- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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Looking at the Jets and the NFL in our expanded, Super Bowl edition:
1. Tim-sanity: Since the season ended, we've come to learn that the relationship between Tony Sparano and Tim Tebow was strained, and that Sparano's lack of faith in Tebow was a big reason why he didn't play much, according to sources. This raises a larger issue: Where was Rex Ryan in this? Ryan gave autonomy to Sparano, just as he did with Brian Schottenheimer, but he's the head coach and he should decide playing time. Ryan's expertise is defense -- we get it -- but he'll never be a complete head coach until he takes control of the entire team.
Former special-teams coach Mike Westhoff discussed this topic the other day on ESPN New York 98.7 FM, offering a candid (what else?) evaluation of Ryan in this area. "Maybe he has to be more forceful in getting his philosophy across," Westhoff said. "If he doesn't feel someone is doing it a particular way, he'd better step in there and say, 'This is what we have to do.' You can't keep going through coordinators."
It's an excellent point. Ryan has tried in recent years to become more involved in the offense, but he has to do more than show his face in meetings. He needs to take charge and do it his way; time is running out.
2. The shadow of Revis: You're a disgruntled Jets fan, preparing to watch the 44th consecutive Super Bowl that doesn't include your favorite team. That's no fun, so you're wondering how Ravens-49ers can impact the Jets. Here's how: If the 49ers lose the game and their secondary gets torched by Joe Flacco, it will create a groundswell of sentiment for them to trade for CB Darrelle Revis. He'd be the proverbial missing piece.
The 49ers are an aggressive team with the ammunition to pull off that kind of trade. They have a bargaining chip in backup QB Alex Smith, who, despite what owner Jed York said the other way, is done in San Francisco. They will try to trade him before April, when his $7.5 million salary becomes guaranteed. If they can't, they'll release him. The Jets surely would consider dealing Revis for Smith and a first-round pick (31st or 32nd). Unless they're willing to go heavy on QB salaries in 2013 -- remember, they're into Mark Sanchez for $8.25 million -- the Jets probably have to restructure Smith's contract. He has two years left on his deal. Keep this in mind if Flacco gets hot.
2a. Core of the Revis issue: Unless new GM John Idzik has a different philosophy than the previous administration, the Jets won't be willing to satisfy Revis' demand to become the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL. Their stance, shared by many teams, is that cornerbacks aren't worth as much as pass rushers. They'll make him the highest-paid corner (he's already close to it at $11.5 million per year), but it's hard to imagine them going into the $16 million-a-year neighborhood -- unless Idzik revamps the organization's value system.
3. Caponomics: Much has been said and written about the Jets' salary-cap plight. But are the problems really that bad? This year will be a struggle, no doubt, but they have only $5 million in guaranteed money committed to the 2014 cap, according to a source. That's when the Sanchez and Santonio Holmes guarantees will be off the books.
4. Mike-crophone Tannenbaum: Former GM Mike Tannenbaum spent the week in New Orleans, doing interview after interview on radio row. Clearly, he's angling for a job in the media. He gave scripted answers to all the tough questions, but there was a moment of candor in an interview with a Boston radio station. The hosts grilled about him the highly criticized Sanchez contract extension. "That's one of the reasons why I'm sitting here today," Tannenbaum cracked.
4a. Brad on the brain: I'm tired of hearing Tannenbaum drop Brad Smith's name every time he's asked about Tebow. The reason for the trade, he explains, is they wanted a replacement for Smith in the Wildcat. Wait a minute, when did Brad Smith become Emmitt Smith? In his final season with the Jets (2010), Smith carried the ball a grand total of 38 times. So what Tannenbaum is saying is, he was willing to live with the Tebow circus just to replace 38 carries. That's not what you call sound risk-reward management.
4b. Mad Mike: Tannenbaum also spent a lot of time defending the cap situation. In three weeks, he said, the entire world will see his space-clearing plan unfold. Plan? The Jets will clear $30 million by releasing Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, Eric Smith and Jason Smith. That would put them about $10 million under the cap, but then what? With less than 40 veterans under contract, they'd still be in a tight situation.
5. LT speaks (again): I know people are tired of hearing LaDainian Tomlinson take shots at his former team -- he's become the new Joe Namath -- but the man doesn't sugar-coat his opinions. On ESPN New York 98.7 FM, he was asked if Sanchez can snap out of his funk and become a winning QB again. Tomlinson: "Can he do it? Man, I don't think so."
6. Deer, Ray -- go away: Ravens LB Ray Lewis is an iconic player, but his act is wearing thin. Has there ever been such a legendary team leader so absorbed with himself? He's such a contradiction. Lewis has the rare ability to galvanize a team, yet he morphs into the ultimate "me" guy with his pregame "Squirrel" dance. He seemed to relish the attention from AntlerGate -- his reported use of a deer-antler spray that naturally produces a banned substance connected to HGH. Lewis denied the report. Forget Pinnochio; if Lewis' nose turns red and it starts glowing, we'll know if he's lying about the deer-antler stuff.
7. Hatched from the Parcells nest: The man behind the 49ers' success is GM Trent Baalke, who began his career as a Jets scout. He was about to give up on his football dream when he received a call from former Jets personnel man Dick Haley, who interviewed him and offered him a job. Baalke worked three years with the Jets (1998-2000), catching the eye of then-coach Bill Parcells, who was selected Saturday night to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
One thing about Parcells: He surrounded himself with talented people. Three members of scouting/personnel went on to become GMs and six assistant coaches became head coaches in the NFL and/or college.
9. Super Bowl on TV: Interesting nugget from "Sports on Television," a wonderfully informative book written by former ESPN producer and current Syracuse professor Dennis Deninger: Only 36 percent of American homes watched Jets-Colts in Super Bowl III -- the lowest-rated Super Bowl in history. Two days before the game, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, concerned the Super Bowl would lose its appeal because of the perceived disparity between the AFL and NFL, announced the league was considering a new postseason structure that would allow two NFL teams to meet in the Super Bowl. It was yet another insult directed toward the Jets and the AFL. Everything changed, of course, after Joe Namath got through with the Colts.
10. Enjoying the holiday: For the first time in 24 years, I'm not covering the Super Bowl. I intend to find out why America is so fascinated with Super Bowl Sunday. Pass the chicken wings, please.