Outside of fans in the Big Easy, there's no group that's been traumatized more by the first month of the 2012 season than supporters of the New York Jets.
The Jets' futility on offense in the preseason became an impressive Week 1 win, but their momentum stalled in a drubbing at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers the next week. Then, the team recovered some steam, then lost it, then gained some with a win the following week that might as well have been a loss, given that it cost them star cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Now, as if all that wasn't bad enough, the team hit a new low last week in getting waxed 34-0 at home by the San Francisco 49ers, and one of their opponents from that game has gone so far as to accuse the Jets of "quitting" during that beat down.
As Manish Mehta of The New York Daily News reports, San Francisco cornerback Carlos Rogers did just that during a Sirius XM radio interview.
"It kinda seemed like, after a while they just, I know, looking at their defense, they didn't want to be out there," Rogers said. "And after that it's like, man, these guys don't really want to play the game. You know, it's pretty much over. It kinda shocked me just because, you know, a lot of guys were saying on the sideline, 'Oh, they don't want to tackle, they don't want to do this, they don't want to do that,’” Rogers added. “That's a Rex Ryan defense. That's a Rex Ryan team. His defense, you know, plays throughout. And that was the shocking point about it.”
A shocking point indeed, and while I'm not ready to say that the Jets "quit" (a damning accusation made all the worse by it's near-impossibility to prove) Rogers may, at least partly, be on to something.
Sure, the Jets are a "Rex Ryan team," but has he lost control of it?
This is hardly the first time that question has been asked.
After last year's disaster of a season that began with Ryan bombastically predicting a Super Bowl appearance and ended with the Jets missing the playoffs amid locker room dissension, many pundits wondered aloud whether Ryan had lost control of the Jets.
In fact, as recently as July, Ryan himself all but admitted that the Jets quit on him last season, telling Ian O'Connor of ESPN that before last season's disastrous do-or-die loss to the Dolphins in the season finale that when it came to the team's slim playoff hopes that "I almost felt like I was the only one that believed it."
If they quit once it's a lot easier to buy the idea of them doing it twice, and if there's a surer sign of a coach that's lost his players than them quitting I don't know what it is.
As would be expected, Ryan came to the defense of well, his defense in Mehta's piece, insisting that there was no quit in his team.
“Certainly we didn’t play well,” Ryan said on Monday. “It’s obvious we didn’t play to his standards either. I think we have a reputation in this league of being a tremendous defense. We didn’t play that way. But as far as us quitting, there’s no way. That wasn’t the case. We got beat,” Ryan added. “There’s no doubt about it. No two ways about it. But it does show that other teams expect a lot out of this defense … obviously not any more than we expect out of ourselves.”
That's another problem altogether, as I think Ryan's vaunted defense is living more off reputation than results.
I'll grant you that the loss of Revis was an absolute hammer-blow to the defense. However, the Jets defense has been backsliding dating back to last year. While Revis kept the unit stout against the pass, the Jets were a so-so 13th in run defense and a mediocre 20th in scoring defense.
Now, with Revis done with an ACL tear, the bottom has fallen out for the defense. It will likely also fall out for the Jets and their coach, who seems destined at this point for his first sub-.500 season since he took over for Gang Green in 2009.
Sure, the injuries haven't helped, or the fact that the Jets have two quarterbacks that put together don't equal one, but the Jets are a team that appears to have a full head of steam in the wrong direction.
The problem may, in part, lie with the guy driving the bus.