EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The shame about the Rex Ryan era, one which appears to be plummeting to an inevitable end in New York, is that it will be defined by the moments we saw immediately following the 43-23 loss to Buffalo on Sunday.
Two quarterbacks, neither of whom appear capable of controlling a game at the moment, left the building not knowing if they would start the following week. On the road. At Arrowhead Stadium.
A head coach, who never knew what it was like to approach a game plan without a certain level of panic regarding the player under center, was no more certain of that decision. Geno Smith, who had a post-game X-Ray on his throwing shoulder, threw three interceptions over his first four drives. He only completed two passes.
Michael Vick fumbled four times, lost two and added a pick. A second interception was overturned.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time a team had two quarterbacks with three or more turnovers in a single game since the 1991 Cardinals.
"I have no idea," Ryan said when asked who his starting quarterback would be on Sunday. "We'll look at that later." He later stated that he believed in Smith, and that he still thinks things will turn around for the former second-round pick.
This is no different from the choice he had to make between Mark Sanchez and Mark Brunell, or Sanchez and Greg McElroy. It's no different than Smith and Matt Simms or Smith and David Garrard or Smith and Brady Quinn.
Ryan is pressed and has no clear-cut answer, because there doesn't appear to be a correct answer. Alienate the fan base and plod along with Smith, who is prone to a monthly regression? Abandon any potential progress and ride out the season with Vick, who has at least shown some willingness to pick up a few first downs on the ground when the play collapses?
"One thing we know is that it can't get a hell of a lot worse," Ryan said about his team in general. "I mean, we're 1-7."
But he might as well be talking about his quarterback situation, because with Ryan's tenure, that's what it will all boil down to, anyway.
On Sunday night, Vick said he would like to start but didn't campaign for the job.
"I feel like I can come in at any moment and make something happen," Vick said. "Maybe that's not the case, maybe that's not realistic or wishful thinking by myself, but at least that's my optimism. That's what I believe in."
Smith was confident but combative.
"I've got my work cut out for myself," he said. "But it's something I believe I can get turned around."
And then there was Ryan, a coach that his own players admit is "hurting" and "needs help." He is the one that has to make a decision where there is no right answer, quite possibly a few more times before this 1-7 season ends.
His plight was best summed up by Sheldon Richardson, one of the few elite-level players remaining in the locker room. Richardson was asked how difficult a season can be knowing that, regardless of the effort put forth, a team cannot win without consistent quarterback play.
Richardson just nodded, probably thinking of the things he couldn't say.
He went with: "True."