For the past six years, Brian Schottenheimer has been a schizophrenic of an offensive coordinator, and nowhere was that more evident than on Saturday. The first drive of a the game was Schotty at his best: a flawless 10 play 52 yard march that finished in a manner befitting of his contract extension (an uncovered touchdown pass). The first quarter jinx appeared a distant memory, and the Jets looked well on the way to dismantling a below average Giants defense.
And then…nothing. No continuity, no innovation, and most importantly no points for the better part of three quarters. Schotty obstinately stuck to the air on a day where Sanchez couldn’t even get the landing gear up. From halftime on, the Jets played with their hair on fire and refused to even acknowledge what had been a successful ground game (4.2 yards per carry). All things considered, the defense may have played their best game of the season considering the amount of time they spent on the field due to the offense’s blink-of-an-eye drives.
Rumors of Schottenheimer’s firing would give some closure to Jets fans that want to know the answer to the chicken or the egg question with the offense. Namely, was the offensive ineptitude this year more due to a subpar play caller, or a backup quarterback masquerading as a starter?
If Schottenheimer were to be axed, the logical next head on the chopping block will be the much-debated quarterback. This team has now spent three years trying to construct this offense around Mark Sanchez with the results being average at best. I really want to like Sanchez, he looks and talks like a quarterback, and occasionally he even plays like one (especially in the playoffs). But in his third year, there are too many days like Saturday where he’s as accurate as a drunken skeet shooter. Even though his personal stats point to an incremental improvement, anyone who’s watched the Jets this year have seen a QB who has squandered some dominant defensive games with awful individual performances.
Assuming that everything doesn’t fall perfectly for the Jets on Sunday, they’ll go into the offseason looking to build around Sanchez one last time. A new offensive coordinator is necessary, along with a new right tackle, and in my opinion a new second receiver (the receivers inability to get separation has erased the downfield passing game. As different as Plax and Santonio look in the mirror, their skill sets match up almost completely).
Wins will definitely help next year, but it would re-instill confidence to see Sanchez dictate some games. Long drives to keep a Super Bowl-caliber defense fresh would be a sight for sore eyes. So would a quarterback that doesn’t run hot and cold like a Katy Perry song. I hope Sanchez thrives in an offense that better suits him. But if he doesn’t show major improvements, it’s time to consider that maybe no matter how many tailors are brought in, he’ll just never wear it well.
After watching one offense burn itself to ashes on Saturday, it was a relief to see one lit brightly on Sunday. For all of the Knicks struggles in their opening game, Amar’e was exceptionally efficient, and Melo was still the game’s premiere late game assassin. I respect the argument that the Celtics best player wasn’t on the floor Sunday, but I don’t think there’s one damn person in the NBA - past or present – capable of guarding Carmelo Anthony when he’s feeling it. His ability to block out any distraction, mental or physical, is consistently amazing.
But for all of their offensive talents, the two superstars aren’t known as the best or most willing passers. The issue was that on Sunday, they unquestionably were. Toney Douglas was average in all aspects of stewarding the offense, and never even flashed the ability to make an incisive pass for an easy bucket. Considering Iman Shumpert is now relegated to rehab, and my opinion of the lead footed Mike Bibby hasn’t changed, plenty of weight will be on the backs of the two stars until another one heals.
The Knicks showcased just how good they can be (the firepower bordered on nuclear in the first quarter) and how quickly it can all turn ugly (the baby pool depth was exposed in the third when a tentative Stoudemire choked off an already sputtering offense) all in the course of 48 minutes. The defense was much improved…until the big names accumulated fouls, and willingly handcuffed themselves. Landry Fields looked much more comfortable in the offense…until he missed two shots and made like Harry Houdini.
Just like last year, nobody will know exactly what the Knicks are for at least a few months. In Baron Davis, the Knicks could be returning a potential All-Star quality point guard who can not only facilitate the flow of the offense, but also assume primary or secondary scoring responsibilities when the Big Two are off the floor. Until then, this is a team that will rise and fall with the shooting percentages of Melo and STAT.