Going into Sunday's game against the Lions, Rex Ryan and the New York Jets need to evaluate and adjust their approach to challenging plays after back-to-back games with brutal, head-scratching decisions.
In the second quarter of last Sunday's 9-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Rex Ryan first challenged a Brad Smith fumble, which gave the Packers the ball at their own 29-yard line. Upon seeing the replay, the ball was clearly moving before Smith was down, but Ryan was advised to challenge anyway and the ruling on the field stood up. While questionable at best, the challenge of the fumble looked great when compared to Ryan's challenge later in the quarter.
The next and worst challenge came after Mark Sanchez completed a third down pass to Jerricho Cotchery in which Packers cornerback Tramon Williams intercepted the ball by ripping it out of Cotchery's hands while both players appeared to have simultaneous possession.
Not an extremely terrible challenge except for one thing—the Jets were challenging to keep possession and punt the ball as Cotchery was eight yards short of the first down marker. This was a no-win scenario for the Jets because even if the call was overturned, they would be punting without any more challenges left.
Needless to say, Ryan lost the second challenge as well leaving him without the ball to punt and no more challenges with 4:48 remaining in the first half.
This is not a one-game occurrence for Gang Green as challenges were a problem in the previous game against the Broncos as well.
Back in their Week 6 matchup in Denver, Rex made a questionable challenge on a 29-yard Brandon Lloyd reception and lost. With 15 yards added after the catch due to a terrible personal foul call on Jim Leonhard, the play that was challenged set up a Denver first down at the Jets 17 late in the third quarter with the game knotted up at 10.
Two plays later, Kyle Orton hit Demaryius Thomas for a 17-yard touchdown pass to give Denver the lead. Rex did not use his second challenge here even though Thomas did not appear to have full possession of the ball with both feet down inbounds.
There was far more reason to challenge the momentum-shifting touchdown pass than the pass that simply put the Broncos deep in Jets territory.
Unless the officiating crew really blew the call, which was not the case at all for Lloyd's catch, Rex should have held onto the red flag considering that it was not a game-changing or scoring play.
It is widely believed around the league that scoring plays and game-changing plays should be challenged if there is the slightest chance that they could be overturned because they impact the end result the most. Rex dropped the ball big time on the Thomas touchdown, even though he escaped the Mile-High city with a very fortunate win.
Was Rex wary of using his second challenge on the touchdown pass to Thomas because he had just lost one and did not trust the coaches upstairs enough or did his coaches not think it was worthy of the challenge? Either way, it showed poor judgment on the guys upstairs.
For NFL head coaches, it is near impossible to determine whether or not a play should be challenged from the sidelines so they must rely on people that they can trust to view the replay upstairs and advise them on the chances of whether it will be overturned or not.
Does Ryan really trust his coaches that are viewing the replays to correctly advise him on challenges? After these past two games, many people do not believe that he should.
Ultimately the decision to challenge falls on Rex's shoulders and if he intends to coach this team deep into the playoffs then he cannot be gun-shy about throwing the red flag in a key spot in a big game due to a mistrust in his coaching staff. On the other hand, Ryan cannot continuously waste his challenges as a result of poor suggestions from his staff either. Something must be changed.
Starting this Sunday in Detroit, Rex and the Jets must nip the challenge problem in the bud before it ends up costing them a lot more as the season goes on.