Sunday notes: Grading Rex at 50

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
5:00
AM ET
Quick observations on the Jets and the rest of the NFL:

1. The Big Five-Oh: Rex Ryan coached his 50th regular-season game last week in Pittsburgh, reaching the half-century mark with a 29-21 record -- the best 50-game start for any head coach in Jets history. It's hard to believe, but only five others made it to 50: Herm Edwards (27-23), Joe Walton (26-24), Weeb Ewbank (21-24-5), Walt Michaels (20-30) and Bruce Coslet (19-31). Ryan also has four postseason wins, only three shy of the combined total of the others. What does this tell us about Ryan? He knows how to win, but can he sustain it? Can he win the Big One?

The team has slipped since the second AFC title-game appearance -- a 9-9 record since that crushing loss in Pittsburgh. What's more, the Jets haven't consistently beaten top competition. Since upsetting the Patriots in the 2010 divisional playoffs, they've defeated only two teams that were at least two games over .500 at the time of the game.

Ryan enjoyed tremendous prosperity in his first two years, coaching up the players he inherited from Eric Mangini. Now it's his team, and the mark of a great coach is his ability to adapt on the fly, maintaining success while fighting off the forces that threaten every good team's foundation -- age, salary cap, personnel mistakes, complacency, etc. We'll learn a lot about Ryan over the next three months.

2. Fighting words: The Dolphins' DBs were amused to hear Santonio Holmes talking tough the other day, saying, "With our skills and our speed, we should really take advantage of those guys." This is coming from a receiver who quit on his team last time it played in Miami, a receiver who has managed only seven receptions in four games against the Dolphins. Said CB Sean Smith, per the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "'Take advantage,' that's a big word right there. I appreciate comments like that and welcome challenges with (open) arms. Anybody who wants to come down to the beach ... we're not worried about that at all.”

3. Enough is enough: Tired of the replacement officials yet? RG Brandon Moore is. "What more can you say? We need to get our regular refs back," said Moore, a member of the NFLPA executive committee. He watched the Broncos-Falcons game on Monday night and was turned off by the delays. "Yeah, it was pretty bad," Moore said. "I turned to my wife and said, 'The first quarter took an hour.' I'm sure the advertisers don't like that." He's right, because it always comes down to money for the NFL.

4. Wait, what? So let me get this straight: Now Tony Sparano is saying this whole Tim Tebow/Wildcat thing is so revolutionary that he needs time to figure out how to manage it. Isn't he the Wildcat guru? He also said it essentially requires two game plans, taking an extra four or five hours a week in prep time. I thought the whole idea was to make the opponent burn up extra time in preparation.

5. Tony's return: Astute observation by colleague Brian Costello of the New York Post, recognizing that Sparano didn't mention the word "Dolphins" once during his 14-minute interview Thursday with reporters -- a good chunk of which was spent discussing his return to Miami. Sparano often refers to Miami as "the other place." In honor of Sparano, I may use this dateline on my game column from Sun Life Stadium: "The Other Place, Fla."

6. Where's the Mayhem? Aaron Maybin, last season's leading sacker, was a non-factor in the first two games -- no sacks, two QB hits and no tackles. "I'm not going to sneak up on anybody this year," he told me. "The one thing you know is, teams know where the leading pass rusher is. People know when I'm in the game, something is going on." Maybin said opponents are double teaming him and sliding protection to his side.

7. Amateur move. The only thing I have to say to Greg Schiano is this: How would you like it if the quarterback faked a kneel-down and threw a 70-yard TD pass? That would be as bush league as what he did. I have to laugh at these talking heads who say what Schiano did was basically the equivalent of a basketball team fouling in the final 15 seconds, down by seven, hoping for a miracle. It's not the same. The basketball players don't dive at their opponents' knees.

8. Honoring a visionary. Cue John Facenda's voice, close your eyes and listen to this: "Lombardi -- a certain magic still lingers in the very name." And this: "The autumn wind is a Raider, pillaging just for fun. He'll knock you 'round and upside down and laugh when he's conquered and won." And this: "Pro football in America is a special game, a unique game, played nowhere else on earth. It is a rare game. The men who play it make it so." Thank you, Steve Sabol.

9. Attention, Patriots haters: If the Patriots fall to the Ravens on Sunday night, they'll be 1-2. Significance? The Patriots' current streak of 145 consecutive games without having a losing record (since starting the 2003 season 0-1) is the longest such streak in league history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Wow.

10. Looking ahead to next week: The Jets host the 49ers (2-0), who opened with wins over the Packers and Lions. Impressive? Yeah. Of the 323 teams to start 2-0 since the merger, only the 2002 Broncos did so against a tougher first two opponents based on the previous season's record, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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