NFL Nation: Greg McElroy
December, 23, 2012
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New quarterback, same crummy team. Greg McElroy made his first NFL start, replacing the benched Mark Sanchez, but failed to spark the moribund Jets, who fell to the awful Chargers 27-17 on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. How bad was it? The Jets' best pass was thrown by a wide receiver -- Jeremy Kerley.
What it means: The Jets (6-9), eliminated last week from playoff contention, clinched their first losing season of the Rex Ryan era, their first since 2007. The product on the field is garbage. That they lost to another also-ran team, with a lame-duck coach, speaks volumes about the sad state of the Jets. Clearly, an offseason of major upheaval is on the way. The Chargers improved to 6-9.
G-Mac attack: For weeks, frustrated Jets fans yearned to see the fresh face -- McElroy. They got their wish, and what they saw was utterly predictable. McElroy gave it the ol' college try, but he was overmatched by the Chargers' aggressive defense. He was sacked 11 times, the most allowed by the Jets since 1986. McElroy held the ball too long and didn't sense the pressure, showing poor pocket presence. Now McElroy can empathize with Sanchez: It's tough to throw when nobody gets open.
McElroy (14-for-24, 185 yards, one interception) led the offense to touchdowns on two of their first three possessions, but reality set in, as the Jets blew a 14-7 lead. He was smart with the ball until he was asked to throw downfield, and he wound up with a horrible interception at the end of the third quarter. He committed two turnovers, including a fumble. McElroy has some nice intangibles, but he doesn't have the skill set to be a No. 1 quarterback.
Three-quarterback circus: After weeks of dropping hints about activating all three quarterbacks, Ryan did just that. It was a first for the Jets this season. League-wide, it happened only eight times in the first 15 weeks, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Of course, the Jets managed to turn it into a joke, as neither Sanchez nor Tim Tebow played. What was the purpose of dressing Tebow if they weren't going to use him in the Wildcat or on the punt team? Ryan continues to make a mockery of his quarterback situation.
Another Tebow insult: As if being a healthy bystander weren't bad enough, Tebow had to watch as Kerley played in the Wildcat, took a direct snap and threw a 42-yard completion to Clyde Gates to set up the Jets' first touchdown. With that one pass, Kerley eclipsed Tebow's passing yardage for the season. Week after week, the Jets continue to dump on Tebow, with the coaching staff showing how little it wanted him in the first place.
Too late, Tony: Embattled offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who almost certainly will be looking for a job, actually showed some creative wrinkles. He used Kerley, a former high school quarterback, four times in the Wildcat. He used running back Shonn Greene in the Wildcat. There was a throwback screen to tight end Hayden Smith, a former rugby star who made his first NFL catch. It all begs the question: Where was this stuff all season?
Typical D: The Jets' defense had its moments, but ultimately let down, giving up 37- and 34-yard scoring passes in the third quarter. Antonio Cromartie and Eric Smith were beat in man-to-man coverage by Danario Alexander and Antonio Gates, respectively. Philip Rivers (11-for-22, 165 yards, 2 TDs), after an awful start, finally played a little like the quarterback he used to be -- and that was enough to beat the Jets.
Special teams nightmare: The Jets honored retiring special teams coach Mike Westhoff by introducing him during the pregame, allowing him to emerge from the tunnel to soak up some well-deserved applause for a fantastic career. Moments later, the mood turned sour, as the Jets suffered yet another special teams meltdown -- a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown by Michael Spurlock. It was the first punt return TD allowed by the Jets since 2003.
What's ahead: Mercifully, the Jets end the season next Sunday on the road, facing the equally inept Bills (5-10).
December, 17, 2012
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Jets committed five turnovers Monday night against the Tennessee Titans, including three in the fourth quarter, to effectively end their season. They were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with a 14-10 loss to the Titans at LP Field.
What it means: The past two games are garbage time. The Jets (6-8) showed their true colors by committing two turnovers inside the Titans' 26-yard line in the final two minutes. Now we start to wonder about who gets fired and who stays.
Off the Mark: Quarterback Mark Sanchez played one of the worst games of his career, increasing his interception total to 17. He leads the league with 23 turnovers. All four interceptions were his fault, one worse than the next. Sanchez (13-for-28, 131 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs) threw two in the fourth quarter, the latter with 1:51 on the clock -- a careless throw into triple coverage. The Jets drove from their 8 to the Titans' 23 with a chance to pull out a miracle win, but they were undermined again by Sanchez's reckless play.
Fittingly, the Jets' season ended with a turnover -- a low shotgun snap by Nick Mangold. Sanchez failed to pick it up and RB Bilal Powell kicked it, allowing the Titans to recover with 41 seconds left.
Sanchez was outplayed by quarterback Jake Locker (13-for-22, 149 yards), who made plays outside the pocket. He made several bootleg throws, a clever wrinkle by the Tennessee coaches. The Jets should've done that more often with Sanchez.
A lot of Tebow time: Four days ago, Rex Ryan seemed unsure of whether he'd play backup quarterback Tim Tebow. Not only did he use Tebow, but he let him play an entire series -- a season first. It was a bad decision on several levels.
It was surprising in two respects: First, Sanchez actually moved the offense in his first two series, developing a little rhythm. Second, Ryan let Tebow handle two obvious passing situations. It was a weird time to let Tebow, who hadn't played in three weeks, cut loose and throw. The plays ended with a sack and a throwaway. It destroyed whatever momentum they had. On Sanchez's next pass, he threw an interception.
Where was G-Mac? Once again, Ryan opted to dress only two quarterbacks, making Greg McElroy inactive. Why not dress all three? A week ago, Ryan wanted to dress all three, but he decided against it at the last hour. This time, he opted to have six wide receivers. Curious, indeed.
Not-so-elite defense: The Jets climbed to No. 8 in the defensive rankings after beating up two tomato cans, the Cards and Jaguars. Against another mediocre offense, the once-vaunted defense disappeared at critical junctures.
With a chance to create great field position for the offense, the Jets let Chris Johnson run 94 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter -- the longest run they've allowed since the 49ers' Garrison Hearst ran 96 yards in overtime in the 1998 opener. Nose tackle Sione Po'uha couldn't disengage from backup center Kyle DeVan, creating a crease.
The defense came up ridiculously small in the third quarter, blowing a four-point lead by allowing a seven-play, 64-yard touchdown drive -- right after a Jets touchdown. Good defenses don't do that. The scoring play was a 13-yard run by Locker, a read option around left end. Look familiar? The 49ers' Colin Kaepernick ran the exact same play against the Jets for a touchdown in Week 4. That's called going to school on your opponent.
Busy debut: Wide receiver Braylon Edwards, claimed on waivers only six days ago, started and played most of the game despite having practiced only three days with the team. He finished with three catches for 47 yards. If a player can come off the street and see significant time, well, it's a sad commentary on the receiving corps.
The McCourty curse: The McCourty family owns the Jets. Cornerback Jason McCourty made two interceptions, keeping the family tradition alive. His twin brother, Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty, also destroyed the Jets in two previous games. Devin scored on a 104-yard kickoff return and a forced a fumble on a kickoff. The Jets are lucky there are no other McCourty brothers on the schedule.
What's ahead: The Jets have a quick turnaround, but at least they get to stay a home -- a 1 p.m. kickoff against the woeful Chargers (5-9) on Sunday.
December, 2, 2012
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Jets rallied to beat the Cardinals 7-6 on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, but they created a quarterback controversy -- and, surprise, it doesn't involve Tim Tebow. A struggling Mark Sanchez was benched for the first time in his career, and Greg McElroy -- in his NFL debut -- sparked the team and the crowd. He led the game's only touchdown drive.
What it means: The Jets (5-7) kept their faint playoff hopes alive with an ugly win, but the larger issue is the quarterback situation. This was a bombshell decision by Rex Ryan, and it will have long-term ramifications. Remember, Sanchez is owed $8.25 million in guarantees for 2013, so his return is highly likely. In the short term, who starts next week? It's a multiple-choice question for Ryan.
The Decision: Ryan was justified to pull Sanchez (10-for-21, 97 yards) with 4:48 remaining in the third quarter. In 10 possessions, Sanchez threw three interceptions and failed to put any points on the board. The first two interceptions, made by former Jets safety Kerry Rhodes, were bad decisions and horrible throws. Patrick Peterson made a terrific play on the third interception, a deep ball to Chaz Schilens. The crowd was chanting for McElroy. Ryan had been fiercely loyal to Sanchez, but something had to be done.
He-e-e-e-re's Greg: McElroy was active for the first time because Tebow (fractured ribs) didn't dress. McElroy, a former seventh-round pick from Alabama, didn't do anything spectacular, but he didn't make any turnovers, he managed the game and he led a 69-yard drive for the go-ahead score. He hit Jeff Cumberland for a 1-yard scoring pass, a well-executed bootleg on play-action. The kid is smart and has moxie, if not a rifle arm.
Conspiracy theory: That Tebow sat one week after dressing with the same injury will fuel speculation that the Jets did it to move McElroy up the depth chart without demoting Tebow. Clearly, Ryan doesn't see Tebow as the answer at quarterback. Maybe this was his way of getting McElroy one step closer to the starting job.
Regards to Hollywood: Ryan's worst nightmare played out before his eyes. Rhodes, whom Ryan called a "selfish-ass" player with a Hollywood attitude, made two interceptions -- both in the first quarter. Rhodes also forced a fumble, setting up a field goal by another ex-Jet, Jay Feely. The Jets traded Rhodes before the 2010 season, a deal that looks terrible now. GM Mike Tannenbaum used the two draft picks acquired from the Cards to select Joe McKnight and McElroy. Interesting, huh?
Fooled again: The once-vaunted special-teams unit continues to embarrass itself on a weekly basis. This time, the Jets got suckered on a fake punt, setting up a field goal. It was a gutsy call by the Cards -- fourth-and-7 from their own 25 with 1:11 left in the first half -- but it appeared to be an audible based on the "overload" look on the Jets' punt-rushing front. Rashad Johnson took a direct snap and raced 40 yards.
Great defense: Facing overmatched rookie Ryan Lindley (10-for-31, 72 yards), the Jets' defense pitched a near-perfect game. They held the Cards to 0-for-15 on third down. Lindley was hopeless, often missing receivers by several yards.
Tebow takes a seat: As expected, Tebow was inactive. He was medically cleared, sources said, but he sat based on a coach's decision.
What's ahead: The Jets hit the road to face the struggling Jaguars (2-10). The storyline will be Tebow's return to his hometown, but it could feature a new starting quarterback for the Jets.
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Final Indianapolis 28 Cincinnati 42 Final Atlanta 21 Green Bay 22 Final Cleveland 26 New England 27 Final Oakland 27 New York 37 Final Detroit 20 Philadelphia 34 Final Miami 34 Pittsburgh 28 Final Buffalo 6 Tampa Bay 27 Final Kansas City 45 Washington 10 Final Minnesota 26 Baltimore 29 Final Tennessee 28 Denver 51 Final St. Louis 10 Arizona 30 Final New York 14 San Diego 37 Final Seattle 17 San Francisco 19 Final Carolina 13 New Orleans 31