Rex Ryan’s tenure with the New York Jets has been a successful one to date. However, there has always been bumps in the road. Is this recent three game losing streak the biggest bump they have encountered under his leadership?
In 2009, the team started 3-0 and followed with three straight losses. An ugly loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, a last second loss on the road to the Miami Dolphins and then a 5 interception Mark Sanchez performance in an overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills. If you remember at that point, most people were calling for a Sanchez benching and Brian Schottenheimer to be fired. After a win in Oakland, the Jets lost another three straight, falling at home to Miami and Jacksonville and then getting crushed by New England on the road putting their record to 4-6. You can imagine how loud those calls for Sanchez and Schottenheimer’s head were then.
The team did respond in 2009 to win 5 of their last 6 and make the playoffs. In 2010, the Jets didn’t have a 3 game losing streak but did have ugly back to back losses late in the year to New England and Miami. The peaks and valleys have always been present under this regime, which doesn’t make them acceptable but does mean they could be overcome.
We are all fed up with the offense at this point. Sanchez is in his third year and has enough talent around him to put a more consistent product on the field. Some of the blame falls on him. Some falls on Schottenheimer. Some falls on Rex Ryan. Some falls around to the other players on the unit. There is no single culprit. You can run the football, while mixing in a downfield passing attack. It is possible. I am not sure why every other team in the NFL can hit a 15 yard dig route a few times a game, while the Jets may hit it once every 4 games. When is the last time the Jets hit a pass when the ball traveled over 30 yards in the air?
Rex Ryan needs to always be involved on both sides of the football, not just when crisis strikes. He is the head coach, not a glorified defensive coordinator. Brian Schottenheimer needs to run the football 25-30 times a game and still take shots down the field that utilize the Jets weapons. If he can’t do that, turn the offense over to Bill Callahan. Mark Sanchez needs to be more accurate and consistent. The receivers can’t drop passes and the offensive line has to protect Sanchez and get a better push up front. There isn’t an easy answer. The answer is that the entire unit has to get better.
On defense, the Jets aren’t a great unit. They are a good but inconsistent unit. Here it is on Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine to scheme around their deficiencies at safety and linebacker, while hoping somebody like Jamaal Westerman can build on his performance last week. The Jets need Westerman, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Kyle Wilson to grow up fast in contributing roles. Eric Smith needs to not be on the field on passing downs and instead be replaced by Brodney Pool. Long term, the linebacking core needs more speed, the safety position needs more size and talent, and the defensive line needs more options. Yet, for now they have to work with what they have.
Everything the Jets want is still on the table in front of them. If they win their next two games at home, they have a bye week to prepare for Buffalo and New England in back to back weeks, which will be their last chance to make a move in the AFC East. Otherwise the rest of the year will be a scrap to stay around .500 and hope for a break in the wild-card race.