After taking the Jets to the AFC Championship in his first year as head coach, it seemed Rex Ryan had earned himself the title of king of New York. Not only was he given a contract extension, but he was given prominent national exposure on HBO's Hard Knocks. Soon the entire country was seeing what the New York media had known for a year—Rex Ryan is a very entertaining man.
He gives great sound bites and keeps the media entertained, as the TV-viewing public found out. What the league already knew was that Ryan was a defensive mastermind, creating a complex defensive scheme that confused opposing quarterbacks during his time as defensive coordinator in Baltimore and continuing into his tenure as head coach in New York.
Many people believe what drove Eric Mangini out of town was his coldness to the media. They say in New York that if you have a good relationship with the media, you are golden in this town.
You would think after taking his team to the AFC Championship game in his first season, having a great relationship with the media and getting off to a 6-2 start this season, Rex Ryan would be in the clear for a while.
But this is New York, and oh how fast things can change. During every game the blame has been able to fall everywhere: Mark Sanchez, the wide receivers, Darrelle Revis' hamstring, but now it's time for the blame to fall on Ryan.
The positive look is at the Jets are in a midseason funk, something they went through last year. They are still 6-2, and last season they lost six of seven to fall to 4-7. But during the fall, the Jets felt that the offense was too complex for rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. Ryan spent more time with the offense, simplifying it, and Sanchez got better.
When the Jets offense had an awful performance against Baltimore in Week 1, they again simplified the offense and had success.
Ryan needs to learn from what he did with the offense—simplify everything.
The Jets defense was No. 1 in the league last year, and was dominant against the pass, surrendering just eight passing touchdowns all season. They are off to a far worse start this season, but they are still doing a good job.
Instead of trying to come up with more complex schemes to get the Jets defense back on track, Ryan needs to look at the team as a whole.
For the second straight week the Jets beat themselves. They are making fundamental mistakes, mistakes that should never be made. Going back the last three games, the Jets have been taking way too many penalties. More importantly, they have been taking way to many undisciplined penalties.
Some of these were on bad calls, such as Sean Ellis' late hit on Matthew Stafford, but others have just come from lack of discipline.
Say what you want about Herman Edwards and Eric Mangini, but when they were in charge the Jets were consistently one of the least-penalized teams in the league.
Before the game, Ryan said the Jets needed to cut down the self-inflicted wounds that killed them against Green Bay. Now it is time to ask, has Rex done anything to cut down on the self-inflicted wounds, or has he just said that they need to?
Over the past two weeks the Jets have made the most basic of mistakes. Several quarterback-center exchanges were fumbled, receivers dropped countless passes, the Jets were fumbling left and right and players were simply having the ball ripped from their hands. During the Detroit game, twice on third down LaDainian Tomlinson came out of the backfield as Sanchez's safety option and wasn't looking at Sanchez as Sanchez threw the ball right by him.
The Jets have begun issuing fines to Mark Sanchez for displaying bad body language during practice, but are they doing anything about the self-inflicted wounds?
Is Ryan running any drills to help the Jets hold onto the football? Is anyone being fined for committing a play that would be called an undisciplined penalty during an actual game?
After all, the way you practice reflects the way you play the game.
Ryan needs to work on his in-game coaching, as well. After losing two challenges last week, Ryan didn't challenge a few questionable calls against Detroit. Most importantly, after the Jets came within three points with 2:46 left in the fourth quarter, Ryan chose to kick deep instead of attempt an onside kick.
Detroit was playing without their starting quarterback and kicker. If you trust your defense to get a stop, you should trust them to get that stop if you fail to recover the onside kick. The Jets were holding just one timeout. In this situation you have to be aggressive to try and get the ball back yourself.
The Jets escaped with a win and are 6-2, more importantly, they are a good team despite their stats not being as good as last year. Instead of trying to get the defense back to their once-dominant selves, Ryan needs to spend the coming week coaching discipline and fundamentals.
At the beginning of the season, this stretch of the Jets schedule looked like it would be easy. The way these teams are playing has shown that while the Jets should win these games, they will not come easy.
What the Jets really need to concentrate on in the upcoming weeks is not beating themselves.
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