FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The losing streak is downright embarrassing, especially for a player who will one day have a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- a player who only 10 months ago called himself a Super Bowl champion.
But ever since hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy aloft with his Ravens teammates in New Orleans on Feb. 3, safety Ed Reed has lost every game he's played. Seven games in Houston before he was sent packing after a series of ineffective performances, and now three straight losses with the Jets since he signed on with Rex Ryan's defense.
Reed will most likely ignore this last gasp to his career when he takes his rightful place in Canton. But with his career winding down in far less auspicious fashion than he might have hoped, Reed has become the latest pro athlete to stay a year longer than he should have.
Better to have walked away like teammate Ray Lewis, who ended his own Hall of Fame career with a Super Bowl run. Instead, Reed took a bundle of cash from a Texans team so desperate for help in the secondary that they forked over $5 million in guaranteed money for a 35-year-old safety past his prime. Reed waited until after signing his contract to disclose the seriousness of a hip injury that led to him missing training camp. And once he did return, he simply wasn't the same player.
Reed was only part of the problem in Houston, which is still reeling at 2-10 and will likely move on from the Gary Kubiak era. But his play had deteriorated to the point where defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, during his run as interim head coach when Kubiak was recovering from a mini-stroke, released him.
The Jets immediately expressed interest, as did the Patriots, but Reed preferred the comfort of Ryan's system, which he knew so well from their days in Baltimore. It seemed like a sensible move at the time; Reed was a veteran presence with Super Bowl credibility who could impart his wisdom on the Jets' young secondary.
But rather than use Reed in a complementary role and have him play alongside safeties Dawan Landry and second-year man Antonio Allen, who had a pick-6, three passes defensed and nine tackles in the Jets' upset of the Patriots earlier this season, Ryan made Reed the starter and effectively benched Allen.
The secondary has been a mess ever since.
Not that it's all Reed's fault. It's not. Antonio Cromartie has not been himself because of hip and knee problems. Rookie Dee Milliner has been benched three times. And the Jets have been victimized far too much by the deep pass.
But the idea here is to develop young players like Allen, not sit them at the expense of a fading star. On the same day Ryan kept Geno Smith as his starter and resisted the temptation to turn to another 35-year-old player, David Garrard, the coach announced he would keep Reed as his starter.
Good move on Smith, who needs to keep fighting through adversity to see if he can come out the other end a better quarterback. Bad move on Reed, who keeps Allen on the sideline.
Too bad. Especially because Allen himself had welcomed the Reed signing, and promised to soak up as much knowledge from the veteran as he could. Little did he know that it would mean such a drastic cut in his playing time. Reed was on the field for 73 snaps against the Dolphins on Sunday; Allen had nine.
It's one thing if the Jets had shown marked improvement after Reed's arrival. But the defense has gotten progressively worse since he took over for Allen; the Jets have given up a combined 79 points the last three games.
Ryan stubbornly clings to the idea that Reed is still viable as a full-time player, and brushed off a question Monday about whether Reed will remain in the starting lineup. When asked why we haven't seen more of Allen, Ryan suggested that he wanted to get his young safety more playing time against the Dolphins. He also suggested that he plans to play Allen more in the coming weeks. We'll believe it when we see it, especially if it means Allen cutting into Reed's playing time.
Ryan is a fiercely loyal coach to those who have bled for him, and Reed is clearly one of those players. They had some great years in Baltimore, where Ryan was the Ravens' defensive coordinator during Reed's best years as a ball-hawking safety.
But Reed is not close to being the player he once was, and Ryan using him in a full-time role at the expense of a younger player who can help the Jets in future years is ill-advised.
Maybe Ryan thinks Reed's experience can help save his job as coach. If anything, Ryan's blind loyalty to his aging safety will hasten the coach's ouster.