- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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Let's call it like it is: The New York Jets have been in decline since their loss in the 2010 AFC Championship Game.
Since then, their record is 11-13, including eight double-digit losses. What you're seeing this season -- 3-5 at the midpoint -- is the manifestation of a win-now, mortgage-the-future mentality that finally has caught up to them.
The future is here, but the talent base has eroded, too depleted to withstand injuries. And the Jets have been hit hard, losing Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes to season-ending injuries in back-to-back games. That's a tough deal, but it's not like they lost their starting quarterback.
Speaking of the quarterback situation, the Mark Sanchez-Tim Tebow dynamic has been counterproductive on many levels. It has been a constant distraction for everyone involved, from the two quarterbacks to Rex Ryan to the players in the locker room.
This was so predictable, but the decision makers, no doubt prodded by owner Woody Johnson, felt they could make it work. It was a gross miscalculation that will stain someone's legacy. The question is, who?
If the season continues to deteriorate, someone will pay with their job, because that's Johnson's track record. He's easily swayed by public sentiment. He's never endured two straight non-winning seasons, so there's no telling how he will react.
That said, the Jets aren't hopeless. In the watered-down AFC, almost every team has a chance. They probably have to win at least six of their remaining eight games to have a shot at the playoffs -- a tall order -- but the remaining schedule isn't a killer.
"We're not a bad team," Dustin Keller said. "We're just inconsistent."
Sometimes, it looks the same.
Our midseason grades:
Jets' midseason awards
Offensive MVP: WR Jeremy Kerley. Not much competition here, but give him his props. He's the top playmaker on offense.
Defensive MVP: CB Antonio Cromartie. This is a no-brainer. Cro has established himself as a true No. 1 corner.
Special-teams MVP: PK Nick Folk. He made his first 11 FG attempts before having his 12th blocked. He should've been the hero in New England.
Most improved: Kerley. He already has exceeded his rookie numbers, showing enough versatility to play outside the slot.
Least improved: LB Aaron Maybin. He got folks excited after registering six sacks last season, but he's taken a big step backward.
Biggest surprise: RT Austin Howard. His play has been uneven, but he qualifies as a surprise, considering he came from the 2011 practice squad.
Biggest disappointment: RB Shonn Greene. Not enough grounding and pounding from the "bell cow," as Rex Ryan likes to call him.
Best rookie: DE Quinton Coples. Hasn't been great, hasn't been awful. But he's no Chandler Jones.
Best offseason acquisition: S LaRon Landry. This was a risk, considering his injuries, but Landry is a playmaker with an ornery attitude.
Worst offseason acquisition: QB Tim Tebow. If you need an explanation, you haven't been paying attention for the past two months.
Best-kept secret: The Wildcat package. It was a covert op in training camp, but the coaches forgot to bring it from Cortland to the regular season.
Best coaching move: Standing behind Mark Sanchez. It hasn't been easy, but Sanchez still gives them the best chance – for now.
Worst coaching move: Perpetrating one of the biggest frauds in NFL history -- trying to sell Tebow/Wildcat to a suspicious fan base.
Biggest concern: A quarterback controversy ripping apart the locker room. Things are bad enough; they don't need finger pointing.
Key to the second half: Re-establishing the running game. If they can do that, it'll make life easier for Sanchez and the defense.
The Jets will win the division if: Tom Brady gets hurt and Bill Belichick turns into Rich Kotite.
Only way they miss the playoffs: Actually, they'll be toast by Thanksgiving if they drop the next two on the road.
Player ready to emerge: QB Greg McElroy. If they fall out of contention, they might as well see what he could do.
Least likely to return in '13: Tebow. Ain't no way he's back. Ain't no way he wants to come back.
3hEric D. Williams
1dSharon Katz & Hank Gargiulo