Rex Ryan has four weeks to save his job

December, 1, 2013
12/01/13
9:26
PM ET

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Let's start by dismissing any talk of the playoffs. It's not worth mentioning, not after the green slop the New York Jets served up Sunday to their paying customers. There are bigger issues to tackle than wasting brain cells on postseason impossibilities.

For instance: Will the Jets win another game? It's a fair question, because this team -- based on three consecutive blowout losses -- is on a death march to 5-11. The Jets have collapsed in a span of 14 days, in spectacular fashion, putting Rex Ryan on the hot seat.

The Rex Watch is on.

This isn't entirely Ryan's fault, because he's dealing with the Jets' worst quarterback situation since 2005 -- where have you gone, Brooks Bollinger? -- but there will be a scapegoat if they finish 5-11 or 6-10, and we know the general manager won't get whacked this time.

"This," Ryan said after a 23-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium, "was an awful performance by us."

He apologized to the fans for having to watch the Jets' Keystone offense, which has gone two games without a touchdown. To see Ryan at the postgame podium, with a blank expression on his face, was a stark contrast to the scene 28 days earlier. That day, at the same podium, he was ebullient after a stunning win over the New Orleans Saints.

The Jets were 5-4, mocking experts that had the audacity to predict doom for 2013.

Now they're 5-7, with a three-way quarterback quandary -- the same record and same mess as last season, except with different names at quarterback. The Same Old Jets, indeed.

The Jets aren't a charming underdog story anymore. They're an underdog with fleas, having been outscored 79-20 in the past three games.

"We've been so inconsistent, and a lot of it is in all three phases," Ryan said, adding: "We haven't done anything offensively."

A few weeks ago, Ryan was being mentioned as a possible Coach of the Year candidate. He was doing a terrific job with a young, rebuilding team, carefully managing the ups and downs of Geno Smith.

But Smith's problems got too big, overwhelming him and the rest of the offense, leaving the coaching staff at a loss. Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has caught the Tony Sparano virus.

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan
AP Photo/Bill KostrounRex Ryan's Jets have been outscored 79-20 over the past three games.
Ryan benched Smith at halftime, when it was still a game at 6-0, giving Matt Simms the chance of a lifetime. Simms failed to seize the opportunity, creating the question: Who starts next week? Smith? Simms? How 'bout dusting off David Garrard? Ryan wouldn't say.

One thing is certain: We can eliminate Tim Tebow from the conversation.

"We did absolutely nothing in the first half, offensively, so I was just trying to give us a spark somehow," Ryan said, explaining his halftime decision to change quarterbacks.

Thing is, you can't light a damp firecracker. There's no one in the quarterback room who can save this offense. Ryan deserves some blame there because he foolishly decided to play Mark Sanchez in the fourth quarter of a preseason game, leading to his season-ending shoulder injury.

Sanchez, two months removed from surgery, returned to the sideline Sunday in a spectator role, trying to encourage the neophytes, Smith and Simms. It's hard to say where the Jets would be if Sanchez had been healthy, but at least they would have had a viable veteran on the depth chart. The current quarterback situation is a stain on John Idzik's first-year record as general manager.

Nothing makes a team look more hopeless than an offense that can't score. It looks like the season is getting away from the Jets.

"We have to do a better job of not letting it look like it's getting away," Garrard said.

Tight end Kellen Winslow shined a harsh light on the offensive woes, explaining that what we saw Sunday -- 2-for-12 on third down, 177 total yards -- goes on during the week, too.

"Whatever happens in practice usually happens in the game," he said. "That's just how it goes."

It's wrong to blame Ryan for the lousy offense because of the marginal talent at the skill positions. To save his job, Ryan has to convince his bosses the team isn't fracturing amid the adversity and that his defense is a rising force in the league.

On Sunday, Ryan's defense got played by the 28th-ranked offense, missing tackles galore and letting the Dolphins (6-6) rack up 453 total yards -- the most allowed this season by the Jets.

"I think that was, without question, my biggest disappointment," Ryan said of the shoddy tackling.

They can beat Tom Brady and Drew Brees, but they fall apart in the face of Ryan Tannehill? Please, someone explain this. The Jets are wildly inconsistent, and that, too, is a strike against Ryan's record, especially with a second-half schedule that was supposed to be easier than the first half.

The Jets finish with the Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns and Dolphins. If Ryan can't find two wins, he could be Dead Man Walking out the door.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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