EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- This was supposed to be a top five defense -- "That's a given," Rex Ryan said in August -- led by the self-described best defensive coach in football and complemented by an up-tempo offense that would challenge opposing defenses to keep up while imposing its will in the run game.
The New York Jets' 2012 installment of the Wildcat was advertised not as a gimmick, but as a revolutionary change of pace that would give opposing defensive coordinators sleepless nights wondering how they could possibly contain Tim Tebow and Co.
The best player on the team is injured and will undergo surgery this month on his torn ACL. Yet Ryan announced last week, in one of those headline-making distractions the Jets embrace like nobody else, that because there could be a flicker of hope -- "0.002 percent," Ryan said -- that Darrelle Revis would be rehabilitated and ready to play in the Super Bowl, they will wait until seeing the results of the surgery before deciding whether or not to put him on injured reserve.
So, while every other NFL coach cherishes every single one of his 53 roster spots, Ryan was proud to be the exception. No, it wasn't a problem for his team to play with 52, at least for a few weeks.
What a crock. All of it.
Reality has set in for the New York Jets. It arrived by way of a 34-0 loss to the San Francisco 49ers and was delivered in a manner every bit as complete, cold and calculated as the final score would suggest. Jim Harbaugh's team outrushed Ryan's, 245 yards to 45, providing an eye-popping ratio to a season-long problem: The Jets run the ball and stop the run with nearly equal ineptitude. How charming.
The 49ers' backup quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, was a bigger part of the game plan against the Jets than he had ever been before. And the 2011 second-round pick became Harbaugh's instrument by which to send an unmistakable message to Ryan: We can beat you every which way, including with the Wildcat.
It was Kaepernick who delivered the first touchdown, on a seven-yard run wide left during which he was lightly shoved by cornerback Kyle Wilson, but otherwise untouched. And it was Kaepernick who delivered the final dispatch, running for 30 yards with less than two minutes to play and, with a clear path to the end zone, sliding at the Jets' 3 as an act of mercy. Or pity, depending on your perspective.
Either way, it was the ultimate indignity, and Ryan knew it -- which is why while he seemed angry as he stood at the postgame podium, he also came off as embarrassed and perhaps a bit unnerved.
How else could Ryan have felt? The Niners' backup quarterback outrushed his entire team.
The Niners' backup quarterback outrushed his entire team.
Think about that.
And the Niners manhandled them worse.
With a date against the Houston Texans looming next Monday night, it's possible that progress will be represented not by winning, but simply by putting up a crooked number on the scoreboard. Any number.
The quarterback scenario is a different animal altogether. If not Tebow now, then when? Fans chanted his name in Sunday's fourth quarter, and it is a question that will not go away, especially as Sanchez lugs a 49.2 completion percentage into his huddle. Yet Ryan knows that once he makes that call, to Tebow, there is no return. The long-term fate of Mark Sanchez as a Jet might not be something Ryan ever wants to ponder during a season; he certainly doesn't want to do it before the leaves fully turn.
This is Ryan's biggest challenge with, by the way, what he said could be the best Jets team he's had.
That's a crock, too.
Somebody bring back the preseason circus. As these Jets might come to see it, those were the good old days.