Now more than ever, Rex Ryan needs to rely on his coaching abilities and Mark Sanchez to get the Jets to the playoffs
No, I'm not crazy.
Yes, I do realize just how much better Darrelle Revis makes this Jets defense, and I have the numbers to back it up. However, to put the entire fate of the Jets franchise on his back is incredibly dangerous and only something typical-loser franchises do.
For years, the Jets have been trying to rid themselves of the "same 'ol Jets" aura. Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum have repeatedly bragged about their abilities and track record in taking this team to consecutive championship games.
Yet, the history of collapses, whether late in seasons or games, missed opportunities and questionable personnel moves have caused an awful stench that arose last season and could take over and run everyone out of the building this fall.
However, there is hope, even after losing the best defensive player in football. The down side to that for Jets fans is that it starts at the top with Woody Johnson, Rex "Nostradamus" Ryan and Trader Mike Tannenbaum.
Ryan promised Jets fans a future much different from the past. Now he gets a chance to prove just how much a genius he really is.
To repeat, it starts at the top
To fully explain how this needs to happen, I will be inserting myself into the role of the Jets owner. This needs to start with him.
I would have dragged, not asked, but dragged both Tannenbaum and Ryan into my office right after I watched the interview in which Ryan announced that Revis did, in fact, tear his ACL and is done for the season.
Ryan's entire body language bothered me. It stunk of failure, woe and hopelessness. His shoulders were slumped, his head was down and he just looked defeated.
The sadness and pity ends now. Now it's time to show the NFL why Ryan says he is one of the best defensive minds in the NFL.
Now is the time for Ryan to challenge the rest of his coaching staff to be that much better than other coaching staffs in preparation, schemes and analysis. Now is the time for Ryan to challenge his players to be perfect in their understanding of the playbook, of other teams' tendencies and of their immediate opponent.
(Remember, this is all me talking as Woody Johnson.)
Monday afternoon's press conference is the last time I expect Ryan to utter these words when referencing failure.
"You have to give the other team credit."
"We just didn't tackle and weren't gap sound."
"We just didn't execute like I would have liked."
It is a dangerous pit to fall into when one starts giving others credit instead of questioning what needed to be done better. Pretty soon failure is just as accepted as the other team executing.
Ryan needs to hold himself and his team accountable, especially now when every mistake will be costly.
When Ryan makes these statements, the obvious follow-up that shockingly no one in the media answers is, Why? Why aren't you tackling? Why aren't you gap sound? Why was the other team able to execute better than the Jets?
If I were Woody Johnson, I would make sure that Ryan and Tannenbaum know that the excuses, the pity, the woe and the sorrow are over Now it's time to show why Ryan is so boisterous and confident.
As an owner, I would have been disappointed, yet understood Ryan's body language during the press conference. I would then stress as strong as I could, the need to grab the players' attention by force.
In these moments, self pity and depression can grow, but I would challenge Ryan and his ego to accept zero failure. From here on the only reason we lose (again speaking as Johnson) is because Ryan failed to hold his coaches and players accountable, thus failing to devise, prepare and execute consistent game plans that put players in the best position to make plays and win games.
That sounds simple and maybe even too demanding, but Ryan can't ride both horses anymore. He can't brag about his abilities, then constantly give credit to the other team for beating him. At some point, he needs to accept that he didn't get the job done in allowing teams to run through his defense or convert repeatedly on third down.
If the Jets defense is unable to adjust to life without Revis, should Rex Ryan be held accountable?
So, I really do think Revis' injury helps the Jets. Now they will now truly find out about Ryan as a coach. This also puts a major spotlight on Tannenbaum and the depth he has or hasn't provided this roster.
The Jets and their fans will now be able to judge Ryan and Tannenbaum, and have proof.
Looking at this from another side, plenty of teams have won and even dominated while missing their best players.
Just last season the Texans lost not one but three of their best players: Andre Johnson for nine games; Mario Williams for the season after just five games; and Matt Schaub for the season after 10 games.
The 2010 Green Bay Packers had plenty of reasons to give up and feel sorry for themselves. That team lost 12 players for the season.
Seven Week 1 starters, including LB Nick Barnett, TE Jermichael Finley, RB Ryan Grant and RT Mark Tauschner, were lost for the season by Week 10.
While everyone else counted them out, the Packers quietly made the playoffs and behind Aaron Rodgers shocked the NFL by winning their fourth Super Bowl.
The 2007 Giants defense looked awful after allowing 80 points in losing its first two games. The Giants even lost DE Mathias Kiwanuka for the season after fracturing his leg in November, but that allowed other players such as Justin Tuck, Jay Alford and Corey Webster to take on larger roles.
Mark Sanchez should take note that Eli Manning was very much the unproven QB at the same point in his career. Entering their fourth NFL season, Sanchez's and Manning's numbers were remarkably similar.
Passing YPG: Sanchez 195.1; Manning 196.3.
TD Passes: Sanchez 55; Manning 54.
Completion Pct: Sanchez 55.3, Eli Manning 54.0.
Passer Rating: Sanchez 73.2, Eli Manning 73.1
While I'm not saying in any way that Sanchez will become a multi-Super Bowl winning QB, this does show that Sanchez has something to strive for. Despite all of the issues he still has to overcome, it can be done.
On the flip side, Sanchez also has to realize that the time for patience and acceptance of mistakes is over. No more three-interception games, no more games with a completion percentage below 50 percent (like the last two have been), and no more hoping the defense can cover his mistakes.
This is now officially his team. Even if the Jets had a perfectly healthy Revis, the Jets season still would come down to how effective Sanchez will be.
So far this season, Sanchez has been victimized by drops, poor routes run and overall inexperience by his wide receivers. Sanchez needs to hold them accountable and make them better. He can't care if Stephen Hill drops 20 more passes, he still needs to throw the ball to him that 21st time.
If a wide receiver runs a bad route, like Clyde Gates did on Sunday, causing Sanchez to throw an interception, he needs to get in his face. I don't think Peyton Manning, Dan Marino or John Elway let any wide receiver slide after failing to execute a route.
Sanchez now has a new beginning. If he truly is the QB he thinks he is and that some in the media like Phil Simms think he can be, his play will finally give the Jets that franchise QB they never had.
Unfortunately, if Sanchez still puts together games in which he completes fewer than half of his passes with several interceptions and no touchdowns, the Jets will know they need to find another QB.
Despite calling upon all of the inspirational stories one can summon and showing countless examples of other teams and players that have answered the call when opportunity knocked, the Jets still need to deal with reality and how to change it.
Reality says that Ryan has a huge task ahead of him, as the difference in his defense's performance with Revis and without him has been massive.
Since 2009, the Jets pass defense ranks first in the NFL in lowest completion percentage (52.6), passing yards per game (187.1) and is tied for first in fewest touchdowns allowed (15). It also ranks first in allowing the fewest yards per attempt (8.2), fewest TD passes of more than 15 yards (15) and fewest passing first downs (499).
Judging by the first three games of the season, Ryan definitely did not have his defense prepared for life without Revis, as it has allowed a 61.7 completion percentage, 7.6 yards per attempt and four touchdowns while intercepting no passes without him on the field.
While these numbers are daunting, Ryan has reached the ultimate crossroads. If he comes through and rises to the occasion, he will have gone a long way toward proving himself to be the defensive mastermind he thinks he is.
However, if he fails, if the Jets continue to get torched by other teams' running backs while not generating any pass rush or defending against the pass, then the Jets need to look for another head coach and GM at the end of the season.
This will either be Ryan's finest hour or the final days of his first head coaching job. For the sake of Jets fans, they better hope all the faith he has in his abilities as a defensive genius shines through.
If it doesn't, it will be a while before anyone listens to him again.
All statistics cited are courtesy of ESPN.com.