FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- It was a joke with a sharp edge, one of a thousand that the garrulous Rex Ryan has made since taking over the Jets three seasons ago. On Wednesday, he told San Diego reporters that, if he'd been tapped to lead the Chargers instead of Norv Turner, San Diego would have hardware.
"Well, I think I would have had a couple of rings," Ryan said with a laugh. "I'm tellin' ya. Those teams were loaded."
It's probably the most unguarded thing the newly buttoned-up Ryan has said all season, and unsurprising given a tendency to throw out Super Bowl references like they're party favors on New Year's Eve. But this comment is a bit of a shot at his own general manager because frankly, the Jets are not loaded anymore.
Mike Tannenbaum must have been so distracted with the flashy free-agent cornerback that he lost touch with what the Jets needed. After their second straight AFC title game, the Jets cut right tackle Damien Woody, wanted no part of Braylon Edwards and held the door as a disgruntled Jerricho Cotchery shot out of the exit.
That left one remaining wide receiver in Santonio Holmes, who was one of the first guys to the lifeboats when the Jets hit a three-game losing streak. The Jets needed him to be a captain after signing him to a $50 million contract, but he hasn't lived up to the billing. Not yet.
So Cotchery is riding the bench in Pittsburgh and Edwards was injured early in San Francisco. You could say good riddance -- except that quarterback Mark Sanchez could actually deliver them the ball.
Instead, Sanchez has his third group of wide receivers in three seasons. He's struggling to deliver veteran Plaxico Burress a catch, and jokes that learning his tendencies is like driving an unfamiliar vehicle.
"This kind of stuff, it doesn't happen overnight," Sanchez said. "It doesn't happen with 40 reps in training camp -- if we got those. You've got to throw those routes hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times until you could almost throw them with your eyes closed."
At this point in his young career, Sanchez needs a 20-car garage.
It isn't just the wide receiver position. Sanchez has been beaten up, needing medical tests after the first three games of the season.
As for the offensive line, Woody was cut after last season as he rehabilitated an Achilles rupture. Wayne Hunter replaced him at right tackle, but that left the offensive line with just one reliable backup. Rob Turner broke his leg during the preseason and is out for the rest of the season.
When Nick Mangold sustained a high ankle sprain in Oakland, the line was left without a functional backup. Both Vladimir Ducasse and Colin Baxter weren't ready for the responsibility handed to them by a team that hadn't shored up the line.
That should be Tannenbaum's job, to look at a player like Ducasse and realize he's not ready to start, and scour the free-agent market to get someone in the system early.
What the Jets have is a group of parts that don't quite fit yet. And the strong voices in that locker room, like Woody and Cotchery -- even going back to running back Thomas Jones -- haven't been replaced by those who can claim the same kind of authority in the same numbers.
They aren't loaded.
Chemistry takes time for an offense to develop. Time that was in short supply during the NFL lockout.
The Jets have traditionally gotten better as the season goes along but, at 3-3 and with a tough three-game streak ahead, this team only has so much time left.