Rex Ryan bungles another offensive decision
This was a little more than a week after the Jets finished off a nightmarish 6-10 season, a meltdown perhaps best captured by the term "butt fumble."
Rex Ryan was dressed in a neatly pressed white shirt and green-and-black-striped tie, sitting next to Woody Johnson at a news conference as the Jets' owner welcomed back his coach. Johnson already had parted ways with longtime general manager Mike Tannenbaum but believed Ryan deserved another shot to make things right after two failed seasons with no playoffs.
About halfway through that news conference, Ryan made a stunning admission about his biggest shortcoming as a head coach: putting his stamp on the offense.
"I just think I have failed in that area," said Ryan, who had just fired offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, meaning the Jets would have a third different coordinator in a three-season span. "I think it's clear that's where I've come up short. I wanted to be able to run the football in terrible weather. I wanted to be able to throw it and all that stuff."
Ryan went on to say that "this has to get done. It's not a question will it get done. It has to get done. I've failed to this point, but I have confidence in myself and this organization that we will succeed."
Now that the Jets' quarterback situation is in chaos because Ryan didn't have the good sense to keep his presumptive starting quarterback out of harm's way Saturday night against the Giants, this looks like more of the same ineptitude from a fifth-year coach who ought to know better.
Ryan may be one of the most ingenious defensive coaches in the game, but on the heels of his nonsensical decision to put Mark Sanchez in with the second- and third-teamers in the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game, the Jets again are paying for the Achilles' heel of Ryan's head-coaching career.
Sanchez is out with a shoulder injury and is listed as day- to-day, according to the Jets. When will he be back? Who knows?
If he returns soon, Ryan will have dodged a big one. But it still doesn't excuse him for what happened Saturday.
The scene on the sideline before Sanchez learned that he would be going into the game for the first time with a little more than 11 minutes remaining was one of chaos.
Geno Smith had bombed in his biggest audition yet, throwing three interceptions and taking a safety, thereby showing the Jets' coaches that he simply is not ready to begin the season as the starter.
Anyone with a little common sense could see that Ryan had to go with Sanchez as the Week 1 starter. Why risk an injury by putting him out there with the scrubs from both teams when who knows what might happen because of a missed assignment?
But Ryan -- failing to use what should have been the gut instinct of a competent coach who is managing the entire team, not just his particular unit of expertise -- put Sanchez out there when the quarterback was barely warmed up.
Ryan explained afterward in the testiest news conference of his time with the Jets that this was all about the competition and winning the game, and that injuries happen in football.
But not like this. Not when it could have been avoided by putting in Matt Simms for the rest of the game and seeing whether the kid had what it takes to overcome Greg McElroy for the No. 3 job. Or even the backup role.
Simms did get the chance to show his stuff -- he was the best quarterback out there Saturday night -- but only because Sanchez suffered a shoulder injury with 5:40 remaining that could imperil his season.
Not that the Jets were going anywhere with Sanchez this year, but that still doesn't absolve Ryan for putting Sanchez in harm's way when the competition with Smith was over once Geno bombed.
Now the Jets are left to sweat it out as the Sept. 8 opener against former Jet Darrelle Revis and the Bucs looms. With a defense that looks as if it will be more than respectable, the only chance Ryan had this season was to have a game manager at quarterback who at least would have a chance to limit his mistakes.
Sanchez was the lesser of two evils, as Ryan should have realized after watching Smith wilt. But now that choice might not be there, all because the coach added yet another mistake in judgment about his offense.
With more than four years on the job and still with no feel for how to run an entire team, Ryan can look back on that news conference in January and say the same thing: When it comes to offense, he has failed.
It ultimately will be his undoing as a head coach.