Rex Ryan admits passing faux pas

Updated: October 25, 2011, 9:29 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets coach Rex Ryan finally came clean, admitting Monday it was a bad idea to go into the season with a suped-up passing attack.

The Jets took a walk on the wild side, using a three-receiver package as their base offense and letting Mark Sanchez air it out, but it didn't work. After four games, Ryan decided to go back to their roots -- Ground & Pound -- and that change has helped the Jets to a two-game winning streak.

"I think maybe I got caught up in maybe being enamored with the type of personnel we had," Ryan said. "But at the end of the day, (we) never waited until the season went by. We went back to being who we were."

Ryan's admission came one day after the Jets (4-3) played their most complete game, rushing for a season-high 162 yards in a 27-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers. That the Jets have turned around their season, no doubt, made it easier for Ryan to acknowledge his faux pas. Previously, he said the early-season imbalance -- more passing, less rushing -- was due to game situations.

That's not exactly the whole truth.

The Jets went into the season thinking Sanchez, in his third year, was ready to handle the added burden. They surrounded him with a big-name receiving corps, Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason joining Santonio Holmes. They also tweaked their scheme, spreading the field with receivers.

It wasn't pretty, as Sanchez committed nine turnovers and was sacked 11 times in the first four games. After getting beat up by the Baltimore Ravens, falling to 2-2, Ryan announced to the team they were going back to the formula that made them successful in 2009 and 2010.

"I just thought we weren't being ourselves," Ryan said. "As much as we wanted to expand our weapons -- we felt good about the receiving corps, maybe three wides was our base offense -- I just don't think that was the best thing for our football team."

Ryan met with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and they decided to make the philosophical change before the season got away from them.

"There's nothing wrong with the way we play offense," said Ryan, alluding to the not-always-artistic, run-oriented approach.

It was easy to say now. Back in August, with all the optimism surrounding Sanchez and their new weapons, the Jets fell into a trap, trying to be something they weren't. Burress went so far as to predict they'd average at least 28 points per game. Ryan made the craziest prediction of them all, claiming Mason would catch 90 passes.

He dumped Mason after five games and 13 receptions.

At least Ryan wasn't too stubborn to change -- and it has been dramatic. In the first four games, the run-pass ratio was 37-63. Over the last three, it has shifted to 49-51. It has helped Sanchez, who has cut down on his mistakes (one turnover) and sacks (five).

It also has put the offensive line back into its comfort zone.

"As a lineman, you want to run the ball," guard Brandon Moore said. "You want to run it efficiently. With the players we've got, the system we've got, we really do play well when we're pounding people."

It wasn't broke, but the Jets tried to fix it anyway. That they returned to Ground & Pound is a tacit admission that Sanchez wasn't suited for a wide-open style. Naturally, Ryan wouldn't go there, but he said Sanchez is better in the current system, which emphasizes his ability as a play-action passer.

Maybe he'll never be an air-it-out quarterback. In his career, Sanchez is 5-6 when he's had to throw at least 35 times. But his record is 23-15, plus four playoff wins -- so, yes, he can win with help from his supporting cast.

"I think the confidence ... it's back," Ryan said of Sanchez. "This is the offense that we built, and he's so familiar with. Not saying he can't do the other, but it just seems to fit us better."

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

  • Sources: Mullin To Johnnies
    St. John's legend and NBA Hall of Famer Chris Mullin has agreed to a deal to become the school's next head coach, multiple sources have told ESPN. Mullin will replace Steve Lavin.

MORE NFL HEADLINES