Jets start season more sloppy than super
September, 14, 2010
By Tim Graham | ESPN.com
William Perlman/US PresswireJets quarterback Mark Sanchez mustered just 74 passing yards against the Baltimore Ravens.EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- So many yellow flags. They were strewn all over. They doomed the New York Jets in a 10-9 loss on Monday night.
There have been red flags with the Jets, too.
Not of the challenge variety, mind you. But maybe that's what they need, to be challenged a little more when it comes to discipline.
In the preseason, head coach Rex Ryan made a fiery speech to his players for exhibiting a lack of leadership and what he called "jackass" behavior. The scene was one of the most memorable from the "Hard Knocks" series, with Ryan's final words "now let's go eat a goddamn snack!"
Ryan was incensed partly because his players were eating McDonald's cheeseburgers during warmups for a public practice at Hofstra University.
Ryan addressed his team again Monday night. The Baltimore Ravens had eaten their lunch and wiped their mouths with the many yellow handkerchiefs lying around. The Ravens won by only a point, but the reason they won was troubling.
"That's not who we are," Ryan said. "That's not how we play. We pride ourselves on being one of the least penalized defenses in the league. Today was a joke."
Focus was a problem beyond penalties. Running back Shonn Greene fumbled twice, losing one. On their final offensive play -- fourth-and-10 from their own 31-yard line and with 41 seconds left -- tight end Dustin Keller made a catch near the sideline, no defender near him. With a clear look at the marker, he went out of bounds obviously short of the first down.
"That was Ripley's," Ryan said.
The Jets committed 15 penalties, 14 of which the Ravens accepted for 125 yards. They had nine penalties in the second quarter alone.
The Jets helped the Ravens set a franchise record with six first downs via penalty. The record was tied by halftime.
"It cost us the game really," Jets outside linebacker Jason Taylor said. "We played pretty darn well in a lot of situations. Maybe you can attribute it to a lack of discipline, but penalties that give up first downs are bad. We need to clean it up for sure."
The sheer number of penalties was bad enough. The situations were even more wretched.
Penalties gave the Ravens first downs on four plays that were third-and-9 or longer. A defensive holding call on rookie cornerback Kyle Wilson turned an incomplete pass on third-and-28 into a Ravens first down.
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie was flagged four times for 43 yards, including a 28-yard pass interference on a third-and-9 incompletion.
"It's just inexcusable," said Taylor, who jumped offsides to turn a third-and-3 into a second-and-1. "We did more to give it away than we did to get beat. You can't blame anybody but yourselves. You have to look in the mirror and say: 'We did it to ourselves.' We lost the game 10-9 and had plenty of chances to win and shot ourselves in the foot."
Receiver Braylon Edwards wiped out a pair of plays that would have done the Jets a world of good. He was called for an illegal shift on a beautiful 33-yard strike from Mark Sanchez to Keller down the right sideline in the second quarter.
On a nifty up-the-middle maneuver to block a field goal, Edwards ran into Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff. The penalty gave the Ravens a first down on a drive that eventually ended with the game's only touchdown.
Another third-down penalty, of course, helped. On third-and-10, Wilson was charged with pass interference in the end zone to set up Willis McGahee's 1-yard touchdown run.
I asked linebacker Bart Scott what all the penalties said about the Jets.
"I don't know," Scott said. "You tell me."
"If that's what you want to say," he said. "Whatever you want to say."
That was the first impression the Jets made for 2010.
You have to wonder if the happy-funtime atmosphere Ryan condones is negatively impacting them. Ryan already has had to talk to his players at least twice about unprofessionalism and sloppiness.
The Jets have made several offseason moves that reduced their leadership presence in the locker room, parting with running back Thomas Jones, guard Alan Faneca and kicker Jay Feely, all character veterans. They also jerked fullback Tony Richardson around, cutting him and then re-signing him a week before the season.
John Munson/US PresswireNew York Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with a knee injury.
More questions were raised this week about how the Jets conduct themselves. They created a stir Saturday with the way they treated Ines Sainz at practice and in the locker room.
Sainz wasn't taken seriously partly because she doesn't take her job seriously. She's promoted on the TV Azteca website as a reporter and a model and is known for showing up to events such as the Super Bowl media day and convincing players to do things like let her measure their muscles or give her a ride on their shoulder pads.
Nevertheless, the club was embarrassed. Jets owner Woody Johnson apologized to Sainz for the team's misbehavior and vowed his team would act with more class henceforth. The Association for Women in Sports Media has gotten involved. The NFL is investigating.
From an outsider's perspective, my own included, it would appear the Jets are running a loose ship.
Taylor scoffed at that idea.
"Hell, no," Taylor said. "Everyone's entitled to their opinion, I guess. But they're not on the ship."
In the same episode of Ryan's "goddamn snack" speech, Taylor showed up late for two practices. Each time, Taylor's coaches laughed off his tardiness.
Last year at Gillette Stadium, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick kicked four players off the premises for showing up a few minutes late to a team meeting on a wintry day when the roads were treacherous. Three of them were Pro Bowlers: Randy Moss, Adalius Thomas and Derrick Burgess.
The Jets have a short week to get ready for the Patriots this Sunday.
We'll see who has the most fun.