Rex Makes Right Move By Benching Rhodes


First a few updates:

1. Dwight Lowery and Donald Strickland will be out this week. Vernon Gholston returned to practice today from his hamstring injury.

Rex Makes Right Move By Benching Rhodes

As I am sure most Jets fans know by now, Kerry Rhodes has been benched in favor of Eric Smith. It was a bold move by Rex Ryan but a necessaryone and one that could be remembered as a key part of his development as a NFL head coach. Slowly, Ryan is starting to realize what is actually required of a head coach. He is becoming more involved in the offense and working to be in control of the full team instead of just a defensive coordinator. The decision to bench Rhodes shows that Ryan is going to hold players accountable, even when they are high-paid, big name guys. Just from following the Jets and reading fan’s opinions on Rhodes, this move should be a jolt to Rex’s popularity with people who follow the team.

08jets_1_190Let’s look at the reality of the Rhodes situation. The guy was a 5th round draft pick in 2005, came out of nowhere to be a big time playmaker in 2006 and 2007. He earned a fat, new contract and a warranted reputation as a player who didn’t receive enough attention for his play on the field. Rhodes also started becoming focused on his off the field modeling and acting career. In 2008, he had a quiet season but the blame was passed on to Eric Mangini’s schemes. This year there were high expectations for him to be a playmaker in Rex Ryan’s defense, with comparisons to Ed Reed being thrown around. The results so far? Zero interceptions, zero sacks, zero forced fumbles, and 1 tackle for a loss…yikes. Last week against New England was the final straw, as Rhodes missed countless tackles and appeared soft against receivers over the middle and the running game.

Most people seem to think Rhodes is on his way out of New York, yet I don’t know if that is a foregone conclusion. I think the intention of this move is to wake Rhodes up, sharpen his focus, and find a way to get him to reach his potential. Will the decision pay off? We will see over the next few weeks because Rhodes will still be on the field in plenty of defensive packages, as Rex Ryan made clear today. Listening to Ryan talk, it doesn’t sound like he is ready to give up on Rhodes and that he hopes this is a move that will lead to a strong response from him.

Some people will say if Ryan is holding people accountable, then how come Mark Sanchez isn’t being benched? I know I have been hard on Sanchez the past week, but the situations are completely different. There is nothing to be gained by benching Mark Sanchez right now. He needs to be on the field the last six weeks and work through his mistakes. The Jets aren’t going to the playoffs. The most important thing for the rest of the 2009 season is Sanchez taking steps in a positive direction. Kerry Rhodes was expected to be a Pro-Bowl player this year and he has been a below average safety at best. Mark Sanchez is a rookie quarterback who started 16 games in college, who has been awful at times yet the reality is that he has played well enough for the Jets to win 7 of their 10 games this season.

Rex Ryan did the right thing by benching an ineffective player who seems to be preoccupied with his off the field lifestyle. Hopefully, Kerry Rhodes wakes up and becomes the player he has the talent to be.

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Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the EVP of Content at Whistle Sports