Jets coach Rex Ryan has lost his swagger, and for good reason
FLORHAM PARK, N.J.
Another week, another poor performance, another injury to a star player and now another downcast Rex Ryan trying desperately to keep his chin up amid the gloom that continues to envelop a Jets' team that looks ready to spiral out of control in the coming weeks.
There was even another guarantee from the Jets' bellicose coach, only this one sounded as hollow and beleaguered as his team.
After losing Santonio Holmes in a 34-0 walloping by the 49ers and now preparing to face the 4-0 Houston Texans on Monday night, Ryan reached back into his memory bank to offer some encouragement from another injury-plagued season. He recalled the time in the 2009 season when the Jets reached the AFC Championship Game despite losing kick returner Leon Washington and nose tackle Kris Jenkins to injury earlier in the year.
"Lose two players, you're still able to do it," Ryan said of that season. "Does that guarantee we'll do it this year? No, but I guarantee the effort will be there."
Ryan once couldn't help himself from guaranteeing Super Bowl wins. Now he's reduced to guaranteeing the effort will be there? Who is this guy?
Evidently, that 49ers' beatdown, coupled with the loss of Holmes just a week after Darrelle Revis suffered a season-ending knee injury, has swiped just about all the swagger from a coach who had once infused the Jets with such bravado.
Even his reminder of where the Jets stand in the AFC East in a season already pockmarked by so much adversity sounded forced.
"Last I checked," he said, "we're on top of our division, so we have a lot to lose."
Yes, it has come to this: Reminding us that 2-2 is still good enough to be No. 1 -- a month into the season.
Remember just a few weeks back, immediately after the Jets' final preseason game against the Eagles, when Ryan bragged about how good he felt about this team? "When it's all said and done," he told me then, "I think this will be the best team I've had since I've been here."
But the way things are going, it looks like this might be the worst team he's had since becoming head coach in 2009. After getting to the AFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons and then going 8-8 after a late-season collapse last year, it feels now as if the bottom might fall out much earlier.
His two best players, Revis (knee) and Holmes (Lisfranc), are gone for the season.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez has shown disturbing signs of regression, and unless there is a turnaround in the next few games, Ryan might be left with no alternative but to give Tim Tebow a shot at the starting job. This after repeatedly saying that Sanchez was his unequivocal starter.
The Jets' run defense, traditionally one of the team's strengths, is ranked next-to-last in the NFL, allowing an average of 172.8 yards per game. Only the 0-4 Saints (186.8) have allowed more.
The Jets are averaging just 86.5 rushing yards per game, ranked 24th. Not exactly what Ryan had in mind with his "Ground and Pound" offense.
What makes the situation even more dire is the lack of depth on the roster. All teams face injuries during the course of a season, and the good ones somehow find a way to win. The 2010 Packers won the Super Bowl despite having 15 players on injured reserve that year. The 2011 Giants had 13 players on IR when they won the Super Bowl.
Both teams had quality players as starters and backups, but the Jets don't have that luxury. Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum are responsible for that drop-off in talent, and the consequences are likely to be significant in the coming weeks.
There is a gargantuan drop-off in talent from Revis to former first-round cornerback Kyle Wilson, and the Jets are equally challenged at receiver. On Monday, their longest-tenured wideout will be Jeremy Kerley, who has played all of 18 NFL games and has started only one.
No wonder Ryan isn't puffing his chest these days. Even with Holmes and Revis in the lineup, the Jets were struggling. Without them, this figures to get much, much worse.