Analysis  

 

New York Jets, Giants double down on disappointment in 2012

Associated Press
Rex Ryan (left) will endure his first losing season with the New York Jets. Tom Coughlin's Giants need a makeover.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For all of their differences, and there are many, the New York Giants and New York Jets are partners, sharing a home stadium as well as a media market, a city, a metropolitan area, a fan base.



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After Sunday, they might have something else in common: A football-free January.

With the Jets already eliminated and the Giants clinging to long-shot chances, both teams are likely to miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2003 season.

Tom Coughlin has seen his defending world champions crumble, losing five of their past seven games, and the Giants are suddenly in need of help -- lots of it -- to make the playoffs.

Coughlin's description of it all: "Perplexing, disappointing and frustrating."

Given the Giants' atrocious results the past two weeks -- they've been outscored 67-14 -- the most difficult part of Sunday's "they-still-can-make-the-playoffs" scenario for Coughlin & Co. might be winning their own game, at home, against the four-win Philadelphia Eagles.

"What I talked to our team about was pride, honor, dignity," Coughlin said. "Play the game the way we're capable of playing the game. Finish this season with a game we can all be proud of."

Meanwhile, 30 miles west -- though, fittingly, there is no direct route from the Giants' East Rutherford, N.J., practice facility to the Jets' digs in Florham Park -- as coach Rex Ryan stepped to the podium for his Thursday press conference, it was as if even he understood that the joke, mostly, is on the New York Jets.

"You're not going to believe this one," Ryan said.

Try us.

As Ryan chronicled, third-stringer-turned-starter Greg McElroy finally fessed up to having concussion-like symptoms after being sacked 11 times Sunday. The quarterback was being evaluated for a concussion.

Therefore, Ryan said, "I'm going to start Mark Sanchez."

That's the same Mark Sanchez who has a league-high 50 turnovers over the past two seasons and had been benched in favor of McElroy after committing five turnovers in the Jets' win-or-else loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 15. Which means Tim Tebow will spend another game day, this one in Buffalo, wondering why the Jets acquired him in the first place.

Even in a meaningless season finale, Tebow can't sniff a start. "Obviously," Ryan said, "Tim's not happy with that, as you'd expect."

Obviously.

The Jets have been a traveling carnival (now a charitable description) since they traded for Tebow in March and Ryan predicted in August that opposing defensive coordinators would endure sleepless nights while preparing for Tebow's Wildcat. In reality, the Tebow experiment has been given 76 offensive snaps, yielding 141 yards and exhausting nearly everyone.

There might be no one on earth happier than Tebow that the NFL season has reached Week 17. Not that he'll admit it.

"I'm just looking forward to playing the Buffalo Bills," Tebow said.

Coincidentally, one of those Bills, wide receiver Stevie Johnson, was asked on a conference call with Jets reporters if he has followed Gang Green this year. "It is hard not to," Johnson said.

The Jets, losers of 17 games over the past two seasons, have defeated just one team this year that owns a winning record (the Indianapolis Colts). They do, however, lead the league in anonymous sources and leaked stories, including one in Friday's New York Daily News that claims Ryan wants to be fired if owner Woody Johnson isn't willing to commit financially to overhauling the offense.

Those anonymous sources, naturally, previously have targeted Tebow. Teammates disparaged him, with one saying he is a "terrible" quarterback; more damning was last week's leak that he opted out of the Wildcat after being passed over for the starter's role in favor of McElroy.

In defending himself, Tebow said it's one thing "if you're good or bad at football. But your character (and) your integrity, that's who you are as a man, and that's a lot more important."

Meanwhile, on Dec. 27, a full nine months after the trade for Tebow, offensive coordinator Tony Sparano again tried to explain why the zone-read offense Tebow ran with the Denver Broncos never materialized in New York. "The Wildcat and what Tim did (as a Bronco) are really two different things," Sparano said.

Uncle. Seriously, uncle.

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While this season can't end soon enough for the Jets, the Giants are trying desperately to prolong theirs. The problem: The defense can't make a stop, and the offense can't score. The defense ranks 30th. The formerly high-flying Giants offense has totaled 442 total yards, 164 rushing yards, 21 first downs and two touchdowns -- over the past two weeks.

"It really eats away at me and it really bothers me," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "I can't sleep. My stomach is upset. ... I really struggle, physically."

A year ago, the Giants finished 9-7 and rode momentum -- and a Week 16 Victor Cruz-fueled victory over the Jets -- through the playoffs and to the Super Bowl. They capitalized on opponents' mistakes. They were confident. Supremely confident. Winners.

And now?

The Giants, all of a sudden, can't take a punch and are hoping -- hoping -- to finish 9-7. And they, like the Jets, face something of a crossroads. They've won two of the past five Super Bowls, but the roster is due for a makeover. In the offseason, the Giants will seek answers and, if history indicates, they will find them, with co-owner John Mara, general manager Jerry Reese and Coughlin.

As for the Jets, their future is mostly cloudy. They haven't won the Super Bowl since 1969, and this campaign put them no closer. It has been largely assumed that Ryan, with two years remaining on his contract, will return. But will general manager Mike Tannenbaum? What about Sanchez and the guaranteed $8.25 million he is due in 2013?

Nothing is certain, except for this: On Sunday, the Jets will close the curtain on the crazy train. Ryan was asked if this was his strangest season yet.

"I would say that's pretty accurate," he said, "and we've had some strange ones."

Then, as he left the room, Rex Ryan laughed. What else could he do?

Follow Kimberly Jones on Twitter @KimJonesSports.

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