At Ugly 1-2, Jets Must Rethink Their Flight Plan

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The New York Sun

Before the season, Jets fans looked at the first three games on the schedule and figured the team could start 1-2 and still be in good shape.

After all, with the New England Patriots coming to town in Week 2 and a trip to San Diego to play the Chargers in Week 3, the Jets had to play both of the participants in last year’s AFC Championship Game. There’s no shame in losing to those teams.

But now the first three games have been played and the Jets are, in fact, 1-2, and all of a sudden a 1-2 record doesn’t look so acceptable. Not when the loss to the Patriots came in New England’s first game without Tom Brady at quarterback, and not when the Jets weren’t even competitive against a Chargers team that entered Monday night’s game with an 0-2 record.

And with this Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals looking like a tougher test than most people figured it would be before the season, the Jets are suddenly staring at the strong possibility that they’ll go into their Week 5 bye with a 1-3 record, and with an uphill climb to have any chance of making the playoffs.

That means the Jets need to make radical changes, and those changes should start with the offensive game plan.

When the Jets traded for Brett Favre last month, it was supposed to be their opportunity to move past the dink-and-dunk passing game of the Chad Pennington era, and to stretch the field with a quarterback whose arm strength is legendary. But through two games, a curious thing has happened: The Jets’ coaching staff has shoehorned Favre into a Pennington-style offense.

Jets coach Eric Mangini said yesterday that if Favre hasn’t looked like the Favre of old, it’s because he needed some time to adjust from the Green Bay Packers’ offense to the Jets’ offense.

“Any time you bring in somebody new there’s a transition,” Mangini said. “Brett had been in one system for a long time.”

But it’s especially strange to see Favre become the king of the dump-offs and check-downs, when you consider that in the first quarter of the season opener against the Miami Dolphins, Favre uncorked a highlight-reel 56-yard touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery that looked like exactly the kind of deep pass he was brought to New York to throw. Instead of calling on Favre to do that several times a game, the transition to the Jets’ offense seems to involve asking Favre to throw short passes almost exclusively.

The result is that Favre has a sky-high completion percentage of 70.0%, which would be the highest of his career for a single season, but a puny average of 10.3 yards a completion. That’s a significant drop for Favre, who averaged 11.7 yards a completion last year and has averaged 11.5 yards a completion for his career.

Of Favre’s 63 completions so far in a Jets uniform, only three of them were to receivers who were more than 15 yards downfield: His two touchdown passes in the opener against the Dolphins, and a 19-yard pass to Laveranues Coles in the third quarter of Monday night’s game in San Diego.

That pass to Coles was one of the few promising developments from the Jets’ blowout loss to the Chargers on Monday night. Favre finally reminded everyone in the second half that he is, in fact, capable of airing it out, but he aired it out after the Jets had fallen behind 38-14 and the Chargers had gone into a prevent defense. So the Jets still aren’t sure whether Favre can resemble the Favre of old if they ask him to do it all game long.

On Sunday, it will be time for them to find out. For all the talk about how it takes time for a quarterback to learn a new offense, Sunday will mark Favre’s 53rd day as a Jet. It’s past time to give Favre a full offense to run, an offense that goes beyond just safe and cautious short passes and includes plenty of deep passes that allow him to show off his arm strength. If it takes longer than 53 days for the Jets to install such an offense or for Favre to learn such an offense, the Jets never should have made the August trade for Favre in the first place.

To his credit, Favre acknowledged at his post-game press conference Monday night that he has had enough time to study the playbook and develop a rapport with his receivers. “There are no excuses from my end tonight to say I’m still learning the offense,” Favre said.

No matter how comfortable Favre is in the Jets’ offense, Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer need to make it an offense that takes advantage of Favre’s strengths. Otherwise, just as Favre in 2008 is looking like Pennington in 2007, the Jets’ record in 2008 will look like their record in 2007.

Mr. Smith is a writer for

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