Sunday, December 30, 2012
Sunday notes: The Rex-Mike partnership
By Rich Cimini
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A look at the Jets and the NFL:
1. Fall guy: We know how Woody Johnson operates. If his team has a bad year, someone's head has to roll. This time, it'll probably be GM Mike Tannenbaum. He has made some poor decisions (the Tim Tebow trade, to name one), but anyone who thinks he made these moves without seeking input from Rex Ryan is mistaken. Tannenbaum doesn't have a scouting background, so he leans heavily on Ryan. At times, people in the draft room -- the talent evaluators -- feel like their voices aren't heard, according to sources. Do you think it's a coincidence the past three No. 1 picks were defensive players? Ryan can be very persuasive. In the end, Tannenbaum has the final say, so the decisions are on him, but he had plenty of help with them.
2. Tony $parano: A lot has been made of Sparano's contract situation, and how it might be hard to buy him out. Remember this: He received a contract extension before his final season with the Dolphins, who signed him through 2013. That significantly reduces the Jets' financial obligation, because the Dolphins have to pay him for another year.
3. Last licks: The irascible Mike Westhoff ruffled some feathers Thursday at One Jets Drive. In what amounted to his farewell news conference, the retiring special-teams coordinator started off by mocking OL coach Dave DeGuglielmo's post-bye week rant at the media. He also tweaked the defense.
The latter came in response to a question about why PR Jeremy Kerley has so many fair catches. He has 33, tied with Brian Mitchell (Eagles, 2000) for the NFL record. Westhoff, defending his special teams, blamed the defense, in part, for yielding field position, forcing Kerley to make fair catches around the 10-yard line. One insider told me Westhoff's nickname in the building is "Teflon Don." Say this for Westhoff: He ticked off a lot of people in 30 years, but the man was damn good at what he did.
4. Special K: Dustin Keller is a talented, pass-catching tight end in the prime of his career, but the notion that the Jets will use the franchise tag on him is fairly ridiculous. The franchise number for tight ends is expected to be about $5.9 million, and there's no way they will devote that much cap space. If Keller signs elsewhere, it'll leave no players from the ill-fated 2008 draft. The first pick that year? Vernon Gholston. Sorry to bring up a sore subject. Speaking of Keller, he's tied for second on the team in receptions even though he has missed seven games. No explanation needed there.
5. For whom the Bell tolls: S Yeremiah Bell was dependable on and off the field. Remarkably, Bell has missed only one defensive snap in 15 games; he sat out a play in the Week 5 loss to the Texans. That's quite an accomplishment, considering the physical toll of his position. Bell also was voted by the media as the recipient of the annual "Good Guy" award -- a.k.a. the Gerald Eskenazi Award, named after the former longtime beat writer from The New York Times. Bell never turned down an interview and always provided insight. A class act.
6. Still excited, Tim?: Tim Tebow used the word "excited" 44 times in his first news conference, way back in March. That's pretty much one "excited" for every time he has touched the ball -- 32 rushes and eight pass attempts. Who'da thunk it?
7. Head games: The Greg McElroy head injury is a sobering reminder that players will do anything to play, even if it means hiding concussion-like symptoms. Who can blame McElroy for trying to give it a go? Who knows if he'll ever get a chance to start an NFL game? The league is trying to address the concussion problem, but it's hard to protect the players from themselves.
8. Heady stuff: Colts rookie QB Andrew Luck leads the NFL with seven game-winning drives in the fourth quarter/OT. That's tied for the most in a season since the 1970 merger, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That's pretty amazing.
9. Bad money: Ryan Fitzpatrick's run at the Bills' QB started to go south as soon as he signed a $60 million contract last season. Since then, his record is 7-18, with 35 TDs and 33 INTs. Before the new deal, he was 12-15, with 43 TDs and 29 INTs. Sunday will likely be his final game as a Bill.
10. On the money: I'm not very proficient when it comes to picking winners, but my record for the Jets games -- sans the point spread -- is 13-2. This tells me one thing: The Jets are a very predictable team. By the way, they will lose Sunday.