Capitals

J-E-T-S went from Super Bowl contenders to M-E-S-S

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J-E-T-S went from Super Bowl contenders to M-E-S-S

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) From nearly Super to just plain stupefying.

That is what the New York Jets have become in a span of two NFL seasons.

From a botched trade for Tim Tebow before the season to a botched snap by Mark Sanchez that ended the season, Rex Ryan's bunch became a dysfunctional mess with no clear solution in sight.

The Jets are considered by many a laughingstock, one big circus which ranks up there with the Bronx Zoo Yankees, the Isiah Thomas Knicks and the late Al Davis' Raiders. At least those Yankees won a few World Series titles, and the Raiders took home three Super Bowl trophies despite all the madness.

Woody Johnson's flawed franchise could be headed for a total teardown before things get any better.

``Being in this market for six years, I've seen the ups and downs,'' defensive lineman Mike DeVito said. ``You get used to it after a while. You see the good stuff and the bad stuff.''

Lately, it's been all bad.

The Jets are a team whose owner craves attention, and gets it - always for the wrong reasons, it seems. Two years ago, the Jets were a win away from the Super Bowl, just as they were the previous year.

Both times, they fell just short of ending the drought that began after Joe Namath delivered on his guarantee in 1969 for the franchise's first and only title.

But there was hope for the future.

Ryan was a brash and bold coach who didn't back down from anyone and said what was on his mind, predicting Super Bowl wins before the season even started, a refreshing departure from the tight-lipped three-year tenure of Eric Mangini. He had a dominant defense, led by All-Pro Darrelle Revis, and a young, promising quarterback in Sanchez.

And most of all, the Jets were winning games.

Those positive feelings all seem like a distant memory as the Jets (6-8) play out the last two games of the season and head into a winter of uncertainty with a second straight year out of the playoffs.

``If you look at it, right now, I'm not looking further than this game against San Diego and (then) we have one more game,'' Ryan said. ``We'll see what happens. My focus has to be with those two games and that's it.''

That's because Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum don't know for sure if they'll even be back beyond the final game of the season.

Tebow will be out the door less than a year after coming to New York and saying he's ``excited to be a Jet.'' Sanchez could be a goner, too, although his hefty contract could keep him put - but as the former face of the franchise instead of the next Namath.

Tired of getting into arguments with fans for wearing Sanchez's No. 6 jersey this season and fearing the incidents could escalate, the Jets' most famous supporter, Ed Anzalone, hung up his helmet last month and ``retired'' from being Fireman Ed.

So, there are no more J-E-T-S chants led by him. Still, the Jets insist they are far from the muddled M-E-S-S they are perceived by many to be.

``I certainly don't feel that,'' Johnson said earlier this season. ``We are deadly serious about what we do here, trying to win games and trying to represent our fans in a way that they expect us to represent them.''

But perception often is reality, and the Jets have provided plenty of fodder to feed into that during the past few years.

There was Ryan at his opening news conference nearly four years ago, talking about how his team would soon meet President Barack Obama as champions.

He came with plenty of other guarantees, too, that made him one of the most confident - and as a result - disliked sports figures New York has seen.

Most Jets fans loved his approach, though, and bought in.

They're some of the same fans who now hope for a change in leadership, tired of Ryan's empty promises and the distractions that have marked his tenure as coach.

And, there is a lengthy list: the Ines Sainz locker room incident, the foot fetish videos reportedly involving Ryan and his wife, the assistant coach who tripped an opposing player from the sideline during a play, the prime-time exposure on HBO's ``Hard Knocks,'' to name a few.

Tannenbaum has also produced some big-time winners on draft day in his seven years as GM, including Revis, Nick Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and David Harris.

But there have also been some major duds along the way, such as Vernon Gholston and Vladimir Ducasse. All three of his picks from 2009 - Sanchez, Shonn Greene and Matt Slauson - could all be playing their last games as Jets.

Key locker room presences have also gradually been cut, traded or allowed to become free agents, well-respected players such as Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Kris Jenkins, Alan Faneca, Damien Woody and LaDainian Tomlinson.

While Sanchez's ability to read defenses and adjust is one major problem, the team did little to provide him with continuity on offense with constant change in the skill players around him.

``There's been a little bit of turnover, but at the same time, you have to work with what you have,'' Sanchez said of the various receivers he had to work with the season.

This past offseason began with a brief flirtation with Peyton Manning, and then came the most stunning move of them all: the trade for Tebow in March. It had most people scratching their heads then and now has even the popular but little-used backup quarterback wondering why he even came here in the first place.

``I tried to make the most of every opportunity that I had,'' Tebow said. ``I would've loved to have more.''

Everyone expected more, even Ryan, who acknowledged that the Tebow-powered wildcat-style offense that was kept so under wraps in training camp up in Cortland, N.Y., never developed into what the team had hoped.

Now, the Jets will either try to trade Tebow or release him by the time the NFL's free agency period begins in March.

The lasting image of Tebow's tenure will be his shirtless jog off the practice field in the rain during training camp - when ESPN was broadcasting live shots of Jets practice for a week.

Fans and media kept waiting all season for the quarterback controversy they were sure was to come: Sanchez vs. Tebow. Turns out, it was third-stringer Greg McElroy, a seventh-round draft pick last year, who took Sanchez's job in Week 16.

The Jets have three quarterbacks who came to the NFL with impeccable credentials: Sanchez a top-5 draft pick from Southern California, Tebow a two-time national champion at Florida and a Heisman Trophy winner, and McElroy a former Texas high school state champion who led the University of Alabama to a national title. But New York will go into this offseason not knowing if it even has its quarterback of the future on its roster.

Given everything that has gone on with the franchise, it was only fitting that a week after Braylon Edwards - then with the Seattle Seahawks - called out the Jets on Twitter by saying that fans should blame ``the idiots calling shots'' for Sanchez's struggles, he was brought back to New York by the same people he criticized.

Johnson could opt to clean house completely by firing Ryan and his coaching staff. He could do the same to Tannenbaum, or possibly re-assign him within the organization.

Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, brought in to boost the running game and get Tebow involved, could also be gone. Or, they could all be back for one more twirl.

Either way, Johnson's team is sure to consistently make splashy headlines this winter. Just the way he likes it.

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7 things to know about Capitals head coaching candidate Todd Reirden

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USA TODAY Sports

7 things to know about Capitals head coaching candidate Todd Reirden

For now, Todd Reirden appears to be the frontrunner to be the new head coach of the Washington Capitals.

But who is he? 

Here are some things to know about the Capitals head coaching candidate:

1. Reirden spent the last four seasons with Washington on Barry Trotz's staff

Should Reirden be hired, he would bring a measure of familiarity with him few teams get after a coaching change. Reirden was hired by Trotz in 2014 when Trotz was putting together his staff. He was brought in to coach the team's defense and immediately improved the blue line.

In the year prior to Reirden's hiring, the Caps allowed 2.74 goals per game, good for only 21st in the NHL.

Here is what the defense has done in Reirden's four years in charge of the defense:

2014-15: 2.43 goals against per game, 7th in the NHL
2015-16: 2.33 goals against per game, 2nd in the NHL
2016-17: 2.16 goals against per game, 1st in the NHL
2017-18: 2.90 goals against per game, 16th in the NHL

In those four seasons combined, Washington allowed 2.45 goals per game, lower than every team in the NHL but one. He was also in charge of the team's lethal power play.

2. Reirden has been a head coach before

While he may never have been a head coach in the NHL, Reirden does have some head coaching experience.

Reirden was promoted to head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2009 when Dan Bylsma was promoted to head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. While head coach, Reirden led the team to a 55-43-8 record.

3. Reirden came to Washington from the Penguins

Reirden joined the Penguins organization in 2008 as an assistant coach with their AHL affiliate and took over as head coach later that season. He joined the Penguins' playoff staff during the 2009 Cup run. He was promoted to a full-time assistant coach under with the NHL team under Bylsma in 2010 and was there for four years until Byslma was fired. Reirden was not initially fired, but was allowed to seek other opportunities. When he was officially fired, the Capitals hired him the same day.

4. Reirden had a lot to do with Matt Niskanen signing with the Caps

Reirden was hired by the Caps on June 25, 2014. On July 1, Matt Niskanen signed with Washington.

Reirden and Niskanen developed a strong relationship while in Pittsburgh. Niskanen dealt with confidence issues after getting traded from Dallas to Pittsburgh in 2011. Under Reirden's tutelage, Niskanen developed into a top-pair defenseman. Niskanen's agent said at the time it was "no secret" that Reirden and Niskanen had bonded while both were in Pittsburgh.

Brooks Orpik also signed with the Caps as a free agent that year, the second defenseman from Pittsburgh to sign in Washington showing the level of respect they felt for Reirden.

5. Reirden nearly became the head coach of Calgary

Reirden interviewed for the head coaching job in Calgary in 2016 and was considered a finalist for the position before eventually losing out Glen Gulutzan.

Gulutzan was fired by Calgary after the 2017-18 season and is now an assistant coach in Edmonton while Reirden is the frontrunner to become the head coach for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Sounds like things worked out for Reirden.

6. The Caps have been grooming Reirden to be a head coach

Reirden was promoted to associate coach in August 2016 after Calgary had passed on him. Since then, the Caps have not allowed him to interview with other teams for head coaching positions. The implication was clear, this was someone the team wanted to keep.

"You know I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach whether for us or someone else," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan Monday.

7. Reiden played in 183 career NHL games

Reirden was a defenseman drafted in the 12th round by the New Jersey Devils in 1990. After playing four years at Bowling Green, Reirden went pro with several seasons in the ECHL, IHL and AHL. He made his NHL debut with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1998-99 season. Reirden would also play with the St. Louis Blues, Atlanta Thrashers and Phoenix Coyotes. 

For his NHL career, Reirden scored 11 goals and 46 points in 183 games.

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With Barry Trotz out, Jay Gruden is now your longest-tenured major head coach in D.C.

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With Barry Trotz out, Jay Gruden is now your longest-tenured major head coach in D.C.

Jay Gruden is many things, including honest, witty, one of the greatest Arena League quarterbacks in the history of the universe and, as of June 18, the longest-tenured head coach of a major D.C. sports team.

With the Capitals and Barry Trotz parting ways, Gruden is now officially the area's most experienced boss (while Gruden was actually hired a few months before Trotz back in 2014, they both have led their teams through four seasons up to this point, which is the number that matters here).

Scott Brooks, meanwhile, has overseen the Wizards for two campaigns, while Nats manager Dave Martinez is in the middle of his first year at the helm.

This designation will pair nicely with the fact that Gruden will also be the first 'Skins headman to hold his job into a fifth season in the Dan Snyder era. You don't need to make plans to visit his statue yet, of course, but this is some uncharted territory the 51-year-old is currently hanging out in.

Now, his overall record of 28-35-1 certainly needs work, or else he'll be in danger of handing the longest-tenured distinction over to Brooks. However, Gruden does deserve credit for bringing an amount of stability to the Burgundy and Gold, a franchise that is usually as stable as Metro's Wi-Fi connection.

So, with all due respect to DC United's Ben Olsen, the Kastles' Murphy Jensen and whatever legend is in charge of your kid's dynastic flag football team, when you think of the man who's been roaming the sidelines longer than anyone else in D.C., be sure to think of this man and only this man:

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