young players for the future, play Hartline and dress up Turner for game day. (Turner could've provided a huge red zone target today instead of running 134 times on goal line situations against the Chargers)
5- Give Cameron Wake some of JT's and Porter's snaps- Again, Taylor and Porter aren't getting any younger and we need to find out if Cameron Wake is a young solution to the OLB position or if we need to go to the draft and get one. Plus, both of those guys could probably use the rest.
Is this a sign of giving up on this team this season? probably. Is this in the best interest of this franchise's future? definitely.
Coaching staff changes
Until the game against the Colts, this fan base, including the media, was just blindly in love with this Coaching Staff, specially HC Sparano. Now, through 3 games we have got to see that they are not perfect (for me it started with the playoff loss against the Ravens). Yes, they are definitely very good, they changed this team's attitude around, introduced the Wildcat, conducted a mistake free offense during 08 and a bend but not break defense too. But that's just not going to cut it.
One would say that the players are to take the blame for miserable performances, but in this sport, the coaches' decisions before and during the game are a key part of a team's success.
1- Play calling is offensive- I've read a thousand times that this coaching staff plays not to loose instead of playing to win. Yes, it has something to do with our limitations at the qb and wr positions but thats not all the story. Forget about Pennington's arm strength for a moment and think about a couple of calls they made since week 2:
a) 3rd&6 against Colts with more than 4 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter: They call an "option" so that Pennington could decide wether to run or to pass. There is a problem with that. 1- such a formation benefits either the run or a poor passing play because of the Xs and Os of the formation. 2- Pennington is not the coach of this team. That was a conservative ( p_ssY) call and it cost us the game. Yes, I understand why our passing game is not like that of the Saints, but Pennington had been "clutch" to say the least on short to mid 3rd down situations that day.
b) Today, on our 2nd goal line possession of the game after a lost fumbled (ugh) they call like 20 running plays and a pass to the fullback. Of course, on a long 3rd and goal, they call a run up the middle and have to kick a field goal. Against the Chargers, who are man handling our defense. We saw against the Colts that Field Goals don't win games against Pro Bowl qbs. Guess they didn't.
So the point is that the play calling on offense is too conservative ( we saw that even with cannon arm Henne in there today) and too predictable. Every time we pass our receivers stop running their routes at the 1st down mark. We are already seeing how Pennington won't be the qb of this team anymore because he can't get the ball downfield, if Dan Henning can't do the same with Henne he should no longer be this team's OC after this season.
This one is even worse. Lets go back again to the game against the Colts. On both of Dallas Clark's huge gains, one of them being an obvious passing situation, he was being covered by a linebacker (once Crowder once Ayodele) because we didn't have a nickel package on the field. This, knowing that Clark would be Manning's main downfield threat and after Tony Gonzales crushed our defense a week before. How can you be so unprepared.
Then, to me, the most troubling foe of this defense is the predictability of their blitz packages. Not only do Porter and Taylor only have like one sack each through 3 games, but this lack of pressure gives the opposing qb even more time to tear apart our terrible secondary. As for the predictability of the blitz. Last week on Indianapolis' last touchdown, we showed blitz, then Manning went through a thousand audibles. The result? A 48 yard completion on a screen to a guy named Pierre Garcon. Really? Really?
After watching the new Jets defense play three complete games against tough offenses and absolutely crushing them with a thousand different blitzes I realize two things: We need more playmakers, we need a smarter, more aggressive, up to date Defensive Coordinator.
Like I said before, I have nothing against this coaching staff, they have done a great job, but to win a championship you need elite or at least above average play callers. Jason Garret was called a wonder boy in 06 and 07, Josh McDaniels tore apart the league in 07, Todd Haley did in 08. Lovie Smith on defense on that Super Bowl run and this season again, Mike Nolan in Denver right now and on and on.
Free agent acquisitions
Im all for building through the draft. Nicky always says how we shouldn't become one of those teams like the Cowboys or the Redskins that just go out spending ridiculous amount of money and draft picks and how it is never a smart move in the long run, and I agree. However, there is a huge difference on giving Albert Haynsworth 100$ million paycheck than trading a 2nd rounder for future HOF tight end Tony Gonzales to help your franchise qb develop or a good but not over the top pay day for Pro Bowl ILB Bart Scott or WR Torry Holt or even Terrel Owens or Kurt Warner. Bottom line: to win in the NFL you need elite talent, there is no way around it. And free agency or trades inevitably are a big part of that. Yes, you need to me smart about it but if you want to be a powerhouse in the NFL you need to find a way to get elite talent and it won't always come cheap. Im all for the Devone Bess', Brian Hartline's, Turner's and Camarillo's of the world but this offseason or next we have to look for the Anquan Boldin's, Dwayne Bowe's or Brandon Marshall's via trade or free agency if we want Henne to become an elite passer.