Can Someone Please Tell This Jets Defense What to Do?

The New York Jets’ 2008 season might have remained plausible even if they had not overcome a porous defense and

The New York Jets’ 2008 season might have remained plausible even if they had not overcome a porous defense and three Brett Favre interceptions to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs 28-24 yesterday afternoon at the Meadowlands.

But it would have been a close thing.

For the third time in as many weeks, the Jets were faced with a serendipitous opportunity to right their tattered ship against a listless bottom-dweller, and for the third straight game, they parlayed their good fortune into a bizarre misadventure fraught with curious play-calling, poor execution, and maddening self-sabotage. This time, it was against an abysmal Chiefs team so decimated by injuries and inner turmoil that it was forced to start Tyler Thigpen at quarterback.

It is incorrect to call Thigpen merely bad. By every conventional measure, he entered the game as the worst starting quarterback in the NFL and perhaps the worst quarterback the Jets had faced in a decade.

The numbers told the tale: in parts of eight games this season, Thigpen had managed to complete 42.2 percent of his passes for a staggeringly bad 4.36 yards per attempt and a cringe-worthy 44.3 passer rating. All three numbers qualified him for dead last among NFL quarterbacks. And yet, time and again yesterday afternoon, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s defense would make Thigpen look like a modern iteration of Len Dawson, as he completed 25 of 36 passes for 280 yards two touchdowns and no interceptions while compiling an obscene passer rating of 110.

With each passing game, Sutton’s glaring mismanagement of the defense comes more into focus. Here’s a snapshot: over the last three weeks against such quarterbacking luminaries as Ryan Fitzpatrick, JaMarcus Russell and Tyler Thigpen, the Jets have allowed opponents to complete 64 percent of their passes for 633 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, and an average passer rating of 90.1. Sheesh.

There is simply no excuse for allowing your defense, rife with high-priced veterans and budding young stars, to be shredded by a player who would never have seen the light of day in this league had it not been for a bizarre and highly unlikely series of injuries to his underwhelming superiors on the depth chart.

Inexplicably, the Jets’ defense ranks near the top of the league both in sacks and run defense yet seems unable to stop even the league’s worst offenses. If ever there were a time to consider relieving Sutton of his play-calling duties, this is it.

The Jets were fortunate to escape their own building with a win against a team that was essentially on the draft clock after six games, and one wonders exactly how many more meltdowns Sutton must orchestrate before he is held to account for what continues to be a decidedly mediocre tenure as defensive coordinator. This win aside, the Jets are in palpable need of a spark, and Eric Mangini’s defensive pedigree would seem to render him able to take over the defense with relatively little inconvenience. At 4-3, the Jets have little margin for error. There’s no sense in standing idle and waiting for the next disaster to strike before something is done. The time to make the change is now.

Unfortunately, most of the post-game talk ignored the defensive meltdown for yet more microanalysis of Brett Favre’s now-infamous penchant for throwing costly, ill-advised interceptions. But all media fanfare and bleacher grist aside, the fact remains that Favre has proved an enormous net gain for the Jets.

Surrounded by offensive personnel not appreciably different from the group that managed only 16.8 points a game in 2007, Favre has the team on pace to score an eye-popping 397 points: a number the Jets have eclipsed just once since the NFL implemented the 16-game schedule in 1978. And after all, it is points scored and no other measure that defines the performance of an offense and, by direct extension, its quarterback. The last thing Favre and the Jets need is interference from Eric Mangini and Brian Schottenheimer, neither of whom figures to join Favre in Canton. Besides, it should be borne in mind that, for all of Favre’s crushing interceptions yesterday afternoon, the Jets managed 28 points and would have scored 31 had Feeley not missed a makeable field goal. That kind of offensive output ought to be sufficient against any team, let alone one led by the likes of Tyler Thigpen.

For all their faults yesterday, the Jets won the game and now sit with as many victories as they mustered all last season. And as incredible as it may seem, just seven days after fans were left to winder whether this Jets season had effectively ended after an embarrassing loss to the Raiders in Oakland, the Jets will now begin preparing to play the Buffalo Bills next week for a share of the division lead. Imagine what they could do if the defense got some competent direction. Can Someone Please Tell This Jets Defense What to Do?