1) You mentioned that Ty Law is probably done with his tenure for the Jets after this season. Can you tell us what kind of impact this will have on the team if Law doesn't return? What will they do?
Lange: As Law said Wednesday, "If you look at the logistics of everything, it wouldn't be hard to assume something like that,'' referring to unnamed team sources saying it's unlikely he'll be back with the Jets next season." We haven't crossed that bridge. I'll be fine with it either way, staying with the Jets or going back into free agency.'' For a team that's going to have to pare salary next year, Law's $11 million option bonus due in March is very tempting. It would be too bad if they can't keep Law, who will have a year of foot health and a year in the Jets' system under his belt. But the Jets may make the determination that they now have three younger corners with experience in David Barrett, Justin Miller and Derrick Strait and that they'll have to let Law go.
2) The injuries have obviously devastated the team this year. Not many clubs can come back from losing their number one and number two quarterbacks in the same season. What do you expect to happen at that position?
Lange: I believe the Jets would like Chad Pennington to regain the No. 1 job, but so much depends on how his rehab goes into March and April leading up to the draft. There's a vibe the Jets will bring in another QB, be it someone high in the draft or an unrestricted free agent -- Pennington himself said he expects the Jets to do that. So what I expect to happen is that, barring Pennington's shoulder falling off and despite some howls from some fans and reporters, Pennington will be back, Jay Fiedler could also be back, and perhaps even Brooks Bollinger, assuming he can duplicate his New Orleans performance and win a few games down the stretch, will return. If they add another QB, either Fiedler or Bollinger could go.
3) Curtis Martin is getting along in years. Will he be back as the primary back next season, or do you see the Jets drafting / signing a new feature back in the offseason?
Lange: Yes, it's time for the Jets to plan for Martin's successor. He could be back as the primary back, but only if his so-so season is blamed primarily on the partially torn ligament in his right knee that he's been playing with all year. But primary doesn't mean 350 carries. If they draft Reggie Bush or if they like someone else in the first round, Curtis could become the Marshall Faulk of the Jets, starting but splitting time and helping introduce the new back to life in the NFL. They also have been phasing in rookie Cedric Houston and could still have Derrick Blaylock on the roster, although Blaylock could also be a cap casualty.
4) The Jets are actually still alive in the playoffs, as ironic as that may seem. Do you think fans prefer the Jets to lose at this point for better draft picks, or would a string of wins be better?
Lange: Many fans would prefer the Jets to lose -- I've heard from some of them. But I've also heard from the current players who prefer not to get embarrassed and still think of themselves as still having some of the talent that had many viewing the Jets as Super Bowl contenders back in the preseason. LB Jonathan Vilma has been the foremost proponent of getting on a hot streak to end the season strong. I don't understand the thinking that says it's good to finish 2-14 or 3-13 and draft Reggie Bush, for example. That kind of record affects the veterans heading into the off-season, how they condition, how they attack the off-season workouts and OTA practices. And going 3-13 may not even secure a top-two pick -- the Jets currently have a stronger strength of schedule than Tennessee and a better record than Houston, so they could wind up picking third or lower. It's always better to win than lose, and the draft will always take care of itself.
5) Aside from the team's record, what has been the most disappointing thing about the Jets this year?
Lange: I'd say the performance of the defense is the most disappointing. That unit lost only one starter, LB Eric Barton, to injury for the season. The Jets also didn't adequately replace NT Jason Ferguson, who bolted for Dallas, and have started two rookies plus Ty Law, coming off his foot rehab and leading the Jets in penalties, playing in the secondary. All this being said, more was expected from this unit -- the summer mantra was that they wanted to be the NFL's No. 1 defense. They are far from that, and only part of it is due to their being "tired" from being on the field for so long. They have failed to slow down very good running backs like LaDainian Tomlinson, Willis McGahee and Mike Anderson and have failed to shut down average running attacks. And their sack total has been much worse than envisioned from a front four that contains three first-round picks.
6) Will Herm Edwards be back next season?
Lange: At this point I would say yes. Some still think Edwards could leave despite owner Woody Johnson's pre-Thanksgiving vote of confidence and Herm's words to the contrary, but it will be extremely tough. The only way I would see Edwards bolting for KC or another team is if that team contacted Johnson and asked for permission to speak to Herm about an opening. I don't think Johnson will fire Edwards and I don't think Edwards will take the lead in forcing his way off the Jets. I suspect Woody has given Herm some assurance that a contract extension will be broached sometime next year, and Herm still knows that despite the reasons for wanting to leave, this is still a good gig as long as he can get the Jets back on the winning track.
Randy Lange covers the New York Jets for the Record of Bergen, and can be found at NorthJersery.com. In addition to his work for other outlets, he has published a book on the Jets "Stadium Stories: New York Jets" ISBN: 0762737832 published by Globe Pequot. You can find it at Amazon.com or other leading book retailers now.