Schottenheimer out, Sparano in as Jets OC

The news broke late Tuesday night out of the Jets facility that Brian Schottenheimer would not be returning to the team as offensive coordinator.

Jets fans everywhere immediately started throwing parties, popping champagne bottles, having bonfires, streaking through quads…

[caption id="attachment_460" align="alignleft" width="186" caption="(former) Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. // Photo by Lee S. Weissman"][/caption]

Schotty didn’t get the head coaching job for the Jacksonville Jaguars, which seemed to be what the Jets were waiting to find out, because they announced it right after Jacksonville announced Mike Mularkey got the head coaching position.

It was clear that general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan were praying that Schottenheimer would get another job, even as they assured everyone they expected him back. They kept praising him to high heaven – his work ethic was one to be admired, he was such a great coach, people love him, etc… The Jets probably didn’t want to pay him what was left on his contract if they could avoid it.

This never made a lot of sense. They extended his contract last offseason. Say what you want about “lame duck” coaches, but the fact of the matter is that any coach who wants to keep coaching isn’t just going to mail it in if they want another coaching contract. If the Jets had just stood pat, he’d be coaching for his job (as good as or better than he would coach anyway), and could just walk away at the end of the season when the Jets declined to make an offer. Then there wouldn’t be any of this “hoping he gets taken off our hands” nonsense.

Considering it was Schottenheimer’s “decision” to leave, he probably got some kind of settlement from the Jets. He’s currently up for three other jobs – the offensive coordinator positions at the University of Alabama, with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Atlanta Falcons. Good luck to him and to whichever poor suckers hire him.

Look, I’m not wishing anything bad on the guy. But at this point it’s clear that he needed a change of scenery, and considering how Jets fans have been calling better games in Madden for years now, it was time to go.

But let’s be real here: the reason Schottenheimer is gone (and we’re not watching another season of runs up the middle on 3rd and long) is because he was supposed to make progress with quarterback Mark Sanchez, and anyone with eyes knows that Sanchez didn’t make much progress this year. His numbers are better, but he looks worse.

There’s also the fact that they can’t cut Santonio Holmes because of the cap hit they’d take doing it. And Holmes, the number one receiver – or so we’re told he’s number one receiver, he sure gets paid like one – didn’t like the way the offense was run. If it came down to Holmes or Schotty, Holmes was staying and Schotty was going.

So the rumors from mid-December of the Jets shaking up their offensive coaching staff when the season ended have turned out to be true.

Obviously, Schottenheimer is gone. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan also left for a position with the Dallas Cowboys. He chose not to extend his contract last off-season, and rumor has it he bolted for the Cowboys job when he found out that he wasn’t being promoted to offensive coordinator. Additionally, WR coach Henry Ellard and OLB coach Jeff Weeks were also let go by the Jets. Their contracts expired and weren’t renewed.

Not promoting Callahan indicated that the Jets had another plan in mind, and they did, announcing Wednesday that they had decided to hire former Dolphins coach Tony Sparano as offensive coordinator.

This makes so much sense that it hurts. Sparano embraces the ground-and-pound philosophy that Rex Ryan loves (and which Schotty supposedly went away from this past season in spite of Ryan’s order to run the ball after the loss to the Ravens). Hopefully, Rex Ryan was a huge part of the decision to hire Sparano. When Ryan was first hired here, he wanted to bring in his own offensive staff, but was told by management that retaining Schottenheimer was part of the deal.

Sparano also emphasizes blocking, both by the offensive line as well as tight ends and running backs. Presumably, this philosophy saves Mark Sanchez, who seemed to frequently end up on his back before anybody could count to “one Mississippi.”

A lot of people are probably rolling their eyes at the idea of more running, but the fact of the matter is that what we know about Sanchez says he needs a good running game right now. And being rush oriented is okay, as long as Sparano is a better situational play-caller than Schotty was (you know, like throwing past the first down marker on third and long).

A Sparano offense will probably feature more wildcat, as it was a prominent part of his 2009 Miami offense. If what we saw out of Jeremy Kerley in Miami two weeks ago was any indication of what could happen with the wildcat, it’ll be a great way to mix things up.

But you have to believe that the Jets number one priority this offseason is fixing whatever’s happened to Sanchez. We’ve heard rumors of everything, from he’s lazy (don’t really believe that) to he’s lost his confidence (sure looks like it) to his mechanics are screwed up (possibly) to he’s just not that good (again, possibly). Sparano isn’t a great quarterback guy, and so reports are that the Jets want to bring in former Kansas City Chiefs head coach, Todd Haley, to help Sanchez and the passing game.

Currently, Jets quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh is “being evaluated.” It wouldn’t be surprising if he didn’t return. Guys outside the organization could tell Sanchez had a mechanics issue just by casually observing. What was Cavanaugh and the rest of the Jets offensive staff doing during the week?

Sparano also has a reputation of keeping the locker room in order – which apparently the Jets really, really need. We’ll see how guys like Holmes react. It’s also not clear how good Sparano is going to be at his job. His play calling experience is minimal.

But these moves should make Jets fans happy for the moment. It was time for a change, and you get the distinct impression the Jets could have hired a blind monkey to be offensive coordinator and, at this point, fans would be willing to give the blind monkey a shot. But it’ll be great to see what will happen with a good running game and Sanchez back to the point where he doesn’t make us all flinch every time he sets to throw.

New offensive staff, new playbook, and hopefully more wins? Can’t wait.

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