So much to fix: 5 changes the Jets must make in 2013
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With the Jets officially eliminated from the playoff race and Mark Sanchez's days as a starting quarterback in New York likely over, the Jets will play their final two games with an eye toward next season and the myriad issues they'll face. Look for plenty of changes throughout the organization as the team attempts to overcome problems that doomed its 2012 season.
Here's a look at five areas that need to be addressed:
CHANGE AT THE TOP?
With poor drafts in recent years and plenty of talented players siphoned from the team, there is a good chance that owner Woody Johnson will replace general manager Mike Tannenbaum. It is expected that Rex Ryan will remain as coach, but the dynamic is a tricky one; newly hired general managers generally get their choice of the coach, and it's rare that a GM inherits one. It's not unprecedented, though. Packers general manager Ted Thompson was hired while Mike Sherman was the coach in 2005. A year later, Thompson ousted Sherman and hired Mike McCarthy, who became a Super Bowl winner. If Johnson does hire a new general manager, it is expected that he will be a personnel specialist as opposed to Tannenbaum, whose expertise was in salary-cap management when he replaced Terry Bradway as GM in 2006.
If Mark Sanchez weren't guaranteed $8.25 million in salary next season, the team would be expected to move on, either trading or releasing him. That still might happen, although it would leave the Jets with a huge chunk of cap space known as "dead money." If Sanchez does stay, he would compete for the starting job or be a backup. It's almost impossible to see the Jets declare Sanchez as their starter heading into the offseason. Tim Tebow likely will be traded or released, because the Jets barely have used him after surrendering fourth- and sixth-round picks in a trade with Denver. Greg McElroy, this week's starter against San Diego, is expected back.
There are limited options on the trade or free-agent market, with Alex Smith of the 49ers and Michael Vick of the Eagles, who are now backups, at the top of the list of possibilities. The Jets also might choose to draft a quarterback next April, although the 2013 class is not considered as good as this year's, which includes Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson.
THE COACHING STAFF
Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano has been a major disappointment after coming to the Jets with lofty expectations following the departure of Brian Schottenheimer. Ryan hoped Sparano would reinvigorate the team's "ground & pound" approach with a run-oriented attack, but the offense has sputtered most of the season. The Jets are 30th in total offense; only the Jaguars and Cardinals are worse. Ryan is good friends with Sparano, but the poor results indicate another change is necessary. Also on the hot seat: quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh, who has failed to get Sanchez to the next level in four years together. It's uncertain which coordinators will be available in the offseason, but if Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt is fired, he would be a fine candidate. Whisenhunt took the Cardinals to the Super Bowl with Kurt Warner and won a Super Bowl in Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger.
THE PASS RUSH
The Jets haven't had a dominant pass rusher under Tannenbaum, a major problem for any defense, especially one that likes to blitz as much as Ryan's. Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas have never been impact pass rushers, and rookie Quinton Coples, while flashing potential, is still a work in progress. Besides, as an end in Ryan's 3-4, Coples has run responsibilities that limit his ability to put all-out pressure on the quarterback.
The All-Pro cornerback suffered a season-ending knee injury and will enter the final year of a four-year, $46-million contract. He is scheduled to make only $3 million next season, and could stage his third holdout if the Jets don't rework the deal before training camp. It will be the team's thorniest contract situation, compounded by Sanchez's guaranteed salary being a further drag on the cap. The Jets have stated publicly they hope to keep Revis for his entire career, but his contract demands, coupled with uncertainty about his knee, could prompt the team to consider trade options, especially if a blockbuster deal is possible.