Unlike almost everybody else, Rex Ryan still believes in Jets
It's what Rex Ryan has in his team, and what he hopes Jets fans will offer in return.
Following their latest setback, a devastating 28-7 loss to Seattle, the teary-eyed coach pleaded with his players to "believe" there still is reason to hope.
But in order to still "believe" in these Jets, fans must ignore reality and their better judgment.
In Ryan's four seasons as the Jets' coach, the talent level has decreased, the starting quarterback has regressed and the headline-making, offseason acquisition of Tim Tebow has proved to be a complete waste of time and money.
Neither Mark Sanchez nor his backup quarterback has improved under this ill-advised experiment. But with Ryan publicly putting all of his trust in Sanchez, he must prove his coach right. If Sanchez strings together more performances that look like this -- 9 of 22, 124 yards, 40.7 passer rating against the Seahawks -- Ryan won't be able to ignore the Tebow talk. And more importantly, Ryan won't be able to deny that Tebow deserves more playing time.
It's only fitting that the Jets, desperate for a win in any fashion against any team, will square off against their former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer Sunday in St. Louis. Most Jets fans were quick to blame Schottenheimer for the team's offensive struggles. But now, after nine weeks of the Tony Sparano Show, it's increasingly clear that the Jets' issues were far deeper than Schottenheimer's play-calling.
The Jets have lost nine of their past 12 games, dating to Week 15 last season, and five of their past six, starting with the 34-0 spanking by the 49ers on Sept. 30. But in the face of facts, Ryan consistently has leaned on his faith -- in his head-coaching skills, the competence of his staff and the strength of his roster.
As reporters sought answers for Sanchez's red-zone implosions, Sparano's puzzling substitutions of Tebow and the team's inability to score an offensive touchdown for the second time this season, Ryan maintained the Jets still have life.
"It's about a 2-percent chance of making the playoffs or something like that with a record that we have, but again, we're going to take that shot," he said. "There is not one quit in any of these guys. There is no chance of that.
"We are going to get after it and find a way to get better. We have been working at it and working our tails off. It just hasn't gone our way yet."
Depending on the day, Ryan's conviction seems to waver.
The day after the Jets lost, 30-9, last month to a passionate Dolphins team, Ryan said his team wasn't close to "sniffing" the playoffs. But in the days leading up to last week's cross-country trip, Ryan was praising Antonio Cromartie for issuing a playoff guarantee.
Yeremiah Bell said last week that their situation wasn't as dire as it looks. Now the Jets are 3-6 and time is running out. Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw said on WFAN Tuesday that the Jets' season "is shot" -- and it's hard not to agree with him. The ship seems to be sinking in Florham Park, and one more loss will trigger the inevitable pushing of the panic button.
There are only so many times during a 16-game season that a coach can say "we have to get better."