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Huge Decisions Ahead for the Jets

A disappointing 6-10 Jets season ended this afternoon in Buffalo with a 28-9 loss to the Bills and the offseason has officially started.  What happens now?

Significant changes are expected and one wonders if they are hours, days or weeks away.  Woody Johnson hired Mike Tannenbaum to be the Jets GM on Feb. 7, 2006 and the latter led the Green & White to four postseason wins and two AFC Championship appearances.  But the Jets will be on the sideline this January for a second consecutive postseason and many have speculated that Johnson could relieve Tannenbaum of his duties.

Tannenbaum hired Rex Ryan on Jan. 19, 2009 and Ryan had a wonderful two-year run to start his head coaching career.  But New York's AFC representative dropped their final three contests in 2011 amidst some locker room dissension and finished 8-8.  After a winless 2012 exhibition season that included no TDs from the 1st unit offense, Ryan was confident heading into this campaign.

"I know there are high hopes for every team in the league, but I truly feel this will be the best team that I've had since I became coach of the Jets," he told me when the preseason concluded in Philadelphia.

The 2012 Jets ended up as Ryan's worst team to date.  New York's AFC representative suffered season-ending injuries to CB Darrelle Revis and WR Santonio Holmes in Weeks 3 and 4 respectively.   Tight end Dustin Keller missed his eighth game in Week 17 and rookie WR Stephen Hill finished the season on injured reserve.

While the defense performed admirably without Revis, the offense couldn't overcome injuries, shortcomings and the Jets received uneven quarterback play from Mark Sanchez.  His penchant for the turnovers (he had two again today including a Bryan Scott pick-six and finished with 18 INTs and 8 fumbles lost) ultimately led to his benching in Week 16 and Sanchez only started today because Greg McElroy suffered from concussion-like symptoms earlier this week.

Scoring was a major problem most of the year as the offense tallied 10 or fewer points on eight occasions.  The Jets have to decide what direction they are going it at quarterback as Sanchez, McElroy and Tim Tebow are all under contract.  Most pundits believe the Jets and Tebow will mutually agree to part ways, but Sanchez is guaranteed a lot of money in 2013.

"There are some decisions to be made obviously from upstairs," Sanchez said.  "They'll do their best to put the best possible team together — coaches and players — for the next season and put us in a position to be successful. Other than that, I'm not going to hypothesize or try and guess about what's going to happen. We'll just see what happens from them and move on."

There are questions elsewhere. 

LaRon Landry proved to be a great free agent addition, but the Pro Bowler's contract is set to expire and he could command a hefty salary.  Fellow S Yeremiah Bell also came to New York on a one-year deal and the Jets could potentially field the top secondary in football if dollars make sense.   Keller, who led the Jets in receptions in both 2010 and '11, is slated to hit the open market.  Running back Shonn Greene, who reached the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season, doesn't have a deal and there are questions at guards and receiver.   Mike DeVito had a career year along the defensive front and could get a number of suitors in free agency.  The linebacker position will come into focus as Bryan Thomas — the longest tenured Jet — may have played his last game and Demario Davis could slide into a starting role next to David Harris.

"Hopefully I'll be here next year," said Landry, who was selected to the Pro Bowl and appeared in 16 games for the first time since 2008.  "I love the organization.  Hopefully we can work something out and I'm just waiting at this point."

Despite the obvious holes, the Jets aren't void of talent.  Muhammad Wilkerson is an emerging star and rookie Quinton Coples looks to be a keeper. Antonio Cromartie stepped up his game to another level and it is tantalizing to think about him paired with a healthy Revis again.  Bilal Powell came on his second season and has intriguing potential in the offensive backfield. 

Special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff is headed for retirement and there could be other shake-ups to the staff even if Ryan is back for a fifth season.  ESPN reported early Sunday that offensive coordinator Tony Sparano will not be retained.

"I believe we can accomplish what we set out when I took the job," said Ryan last week, who also told the media that he would like to guide the Jets for the next 15 years.

The Jets can't afford to look that far ahead.  After a tumultuous season, the organization has to take a hard look at itself and make alterations. 

Tuesday will mark a new year and 2013 can't come soon enough.

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