- Stephen A. Smith, ESPNNewYork.com columnist
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No matter how much talent the New York Jets possess, which coaches are guiding them, what prognostications eminate from their camp -- habitually different than what anyone else thinks, of course -- all we need are two good eyes and a spec of common sense to see where Rex Ryan's crew is heading this season.
Which is to say ... nowhere at all.
Blame a general manager in Mike Tannenbaum who forgot about his offense this offseason. Blame a coach who probably encouraged him to do so. Pay attention to the absence of a bona fide No. 1 receiver, no-names as No. 2 wideouts and an offensive line still in training, and what you have is a mediocre team trying to sell itself as something better.
"We've got our work cut out for us, there's no doubt about that," Ryan said recently. "We're not denying that. But we believe in ourselves. We know what we can do, and we're looking forward to showing everyone just that this season."
Maybe someone else has seen some semblance of an offense from the Jets, but to me it's still a mystery. The first team in 35 years to go its first three preseason games without scoring a touchdown is the same crew that let go of Plaxico Burress without a worthy replacement for his red-zone capabilities and appears hell-bent on convincing us all that the Wildcat offense will make up for everything just because Tebow's in the house.
"We want touchdowns, there's no question about it," new Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano told reporters Tuesday. "Make sure you put that in the headlines. We want touchdowns, not field goals."
But what are the chances of that happening?
Tebow still thinks he's a quarterback, which is bad. And worthy of starting despite barely any indication of improvement, which is worse.
Meanwhile, the Jets ranked 22nd in rushing last season and still plan on relying on Shonn Greene. We know Greene can play, that he rushed for 1,054 yards and showed some effectiveness as a receiver. But Greene is the same dude who didn't eclipse 60 yards rushing in a game until Week 5.
That's something the Jets can ill-afford to happen this time around, with Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Houston on the schedule the first five weeks of the season.
"I think the guys are realists," Sparano said. "They understand what's going on. They see themselves getting better. I think the guys can see improvement. They can see how close they are right now."
The fact is it's impossible for the Jets to be able to see anything right now because they're still trying to figure things out. The offense has changed. The coach wants ground-and-pound (read: Tebow), yet he still feels the need to prop up Mark Sanchez as the starting quarterback in perpetuity.
Contemporaries in the NFL have quietly joked about the Jets winning more headlines than games. Players like Darrelle Revis have wondered aloud whether enough has been done to place Sanchez in a position to succeed. The defense, collectively, has acknowledged it will have to carry the load, with cornerback Antonio Cromartie stating, "All we need is 17 points per game. If our offense can average that, we'll be just fine."
Mind you, this is being said when it's universally understood that "any offense in this game needs 21 points on average to consider yourself a winning football team," as noted ESPN NFL analyst -- and Tebow critic -- Merril Hoge told me the other day. "That's the mentality. That's when you're feeling good about yourself and where you are. It's why the Jets have no business feeling good about themselves ... because they know they can't count on averaging 21 points every week."
So much for wondering why the Jets are on a fast track to nowhere.
Here's hoping I'm wrong. Here's hoping that Sanchez plays lights-out. That Ryan and Sparano find a way to utilize Tebow without compromising Sanchez or the Jets' credibility. Let's hope that Greene has blockers to create lanes for him; that Sanchez ends up having the same so he's not on his back for 60 minutes every Sunday afternoon.
The thing is, we can hope all we want. But it only highlights the reality: we just don't know.
And not knowing who the New York Jets are, four years into the Rex Ryan era, is absolutely unacceptable.
Who will pay the price for that -- Ryan or Tannenbaum -- remains to be seen.