Consider this an open letter from a concerned fan. Not because I lack confidence in your decision-making skills or your leadership – you’ve proven yourself quite adept in the past 13 months – but because I’m fearful of history repeating itself.
For the past five years, we Jets fans have sat idly by – Do fans sit any other way during free agency? Pensively, perhaps – as this coaching staff has devalued two of the true impact positions in today’s NFL.
For the past five seasons, we’ve watched pedestrian safety after pedestrian safety walk through Florham Park’s doors, matched in mediocrity only by the wholly-subpar class out of outside linebackers that Rex Ryan has continually insisted fit his scheme better than a high-money free agent could.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for Jim Leonhard’s grit and smarts and I totally understand that Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace have done yeoman’s work setting the edge and allowing Rex’s blitz-happy tendencies to confound signal-callers. But for crying out loud, John (Can I call you John? I feel like we have that sort of relationship.), is it too much to ask for Ed Reed before he’s on his last legs? Do we have to live with Antwan Barnes and Aaron Maybin and just cross our fingers like school children and hope for lightning in a bottle?
I understand there wasn’t necessarily a need for a big-ticket centerfielder when Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie were locking down receivers. But last I checked, neither of those guys is around anymore and there’s Jairus Byrd just sitting out there. Do you realize how often guys like Byrd make it to free agency in today’s NFL? It’s really freakin’ rare, John.
Do you remember the story about Mike Tannenbaum and Rex showing up to Bart Scott’s door at midnight in 2009? Well, I took the liberty of looking up flights to Buffalo today and I have great news! There’s three JetBlue flights that get you into Buffalo before 3 p.m. AND, bonus, they’re only $130 each! I know your boss is a little budget-conscious at times.
You, Rex, Terry B, Dennis Thurman – OK, leave Dennis home – can just hop on a flight from JFK and head on up north and be standing on Jairus’ door at 4:01 p.m. ET and come back with a god-honest safety who can chew gum and cover tight ends at the same time!
I realize I’m using a lot of exclamation points and I’m probably coming on a little strong, but you have to understand what it’s like to watch a defense be unable to stop ANY pass-catching tight end from making big play after big play for half a decade. It can drive a man insane.
The only thing more maddening has been the Jets’ inability to consistently generate a pass-rush from Week 1 to Week 17. Sure, this defensive line is awesome (Great call on Sheldon Richardson, by the way), but don’t you think it would be even better if offensive lines had to worry just the slightest bit about someone coming off the edge? Quinton Coples is cool and all, but the NFL today is about matchup problems and as great a schemer as Rex is, the more pieces you have, the more problems you can create.
I’m not asking for you to try and steal Brian Orakpo from the Redskins. Giving up two first-round picks in addition to an above-market deal just isn’t smart business for a team with as many holes as the Jets. But that doesn’t mean you can’t chase a guy like LaMarr Woodley or, if he’s cut, DeMarcus Ware. Sure, you may have to pay a little more than they’re worth at this point in their careers, but you and I both know Rex can probably energize each of them into double-digit sack territory again. Look what he did with Barnes in a limited stretch last year! Imagine what he could do with a player as talented as Woodley or Ware.
I don’t think I’m asking for a lot, just for you to finally address two positions that have been “of need” for way too long. I know it’s not all your fault. Rex had way too much say when his buddy Mike was in charge. But YOU can fix this. You can stop our pain. No more Eric Smiths and Garrett McIntyres. You can save Rex from himself (and maybe remind him of those defenses he had in Baltimore with Ed Reed, Rod Woodson, Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs.)
Look, just throw me a freakin’ bone here, OK?
Thanks man and can’t wait to see you up in Cortland. Fish fry on me this year!
Corey works for NBCSports.com as an editor and can be reached at @cgriffin415 on Twitter or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.