New York Jets  

 

Rex Ryan just isn't the right man to get N.Y. Jets back on track

This is not a "Fire Rex Ryan" column.

I wrote that one at the end of last season, when Ryan should have been shown the door along with jettisoned general manager Mike Tannenbaum.

This is a "Well, of course the Jets need a new coach" column.

I mean, it's pretty obvious now, even to owner Woody Johnson ... right?

The narrative surrounding the Jets in New York and across the nation has been about their quarterback situation, with the latest turn being Geno Smith's benching in Sunday's 23-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins. And why not? America thrives on drama. But let's not blur the lines.

Since the final whistle blew in the Jets' loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2010 AFC Championship Game, New York has been outscored by 201 points. Just let that nugget of futility sink in.

I've always argued that Ryan deserves credit for leading the Jets to consecutive AFC title matches in his first two years on the job; that achievement can never be taken away from him. But based upon recent history, one could easily make the case that the early success was more of a blip than a trend, and that the Jets are clearly moving in the wrong direction.

Ryan is 39-37 as head coach of this team. You can debate how you want to spin the past, but riddle me this: How would you analyze the future? Why would you believe he's the right man for the job?

Yes, after two big wins at home against the Patriots and Saints, the Jets went into their Week 10 bye in prime position, with a 5-4 record and a seemingly favorable schedule ahead of them. The problem is, one month later, they have yet to come back from vacation.

In Week 11, the Jets got their doors blown off against a banged-up, flawed Buffalo Bills squad. In Week 12, the Baltimore Ravens stopped them in their tracks. And then on Sunday, against a dysfunctional, distracted, depleted Dolphins team that struggles mightily on offense -- when I say Miami couldn't complete a forward pass in the first half, I'm being only slightly hyperbolic -- the Jets lost by 20 points at home.

Last season was a butt-fumble-fueled disaster filled with underachievement, but Sunday marked the official rock bottom for the coach. And that says something.

The question in New York all year has been about how Ryan saves his job. How will his season be judged? Is it about wins? Overachieving? Making the playoffs? Respectability? Quarterback development?

OK, so maybe the Jets have more than the three wins I thought they'd manage with this tomato-can roster. Credit Ryan with the aforementioned triumphs against the Saints and Patriots and a Monday night victory against the Falcons in Week 5 that seemed like a big one at the time. But the rest of the season has hardly been positive or inspiring.

Rex Ryan is a poor in-game coach, whether he's deciding when to challenge or use timeouts. And while he's known as a defensive guru, consider that the Jets currently rank 25th in scoring defense.

Before anyone screams that the coach can only win with the players he's given, understand the dynamic. He was very influential when it came to picking the Jets' players. Rex wanted Tim Tebow. Rex fell in love with Mark Sanchez ahead of the 2009 NFL Draft. Rex drafted Quinton Coples (who has 7.5 sacks in 11 starts over the past two years) over Chandler Jones (who has 16.5 sacks in the same timespan with the Patriots) in 2012.

Ryan likes to tell the story of how he sprinted down the hall when Tannenbaum called to say receiver Santonio Holmes was available via trade. Since landing in New York, Holmes has been a drama-causing, injury-hobbled no-show while getting paid handsomely. Remember that Ryan also was all about signing Ed Reed. And while it was logical to bring him in for his intangibles and knowledge of the system, it was illogical to start him against Buffalo. The likely Hall of Famer can't play anymore, as everyone knows -- everyone but Rex.

I could go on. And while you can blame Tannenbaum or current GM John Idzik if you want, be sure Ryan gets his share, too.

That brings us to the handling of the quarterback position and the offense -- both have been putrid.

I purposely waited this long before delving into the quarterback situation, to illustrate the point that the team's problems go beyond the headline-grabbing issue. But Ryan can't manage the quarterback. He can't handle game-day actives and inactives; remember that he had an injured Tebow active for the butt-fumble game.

He didn't know when to go to the bullpen last year when Sanchez was wrecking the season. Though backup Greg McElroy led the team to a win after stepping in for Sanchez in Week 13, Ryan started Sanchez the next two games, including a Week 15 loss to the Titans that was so horrible, it required a V-Chip warning.

Ryan has never had a feel for offense or game management. He delegates -- and he has picked the wrong coaches. He gave former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer full autonomy, and Schotty proceeded to ruin Christmas in 2011 by having Sanchez chuck it 59 times in a season-dooming Week 16 loss to the Giants. Ryan then shoved out Schotty for Tony Sparano, wanting ground and pound and the Wildcat. Instead, he got a fiasco and an embarrassment, highlighted by beat writers literally chasing Sparano out of the press room in Week 17. They would never catch him, and he would never return.

Current offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is not to blame. Frankly, neither is Geno Smith, despite his recent odd regression.

Take out a sheet of paper. Rank the Jets' receivers, offensive line, tight ends and running backs against every other team in the league. The resulting picture is horrendous.

Smith will remain the starter for now, but who else would the Jets turn to? Matt Simms? David Garrard? Joe Namath? Richard Todd? Regardless of the answer, do you trust Ryan to manage the situation? Do you trust him to say the right things in public and minimize the noise? I like Smith, but I agreed with the decision to pull him against Miami -- a move Ryan also could have made in the loss to the Bills.

Of course, speaking of keeping quarterbacks off the field, Ryan could've done exactly that with Sanchez in the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game this summer. I'm far from a Sanchez fan, but it would've been nice for the Jets to have someone on the active roster with NFL experience. The season-ruining injury Sanchez subsequently suffered epitomized the consequences of Ryan's in-game failures and poor quarterback management.

The Jets could draft or sign a new signal-caller. They could continue to develop Smith. One could make a case for all three moves.

But ask yourself this honestly: Should Rex Ryan be involved in shaping this?

The marriage between Idzik and Ryan was doomed from the moment Johnson retained Ryan while dismissing Tannenbaum, with whom Ryan had been joined at the hip. You don't fire the GM and keep the coach. It never works.

The owner loves Rex. He loves the attention. He loves the back pages in New York tabloids. But I'm guessing he also loves filling the seats and playing meaningful football games.

Rex Ryan was the absolute right guy to breathe life into the Jets after Eric Mangini sucked the air out of the team and the fan base.

But now the Jets have to dig out of a huge hole and make a crucial long-term call at quarterback. And regardless of the team's final record, Rex Ryan is the absolute wrong guy for that.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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