The snow is gradually retreating from the turf field outside my second-floor window here at the Atlantic Health Training Center, slowly revealing the ghostly upside-down yardline numbers on the far side of the field. At first the numbers were gauzy under a thin layer of snow. Now late this afternoon, under a low, gray sky, they're more visible, at least until darkness descends.
It sounds desolate but things will lift for the Jets and all you fans soon with "the hire." I don't have any more information on that today, other than what Eric Allen, Bob Wischusen and I discussed on our "Jets Two-Minute Drive" this morning. I can say that despite reports to the contrary, the search has moved forward purposefully and with thoroughness. And the process, while it may or may not last through the Super Bowl, will produce the best man for the job. I know you've heard it before, Jets fans, and here it is again: patience.
Update, 9 p.m. EST:Reports this evening say the Jets are taking the time necessary to make sure this important choice is the right choice. The team is seeking a passionate, dynamic leader that can create a winning atmosphere where players enjoy coming to work and are held accountable.
Until that choice is made, I've been completing my breakdowns for the season past and entering the names and numbers in the correct places so that the LSB (Lange Sports Bureau) can serve you in an accurate and timely fashion in the weeks, months and years ahead.
So don't consider the facts below as rehash but as final statements about the players and the team from the season past, and maybe indications of what lies ahead for the new coach.
Can't Catch TJ Behind the LOS
One of the secrets to Thomas Jones' strong 2008 season? He wasn't hit in the backfield nearly as much as he was in 2007 — nor as often as any other Jets featured back dating to the mid-Nineties.
Let's confine ourselves to running plays only. Jones had 36 runs this season on which he was tackled for no gain or minus yardage. Minus-29 yards, to be exact.
Last year Jones was tackled for loss/no gain (TFLNG) on 58 runs for 75 yards in losses.
That's quite a difference and a testament to Jones' continuing strength and will and the offensive line's improvement.
Both of those things can't be diminished when looking at the recent past. Jones' 36 TFLNGs are the best by a Jets No. 1 runner since I've been charting such numbers in 1995. Needless to say, Curtis Martin takes up a large part of that timeframe, but Martin's fewest tackles at or behind the line was 47 in 2004, and his least yardage lost was minus-36 in 2005, his last season.
The column for tackles at/behind the line for the defense was ruled by NT Kris Jenkins. Even though "Big Jenk's" production suffered (as in a few other areas) in the second half of the season, Jenkins finished unofficially with 10 TFLNGs, best on the defense and the first Jet in double digits in this category since Jonathan Vilma's 12.5 tackles in 2005.
Some like to deal only with tackles for loss, forget about the no-gainers. Jenkins was in on just 5.5 tackles for loss, and that trailed the team leader, who was ...
Kerry Rhodes with seven TFLs. The talented safety didn't have the picks and sacks he had the previous two seasons, but he did play timely run support. Rhodes' TFL total was the highest on the Jets also since Vilma in 2005, when JV also had seven stops behind the line.
YAC-ing It Up
Ball-in-the-air yardage and average yards after catch was a mixed bag for Brett Favre and his Jets receivers.
The Jets averaged 10.1 yards per completion, which split unofficially into 5.2 yards in the air and 4.9 yards after the catch per completion.
If the 5.2 figure sounds low, it is. The last time they had a lower mark, it was the 5.0 yards of the Boomer Esiason/Glenn Foley-led passing game of 1995. Chad Pennington averaged 6.2 yards in the air in his eight-year Jets career and 6.2 in his eight starts in 2007.
But the Brett Favre-directed passing game of '08 evened the tables with YAC. The Jets' 4.9-yard average for all receivers was the best by the Green & White since the 5.0 figure of 2003, and the 4.6 YAC for all wideouts is that position's best since at least '95.
Laveranues Coles captured this dichotomy in his season of receptions. His 8.0 yards before each catch was the lowest average of his seven seasons as a Jet. His 4.1 YAC was his highest since he averaged 4.6 as an NFL sophomore in 2001.
Yellow Flag Facts
* TE Dustin Keller forced a team-high eight penalties against opponents trying to cover him for 62 yards, and that doesn't include a hold that was declined. On the down side for the up-and-coming rookie — he didn't draw any penalties the last quarter of the season.
* Who plays it by the book? That would have to be Kenyon Coleman. Remember the last time the DE got a penalty called on him? You'd have been watching the Cowboys in 2006 or earlier for that one. Coleman has yet to get flagged, let alone have a penalty marked off against him, in his two seasons as a Jet. Other Jets who committed no penalties: Kerry Rhodes, David Harris and Tony Richardson.
* The most penalties were called against two offensive stalwarts. RG Brandon Moore and QB Brett Favre each were hit with six flags this season, Moore for 40 yards, Favre for 33. On defense, rookie CB Dwight Lowery led the way with five penalties for 39 yards.
But Lowery did excel in another area. I call third and fourth downs "crunch downs," and when a player makes a play to stop a conversion, he gets charted. In Lowery's case, often playing "in the box" in the Jets' dime front late in the season, he came up with quite a few stops. In fact, his 12 crunch-down tackles topped Calvin Pace and Shaun Ellis, tied for second with eight apiece.
Lowery also added four pass defenses, second only to Revis' five, and he came up with three forced fumbles, two of which were big (at the time) in the first half at Seattle. Pace also had three FFs in crunch time.
The Punting Switch
It took Reggie Hodges four years to find a team that would turn its punting duties over to him, plus a few weeks to get over a thigh injury. And when he did, his last 12 games of the season ... resembled Ben Graham's 2007.
Graham, whose net average and hangtime began to slip in '07, still had better net and gross averages that year than Hodges had this year. But Hodges' three-quarters of a season still had some better key numbers than Graham's first quarter of the '08 campaign.
On the other hand, Ben has landed on his feet, punting for the Cardinals, the host team for the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.
Here are some of those key numbers. Keep in mind that the hangtime is unofficial: