Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New York Jets [Print without images]

Sunday, December 22, 2013
Sunday notes: Can Jets do better than Rex?

By Rich Cimini

Our weekly take on the New York Jets:

1. Slim pickings: Before owner Woody Johnson and general manager John Idzik make a decision on coach Rex Ryan, they should consider the paucity of attractive head coaching candidates. In other words, be careful because change isn't always a good thing.

Rex Ryan
The pool of potential replacements for Jets coach Rex Ryan doesn't appear to be all that deep.
Presumably, they'd hire an offensive-minded coach, but does anyone believe Ken Whisenhunt, Darrell Bevell or Tom Cable is The Answer? They're the names being linked to a potential vacancy. Idzik knows Bevell and Cable from his days with the Seattle Seahawks, but there are questions about whether Bevell is ready for the big chair in a big market. Cable is an offensive line coach (read: not a passing guru) who went 17-27 as the Oakland Raiders' head coach. Whisenhunt is being mentioned because of his past association with Rod Graves, the Jets' senior director of football administration, but I'm told they weren't buddy-buddy toward the end of their run with the Arizona Cardinals.

There are some quality defensive-minded coaches out there, but what sense would it make to replace Ryan -- one of the top defensive minds -- with a Ryan wannabe? Penn State's Bill O'Brien is interesting because of his offensive background, but he'll be in demand. Also, his mentor is Bill Belichick, so I have to think he wouldn't want to pull an Eric Mangini and go to the hated Jets.

The point is, Woodzik can do worse than the Ryan-Marty Mornhinweg tandem. Unless they have their eye on an offensive genius nobody knows about, there's something to be said for continuity.

2. Ed Reeds it and weeps: In all my years of covering the Jets, I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like the acrimony that has developed between Reed and the media. As Ron Burgundy says in "The Anchorman" movie, "Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that got out of hand fast."

It sure did. Reed is a future Hall of Famer, no doubt, but his game has deteriorated and the criticism is chafing him. Ryan, a Reed apologist, said the safety's presence has allowed the defense to improve against the deep ball. In fact, that's not true.  Check out these numbers, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information:

 
As you can see, there has been a slight dropoff in efficiency since Reed arrived. The only thing that bolsters Ryan's case is that opponents have been throwing deep less often with Reed on the team -- a drop from nine attempts per game to seven. The best thing about the Reed signing is that it won't hurt them in the future -- no salary-cap impact in 2014.

3. Westy says talent has gone south: Former special-teams coordinator Mike Westhoff is biased when it comes to his successor, Ben Kotwica, but he believes his former protege is doing a "heroic" job with the Jets' special teams. "I think the personnel is absolutely terrible," Westhoff told ESPNNewYork.com. "They're void of good, solid talent." The exceptions, he said, are place-kicker Nick Folk and one or two others. Kotwica, by the way, is a candidate for the Army head coaching vacancy.

Westhoff, an ESPN radio analyst, commended Folk on his career year, saying: "When he got here, he had as many moving parts in his mechanics as I've ever seen in a kicker. But he worked hard and he made himself better. That's what the Jets need at a bunch of positions." He's got that right.

4. Folk-lore: When a kicker makes 30 of 31 field goal attempts, he's usually a shoo-in for the Pro Bowl. Unfortunately for Folk, Steven Hauschka and Matt Prater also are having one-miss seasons. Justin Tucker has two misses, but he delivered one of the greatest kicking performances in history last Monday night for the Baltimore Ravens.

"He wrote his ticket to the Pro Bowl, for sure," Folk said.

The good news for Folk is that, with the new Pro Bowl format, two kickers will be selected, regardless of conference affiliation.

5. Sheldon vs. Kiko: The voting for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year should be close between DT Sheldon Richardson and Buffalo Bills LB Kiko Alonso. In his latest rookie rankings, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. rates Alonso at No. 1 and Richardson No. 2. I asked Richardson if his rushing touchdown last week should be factored into a defensive award. "Why not?" he said. "Football is football."

6. The Iron Men: Unlike many teams, the Jets can't use injuries on the offensive line as an excuse. Their five starters have missed a combined total of only five snaps due to injury. Right tackle Austin Howard missed two last week, C Nick Mangold missed two in Week 1 and LG Vladimir Ducasse (since benched) missed one in Week 3.

7. The Kerley Factor: Ryan keeps talking about the importance of Jeremy Kerley. It's hard to believe a 5-foot-9 slot receiver could have a significant impact on the entire offense, but the stats prove it. Without Kerley on the field, the Jets average 5.36 yards per pass attempt. With him, the average jumps to 5.83. So there you have it.

8. Holmes, in happier times: Sunday marks the Jets' first game against the Cleveland Browns since Nov. 14, 2010, when Santonio Holmes won it in overtime with a 37-yard touchdown reception. It came in the middle of an incredible run, when Holmes won three straight games with clutch plays. Since that magical stretch, he has produced only two 100-yard receiving days. Former GM Mike Tannenbaum acknowledged the obvious last week in a radio interview, saying the five-year, $45 million contract hasn't worked out.

9. Beyond X's and O's:  In last Monday's team meeting, Ryan spoke to the players about last Sunday's murder/carjacking at the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey, not far from the Jets' training facility and a popular spot for players. Players were touched that Ryan, coming off a tough loss to the Carolina Panthers, took the time to offer fatherly advice, imploring them to be smart and careful.

10. So long, 'Stick: There have been many tributes to Candlestick Park, which hosts its final regular-season game Monday night. A couple of quick thoughts from a privileged sports writer who can say he was there for three memorable games:

I was there Dec. 9, 1990, when the San Francisco 49ers beat the New York Giants, 7-3, ending with Ronnie Lott and Phil Simms jawing at each other, facemask to facemask. (Random thought: In the 49ers' postgame news conference, I stood next to singer Huey Lewis, an avid Niners fan.) I was there Sept. 6, 1998, when Garrison Hearst beat the Jets with a 96-yard run in overtime. I was there Jan. 22, 2012, for the NFC Championship Game, when the Giants won in overtime. I watched the overtime period from the 49ers' sideline (one of the few stadiums that still allows reporters on the field at the end of games), marveling at how Eli Manning kept getting up after the beating he took from the 49ers' front. Yes, the old dump on the bay has produced many classics.