Rex Ryan haunted by offenses past, present

December, 4, 2013
12/04/13
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Offensive coordinator No. 2 will be at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, watching Rex Ryan and Coordinator No. 3 attempt to figure their way out of the worst offensive slump the NFL has seen in a few years.

Statistically, the New York Jets are every bit as bad as they were last season, when Coordinator No. 2 was running Ryan's offense. The situation was so dysfunctional that No. 2 was fired after only one season, lasting three years less than No. 1 under Ryan.

Ryan is out of lifelines, so he won't get a chance to pick No. 4. He and Marty Mornhinweg have to generate some offense over the final quarter of the season -- or else. If they happen to stink it up Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, it will make Tony Sparano -- now Oakland's offensive-line coach -- appear like a wrongful scapegoat.

That wouldn't be a good look for Ryan, the one constant through the Brian Schottenheimer-Sparano-Mornhinweg years.

Ryan put himself on notice after last season, when he came out publicly and admonished himself for messing up the offense. Brutally honest, the defensive-minded Ryan said, "I've come up short, in my opinion, in that area. ... I've failed in that area."

[+] EnlargeTony Sparano
Kyle Terada/USA TODAY SportsTony Sparano, a one-and-done offensive coordinator with the Jets, will be at MetLife Stadium on Sunday as a member of the Raiders' staff.
He tried to make it right by hiring Mornhinweg, a nice addition, but there's no tangible proof that it's any better. A year ago, the Jets finished 30th in total offense. Right now, they're 30th.

A year ago, they averaged 17.6 points per game. Right now, the average is 15.8.

We could go on and on with the numbers, but all you need to know is this: The statistics in all the major categories are close or virtually even.

Even isn't good enough. It has to be better than that. There has to be some evidence that the arrow is pointed up. There's still time to make that happen. Four games is a lot in the NFL, but you can't be too optimistic after watching eight straight quarters without a touchdown.

It's a tough situation because Ryan is stuck with an overwhelmed rookie, Geno Smith, at quarterback and a supporting cast filled with waiver-wire talent. It's the blind leading the blech. In a way, it's unfair to pin this on Ryan and his coaches, but there's nothing fair in the cut-throat world of the NFL.

"It doesn't take long for a head coach or a quarterback to find the outhouse," said a former general manager, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "The problem is when they're doing it together. It's too bad. I thought they were going to be a great story."

Despite the early signs of Smith's regression, things still looked promising at 5-4. Mornhinweg did a nice job of coaching around the rookie's weaknesses. But opponents adjusted, crowding the box, overplaying the run and daring Smith to beat them with his arm.

The Jets haven't been able to counter, resulting in an epic collapse. They've gone 114 plays without a touchdown. They're headed to their 15th straight season without a top-10 offense, the third-longest streak in the league.

Let's be honest, Smith wasn't ready for this gig. You can't take a quarterback out of a spread offense in college, throw him into a foreign system and expect immediate results. There's a reason why most of the league passed on him before the Jets stopped his draft-day fall in the second round. He needed to spend time on the bench, watching and learning. That, of course, got blown up the night Marvin Austin blew up Mark Sanchez.

An AFC personnel executive, commenting on Smith's struggles, said the Jets "have played more to his weaknesses and inexperience." He also believes Smith has been victimized by a lack of continuity at wide receiver and tight end. The defense hasn't helped, either.

"The defense has given up points in big losses, and the game falls on the shoulders of the offense -- and the offense can't respond when that happens," the executive said.

The former GM blamed Mornhinweg, saying, "He should be given a cigarette and a last meal."

That's too harsh. There are myriad reasons why Smith and the offense have gone off the cliff. Ryan said statistics don't tell the whole story. That's what coaches say when the numbers look bad.

"Clearly, we've had our ups and downs this year with our offense, there's no ifs, ands or buts about that," he said. "It's not as good as what we'd wish it would be. We haven't been as consistent. Sometimes it's been really good, and sometimes, especially as of late, it's been really bad."

Maybe Ryan can start the turnaround Sunday against Coordinator No. 2.

No one expected great this season. Good might have been a stretch, too. But bad is unacceptable. A coach can't survive two years of bad.

Two years of playing like No. 2.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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