New York Jets Draft Retrospective: Vernon Gholston 10 years later

With the sixth pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select….
Vernon Gholston. Defensive end, Ohio State.

When Roger Goodell’s words echoed throughout the chasms of Radio City Music Hall, Jets fans in attendance roared with delight. They thought they were getting one of college football’s best pass rushers and would finally have and edge rusher that the franchise had desperately been lacking. Scouts and football experts feed into this as they raved about Gholston’s talent and how he could be a Pro Bowl pass rusher. Little did fans and those draft experts know that not only would Gholston become not only one of the biggest busts in Jets history, but one of the most disappointing careers in recent memory.

For many fans, Gholston will be remembered as one of those cautionary NFL combine tales. It’s clear why, he blew everyone away at the NFL combine. Not only did he tie for the most bench press reps at the entire combine, but took first place in most drills among defensive ends.

Vernon Gholston: 2008 NFL Combine Results

40 Yard Dash 4.65 ( 1st among DE)
Bench Press 37 (Tied for Most at combine)
Vertical 35.5 (1st among DE)
3 Cone 7.12 (5th among DE)
Broad Jump 125 (1st among DE)

People remember him as a workout warrior, and while that certainly helped his draft stock you can’t forget that Gholston was a dominant defensive player at Ohio State. In just 25 games Gholston has 21.5 sacks and over thirty tackles for a loss as a defensive end. Many experts, including Mel Kiper Jr. strongly believed that Gholston was the best projected 3-4 pass rusher in the draft.

No matter the position or scheme, Gholston never could find his place with the Jets

It wasn’t a great draft position for the Jets who were coming off a 4-12 season. Even though the team would eventually land Brett Favre in August, much like the 2018 draft the Jets were at sixth with even less quarterbacks to choose from. The only quarterback selected in the top 10 was Matt Ryan. Gholston proejected to fit right into Eric Mangini’s 3-4 scheme and give the Jets woeful pass rush an upgrade. Their sack leaders from the previous season, with five apiece, were middle linebacker David Harris and the now over thirty-year-old defensive end Shaun Ellis.

Looking back nearly a decade later the pick made sense for the Jets, but Gholston was a dud. In his rookie contract Gholston had a clause that if he recorded one sack he would earn a million dollars. He never collected. Even with two of the best defensive minded coaches in football, Eric Mangini and eventually Rex Ryan, neither coach was able turn Gholston into a role player let alone a starter. His career was a failure for a top 10 pick with only 42 careers tackles and as for sacks, to quote Dean from the movie Animal House “zero point zero.”

In the following decade the defensive end position has been boom or bust for the New York Jets. while the team has drafted Leonard Williams, Sheldon Richardson, and Muhammad Wilkerson, the team had another colossal first round bust in Quenton Coples.

It is hard to pinpoint why Gholston didn’t work in New York. Was it a scheme fit? His commitment? There isn’t one specific reason. My take is that he didn’t have the speed and hand skills to get around the corner in the NFL and when he realized this Gholston’s confidence plummeted. That could be part of the reason, but you can never pinpoint one reason why a player fails in the NFL because like in engineering there is never just one cause for a disaster.

In the past decade there might not be a bigger disaster as a first round pick than Vernon Gholston was for the New York Jets.

Rex Ryan is His Own Worst Enemy

“Belichick outcoached me”. “No question about it”. rex-ryan_672541033024This is how Rex Ryan responded to yet another friendly reminder from Bill Belichick and Tom Brady that the AFC East is the Patriot’s division. After a week of the usual  bravado and feeding the Buffalo fan base with optimism New England simply did what it does best. Defeat the Bills.

With a 40-32 loss on Sunday, the Patriots have won 20 of their last 22 meetings against the Bills will Ryan drops to 4-10 all-time against Belichick. What made the romp even more complete was how the Bills lost to the Patriots. Sure, there were the usual Ryan M.O. such as three turnovers, 14 penalties, and 140 penalty yards. However, what really popped the Ryan bravado was how the Patriots torched his defense.

In six years with the Jets it was clear that Rex Ryan could coach defense. When it came to coaching the whole team, that was a different story. Ryan failed to develop offensive players during his tenure with the Jets and despite having a top defensive unit every year, Ryan’s Jets lacked discipline and would have performance that made New York fans cover their eyes. Still, Ryan landed the job in Buffalo because of the potential he could have with that defense.

For Rex Ryan his defense is his baby. It’s clear that he can coach defense and with the personnel in Buffalo many thought Ryan would have one of the NFL’s premier units. However, after 40 points and 466 yards through the air it’s clear that Brady wasn’t rattled by Ryan’s defense. What was most troubling was that Rex Ryan’s defense wasn’t a Rex Ryan defense.

635783714054768877-JG-092015-Bills-26On 51% of his drop backs Ryan only rushed for after Brady. This number is alarming because Ryan loves to blitz. Ryan is known for utilizing different schemes and bringing pressure from all different directions but on sunday Ryan’s defense was too simple, and  Brady carved them up. Ryan has been successful when being aggressive and forcing Brady to throw the ball earlier. This time Brady had plenty of time in the pocket as Ryan failed to turn up the heat in the pocket.

Still Ryan did his usual song and dance in the post-game conference. Blamed the loss on himself, talked about what went wrong, how the team would improve, and of course add a bit of bravado at the end.

Even after the loss Ryan still jabbed the Patriots by saying “There not exactly the Boy Scouts of America”. Ryan’s a great entertainer, but when it comes to defeating Bill Belichick is still the maestro of the AFC.

Michael Vick in Buffalo?

michael-vick-nfl-new-york-jets-kansas-city-chiefs-850x560“We will make the playoffs” has been what new Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan has boldly claimed this entire offseason. There’s good reason why Ryan is once again pounding his chest and spewing his usual bravado. The defensive mastermind takes over the best defensive unit statistically last season and a defense which led the NFL in sacks. With Ryan’s scheme and the Bills talent on defense Ryan should fill confident that he has a championship caliber defense.

However, Ryan forgets that you also need an offense and most specifically a quarterback. If this training camp has proven anything, the Bills have a major quarterback problem. Both Matt Cassel and E.J. Manuel have not shown good leadership and have not exactly done anything to prove they should be the starter. With Manuel’s career flirting with being a bust, the Bills need some stability at quarterback.

The answer to this problem could be Michael Vick. Why? Vick already has worked with Lesean McCoy already in Philadelphia and Ryan last year in New York. While his best playing days are behind Vick at the age of 35, he still could have some gas in the tank and would be a veteran presence in the huddle. His ability to run the read-option would also help McCoy in the running game by giving the explosive back more space to run.
Michael-VickBUF-copyLast season it was clear that Ryan wanted to start Vick in New York but was told by the former front office to play and try to develop Geno Smith. It was obvious that Ryan felt Vick gave his team the best chance to win and in limited time with New York last year Vick proved he had some football left.

Vick at this point in his career isn’t going to carry the Bills, but he would give them a veteran quarterback whose big arm would stretch the field with Sammy Watkins and improve the running game. He might not be the best option, but he would be the best option for Buffalo. Don’t be surprised if Vick is under center for the Bills week one, especially if their current quarterbacks continue to be incumbent throughout the preseason.

New Flight Plan: Why The New York Jets Must Play Geno Smith

The Jets need to see if Geno Smith has anything to offer in the long-term

The Jets need to see if Geno Smith has anything to offer in the long-term

It’s a saying that has been used to describe the New York Jets 2014 season almost as much as “interception by Geno Smith”. That phrase is “the Jets have hit rock bottom”.

Here they are again! After being embarrassed for the second time this season by the Buffalo Bills in a 38-3 drubbing at Ford Field in Detroit on Monday Night Football, the 2-9 Jets have officially hit rock bottom. They’ve lost their best player to injury in Muhammad Wilkerson and had to turn from struggling veteran starter Michael Vick back to the incumbent Geno Smith. With five games left in this regrettable and lost season, the Jets should just let Geno Smith start the final games.

It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Rex Ryan will be gone after the season and the organization is due for a major overhaul. With these last five games basically being a tryout for next years squad it just makes sense to start Smith. After sitting on the bench for a few weeks and realizing that his time with the Jets is now in the eleventh hour, Smith needs to play well over the final five games to prove that he should be in the mix for the starting job in 2015.

With the Jets seemingly on their way to a top five pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, if Smith wants to have any shot in New York next season he needs to finish the season with an exclamation point rather then a question mark. As the Jets starter smith has guided New York to a 9-15 record while throwing 19 touchdowns to 31 interceptions. Not exactly the numbers a team wants from their so-called franchise quarterback.

If Smith wants any shot with the Jets, or in the NFL in the long-run, he needs to go from game manager to playmaker. If he can throw and run for touchdowns while eliminating the costly mistakes that he has become well-known for, he might have a shot in the NFL.

Don’t get me wrong, Smith has great physical tools including a plus arm and great feet, but it’s the mental side of the game that worries me. This has been well documented this season whether he’s late for a meeting, or pouting on the sidelines, Geno Smith needs to prove over the final five games that he is a leader and takes being the general of the offense seriously.

It’s a long shot to think that the Jets won’t address the quarterback position this offseason, but in the present they need to evaluate Smith. While many of the offensive woes can be placed on Smith, people must realize that the entire roster is a mess.

Outside of the lack of weapons on the offensive side of the ball, the Jets offensive line outside of Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold has been a disaster. Then of course is the defense which has cornerbacks that probably shouldn’t be on an NFL roster let alone starting for the team and New York’s first round pick Calvin Pryor who has played so bad that the team has benched him.

The Jets are a disaster. There’s no way around that. However, with the plethora of problems on both sides of the ball and in the front office, ifGeno Smith can show some signs at life, it could give the organization a year to build up the rest of the roster around Smith and then make a decision on what to do at quarterback next year.

Is Geno Smith's replacement in the 2015 NFL Draft? Could Mariota or Winston be the next QB for the Jets?

Is Geno Smith’s replacement in the 2015 NFL Draft? Could Mariota or Winston be the next QB for the Jets?

However, if Smith plays like he has throughout his first 24 starts, then the Jets scouts will once again be looking for a quarterback at the combine for the third time in six years. Do I hear the Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston Jets rumors off in the distance?

Time to Go! John Idzik Needs to go as the New York Jets General Manager

If John Idzik does not address the cornerback position this week for the New York Jets he needs to be removed from the organization immediately. What is happening in New York is ridiculous. After failing to resign Antonio Cromartie or bring in an outside free agent cornerback, John Idzik has instead left both Rex Ryan and the New York Jets franchise out to dry.

With Milliner's injury, if Idzik still refuses to sign help at cornerback then he deserves to be fired

With Milliner’s injury, if Idzik still refuses to sign help at cornerback then he deserves to be fired

After Dee Milliner’s ruptured achilles this past weekend, the already thin cornerback position is now barren after New York’s top three cornerbacks on the depth chart are now gone. Dexter McDougle, a high Idzik draft pick, is out with an ACL tear and Dimitri Patterson went awol. Even if Idzik hasn’t purposefully tried to out Rex Ryan with an insufficient lineup, the fact that the rumor can exist is because of his actions as general manager. The Jets currently are $24 million dollars under the salary cap right now, the most in the NFL. Idzik, you can honestly look a Jets fan in the face right now and say you are doing everything you can with that much cap space available?

If John Idzik doesn’t sign a legitimate starter, and no Josh Thomas doesn’t count, then he deserves to be fired after the New England Patriots game. Who cares that the Jets are 1-5, if Idzik doesn’t sign a veteran player, which he should have done weeks ago, then he is basically giving Rex Ryan and Jets nation the middle finger by saying that he doesn’t care about this season.

There are plenty of options out there. Asante Samuels, Terrell Thomas, Jabari Greer, and Quentin Jammer are veterans who may be out of their prime, but at least are upgrades over the current roster. Darrin Walls and Antonio Allen have both given valiant efforts but they are out of their element. At best, Walls is a slot corner or a third or four option on the depth chart. Allen, on the other hand, is a versatile role player but is better suited to play safety. Listen, the Jets have many problems and while Geno Smith and Rex Ryan haven’t helped in 2014, the person to blame for the Jets disaster is Idzik.

What has John Idzik done for the Jets outside of drafting Sheldon Richardson? Let’s look at the 2013 Draft. Dee Milliner can’t stay on the field and he passed on Chance Warmack who could have helped shore up the woeful offensive line. He selected Geno Smith in round two, who the Jets organization maybe looking to move on from at the quarterback position at the end of the season.

Idzik's build so the Draft strategy was good in principle, bad in execution

Idzik’s build so the Draft strategy was good in principle, bad in execution

Idzik then proceeded to draft three offensive linemen in a row. Brian Winters has been a turnstile at left guard, Oday Aboushi will finally get a start this week, and William Campbell is gone. Not to mention in round three the Jets passed on wide receivers Terrance Williams and Keenan Allen, two receivers the Jets could have really used.

In 2014, Idzik once again said the Jets would build through the draft adding only Eric Decker, Michael Vick, and Chris Johnson in free agency. In Round one he took a very promising safety in Calvin Pryor, who has been a solid player. However, the Jets could have selected either Kelvin Benjamin or Brandin Cooks who have both become very good play-making receivers and who could have helped Geno Smith develop.

After a good pick in Jace Amaro in round two, the Jets draft feel to shambles. Once again Idzik drafted a cornerback with a history of injuries in Dexter McDougle who couldn’t even make it through training camp. Oh the next pick? Gabe Jackson who is establishing himself as a great young guard with the Raiders.

Then instead of trading up in the draft with the plethora of picks in the draft, Idzik stood pat and it looks that costed the Jets. Out of the last nine picks, five are no longer in the organization with only Trevor Reiley and suiting up for all six games. When you wanna build through the draft it doesn’t help that out of 19 picks in his tenure only six are starters while another six are no longer in the organization.

While Rex Ryan will probably be fired at the end of the season, there is no question that Idzik especially after the recent slew of injuries does nothing to help the team at the cornerback position, deserves to get the boot. It’s going to be a long season for New York, but if it wants to head in the right direction for 2015 it needs a new general manager who cares about the team calling the shots.

Down With the Ship! Will Rex Ryan’s Faith in Geno Smith Cost Him His Job?

When Rex Ryan stood at the podium after another Jets loss this past Sunday, Jets fans were hoping for the words “Vick will start”. Instead they got a coach who dug in his heels for his quarterback and in the process only turned up the heat on his own coaching hot seat. Despite the pleas of “we want Vick” raining down from the Jets fans on Sunday afternoon the Jets head coach once again decided to stick with Geno when in reality Ryan has basically decided to go down with the ship.
“I’m confident in Geno. If Geno is healthy, Geno will start” said Rex in the press conference. Ryan refused to even say if Vick would be considered to play if Smith struggled again. Rex Ryan is without question one of the most player loyal coaches in the NFL. However, this loyalty could be his undoing.

Since John Idzik was announced as the New York Jets general manager Rex Ryan has been on thin ice. Don’t forget, it wasn’t until after the final game last season when it was announced that he would be back as head coach. With Woody Johnson already saying this is a playoff or bust season it is puzzling why Rex Ryan continues to have faith in Geno Smith after his quarterback continues to make big mistakes that have cost the Jets wins. Not to mention Geno appears to be cracking under pressure as he reportedly swore at a fan walking off the field on Sunday.

The worst part of all this? Looking back at these first four games people can make the strong case that the Jets should be 4-0. Instead Smith’s costly turnovers coupled with defensive collapses, a defense which is supposed to be Ryan’s baby, has left the Jets at 1-3.

Momentum is everything in the NFL, and right now Rex is going in the wrong direction. After those back to back AFC Championship appearances in his first two season Ryan has not been back to the playoffs and has a 23- 29 record over his past four seasons. Unless Idzik and Johnson have told Ryan that he is safe past this year, or that the plan is to develop Geno not matter what, then Rex needs to make the playoffs.

Unless Ryan turns the Jets around fast New York could be looking for anew head coach

Unless Ryan turns the Jets around fast New York could be looking for anew head coach

Let’s not forget outside of defense the Jets offense has been a disaster under Rex’s tenure. Who has Rex Ryan successfully developed as an offensive player? Sanchez? nope. Smith? not yet. What about Hill, Greene, or McKnight? Unfortunately despite Ryan’s great defensive mind he is still a defensive coordinator as a head coach. He refuses to take responsibility for the offense even though a head coach needs to be accountable for all assets of a football team. Can you blame Ryan for the holes in his roster especially at cornerback? No, but the roster has only been part of the problem. Most of the problems are costly penalties and turnovers.

Sure benching Vick could be a blow to Smith’s confidence, but at this point Ryan needs to send a message that if you don’t perform, you don’t play. It’s that simple as a coach if players aren’t performing and there is a talented player on the bench who can help the team’s performance, you have to let that player play. I know, I know, that Vick is no long-term solution, but if the Jets keep falling and are out of playoff contention early, it maybe time for New York to let Ryan walk.

Believe me, I personally love Rex Ryan and think he is a talented coach and a great defensive mind. Still, if he cannot turn this season around and stays with players who are hurting the team’s performance it maybe time for a new coach of the New York Jets.