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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Plenty of blame for Jets' failures, starting with Ryan, GM


MIAMI -- They will blame Mark Sanchez, and he deserves his share after his three-interception debacle Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

But there are two other people who need to be taking the brunt of the blame for the New York Jets failing to make the playoffs in 2011, eliminated Sunday by the Dolphins when Miami won 19-17 at SunLife Stadium.

Point the finger at general manager Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan.

It's their fault.

It's Tannenbaum's fault because the roster still has two major problems: an inability to rush the passer and a passing game that lacks playmakers. In an era where passing is the way to win, the Jets can't throw it well enough and they don't knock the quarterback down enough.

Now Ryan. His bragging, look-at-me, take-no-prisoners way doesn't bother me. No games are ever won or lost by what is said, and why wouldn't he say he expects his team to win a Super Bowl, banging his chest in the process?

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The problem I see with the Jets as it relates to Ryan isn't the hot air he blows, but it's that his team seems to lack discipline. The warden isn't tough enough on the inmates.

The Jets look too loose. Maybe they need their coach to stay off the back pages and spend more time disciplining his team.

"I think you can be too loose," Jets tight end Dustin Keller said. "But I don't think that's our problem."

I disagree.

How else can you explain a team captain -- receiver Santonio Holmes -- getting into an altercation with his teammates in the huddle, then getting pulled out of the game during a key two-minute drive?

The Jets did their best to downplay the incident, but it has to be a concern. The word is teammates were angry with Holmes for walking back to the huddle in between plays, his body language showing his anger with being shut out without a catch for the day.

Holmes said Patrick Turner, the man who replaced him, tapped him on the shoulder and he went out. That's that. He didn't fight to go back in, but instead was OK with the decision.

The amazing thing is Ryan didn't really know what was going on.

"I looked out there and was wondering why he wasn't out there myself," Ryan said. "So I did not bench Santonio. You'll have to ask him. I was trying to follow the play and I noticed he wasn't in there. Somebody told me he was on the bench."

Doesn't the head coach have to do something there? That, to me, is a problem. The other problem was Ryan even making Holmes a captain since he had some issues in the past, including off the field that led to a league-imposed suspension.

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New York didn't play terribly, but it didn't play well. The Jets needed to play well. Playoff hopes were on the line. The three INTs were bad, but what's worse is two were by DL Randy Starks. And Miami was without its best players -- LT Jake Long and RB Reggie Bush. Pititful.
Miami Dolphins
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Veteran running back LaDainian Tomlinson, one of the class acts of the league, said players in the huddle were unhappy with the way Holmes was acting.

"Let's just say there were guys in the huddle that were unhappy with Tone's demeanor," Tomlinson said "When you have a group that's fighting their butts off, and one guy, for whatever reason, their demeanor's not with them, you're going to get some guys to say something to him and tell them how they feel. That's what you got today."

Both Keller and corner Antonio Cromartie also hinted that some players didn't do their part during the season. There was talk in the locker room of a lack of chemistry.

"You have to have guys who are buying into the system," Keller said. "Everybody has to want the same thing. We had that the last couple of years and we came up just short of our goals. At times, I felt like we didn't have it [this season]."

It doesn't help when you have unit sniping. The Jets' defense played a heck of game Sunday, especially considering the three picks by Sanchez, but that led to this doozy by Cromartie when asked if the team gave enough effort.

"Uhh, maybe one side of the ball," Cromartie said.

Sounds like a discipline issue to me.

The other issue this team faces is offensive philosophy. They are too run-heavy. You can only get to a certain level with that style of play. But it's hard to argue against it now with the way Sanchez has played the past three games -- all losses.

Sanchez was horrible against the Dolphins. He was 21 of 32 for 207 yards, one touchdown and three picks. But it was worse than that. He was picked off twice on bad-decision throws by defensive end Randy Starks. And take away the 80 yards he got on the final drive -- with Miami playing soft and leading by nine -- it was really bad.

"I told you guys I think he's the long-term solution," Ryan said. "Mark has all the tools to be a great quarterback. He's been a winning quarterback here."

The Jets' thinking looks to be that they don't want to turn Sanchez loose. If that's the case, he's not the long-term answer. Entering his fourth season, they can't protect him anymore and expect to win a Super Bowl. They got to two AFC title games the past two years despite him. But playing that way isn't sustainable. If he can't throw it, they can't win it.

Maybe that's why there's so much heat on offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. There was a report that Ryan would be making changes to his offensive staff, but he shot those down.

"Somebody is throwing darts or something like that," Ryan said.

It doesn't help Sanchez that the Jets made the decision to actually get older and slower at receiver this summer. They let Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery go. Derrick Mason and Plaxico Burress replaced them. That's two players in their mid-30s, one playing after two years in prison, and neither was fast when they were in their prime.

Mason was let go early in the season when it became clear he couldn't run and Burress has been little more than a possession receiver. Holmes is the only speed threat -- and we've already written about his issues here.

Blame the receiver mess on Tannenbaum. Blame the lack of an elite outside pass rusher on him as well. That helped Miami when the Dolphins had a franchise-record 21-play, 94-yard drive to their only touchdown with Matt Moore going 6 for 6 on third down.

"We have to look at every aspect of our team," Ryan said. "I shoulder the blame. Eight and eight is clearly not what we're trying to get to."

You can bet a lot of Jets-bashers, and there are many because of Ryan's cockiness, are smirking at the Jets missing out on the playoffs.

"That may be," Keller said. "That definitely may be. That's the way Rex does it. He's not going to change. As players, we have to do a better job of backing him up."

Ryan might not change that cocky style, and said as much, but he needs to tighten the reins on his players.

"I'm always going to chase the Super Bowl," Ryan said. "I know I get criticized beyond belief. If you don't, you're probably a loser. I'm not a loser. If people don't have the guts and courage to put it out there, so be it. I will always chase the Super Bowl. I will believe it for the next 15 years. You can get all the articles you want out. That's fine. But I will find a way to make this team better."

He might want to first look at the general manager's office and then in the mirror. That's where the most fixing needs to happen if this is to be a Super Bowl team.

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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