Despite being the most obnoxious team in the entire NFL, there's no denying the success that the New York Jets have had since Rex Ryan took over as head coach in 2009. Have they won anything? Not yet. But back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship game is certainly an achievement - the kind that the Miami Dolphins would kill to achieve themselves.
It was painful watching a hated team like the Jets really dominate the Patriots yesterday - particularly because I was at a family party that included, of course, a couple Jets fans. Needless to say, it was an unpleasant experience. The number one emotion I felt? What else could it be - I was jealous.
But when you think about it, the success that the Jets have had might actually be an encouraging sign for the Dolphins. Maybe they aren't that far away from contending themselves. After all, the weekend's events show that the Dolphins should be able to compete with the league's best teams. They beat the Packers (albeit a slightly banged up version of the team) in Green Bay. They should have beaten the Steelers (and only lost by a point). They hung around against the Bears despite starting their third string quarterback and getting some awful play from a banged up offensive line. And they beat the Jets on the road at the Meadowlands.
In fact, the Dolphins have beaten the Jets in four of their last five meetings.
More importantly, the Jets are proof that the kind of team that the Dolphins want to build can be successful in this league. Like Miami, the Jets are a team that wants to run the ball well and play great defense. That's "Sparano football," folks. That's what Tony wants the Miami Dolphins to be.
The difference? It's obvious. New York's offensive line is very good. They get better quarterback play - and have a QB that isn't afraid to throw the ball down field. And they have the best cornerback in the game.
The biggest difference, though, is at offensive coordinator. The Jets use their personnel much better than the Dolphins do. When was the last time the Dolphins used Brandon Marshall like the Jets use Braylon Edwards? Has Marshall ever run a slant pattern since coming to Miami, allowing him to use his big frame to catch the ball in traffic and pick up yards after the catch?
The Dolphins' biggest need this offseason is a toss up between quarterback, interior offensive line, and offensive coordinator. Upgrades in those three areas instantly make the Dolphins a playoff team.
Think about the similarities between these two teams. Defensively, the Dolphins can stop the run. Both the Jets and Dolphins allowed 3.6 yards per carry in '10. Both teams can pressure the quarterback. The Jets ended the season with 40 sacks while the Dolphins had 39. The Jets may get elite cornerback play, but the Dolphins feature two young corners that are both pretty damn good and only getting better. And the two guys who run these two defenses are both among the best defensive minds in the game (Rex Ryan and Mike Nolan) and emphasize an aggressive style of defense.
It's on offense, though, where the Jets set themselves apart from the Dolphins. Mark Sanchez may not be great by any stretch. But he isn't afraid to make big throws in key spots. The Jets get amazing blocking in the running game, which allows them to base their offense around their success on the ground - exactly what the Dolphins would like to do.
The Jets are a prime example that Tony Sparano's philosophy works. But the team's needs are obvious. They need a speedy receiver to play the Santonio Holmes role to Brandon Marshall (who is in the Edwards role). They need upgrades along their interior line. They could use a tight end who actually gets down the seam and makes plays. They need a quarterback that isn't afraid to take chances.
Most importantly, though, they need the right man running the offense - an offensive coordinator who can utilize the offense's personnel properly.