- Johnette Howard, ESPN.com columnist
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Everything the New York Jets had warned their critics to take a wait-and-see approach about has come back to bite them, from the questionable makeup of their roster to their brewing quarterback controversy to that preseason mantra about keeping their "real" offense under wraps until the regular season. Remember that?
It's the quarter pole of the season now, and the verdict is in: The Jets were inept Sunday even before their best player on offense, Santonio Holmes, limped off with an undisclosed foot injury that could cost him the sort of significant time that would ensure their season is toast. And Jets head coach Rex Ryan had every reason to strafe his team with the blistering, top-to-bottom rip job that he delivered after their 34-0 blowout loss to the visiting San Francisco 49ers was complete.
Now? Let the blame game begin.
Hell, Ryan wanted to be the first to throw gasoline on the fire.
"I apologize for my language because I was gonna say we got our butt kicked, but really we got our asses kicked," Ryan seethed in his opening remark at his postgame news conference.
His voice trembled with anger. "There's no two ways, ins or outs about it," he said. "We go in, should be 7-3 at halftime. It's 10-nothing because of mistakes we made. And then we come out, turn the ball over four times. Here's the recipe for getting your asses kicked, all right? Two-for-13 third down [conversions] -- that's 15 percent. Four turnovers. A blocked punt when they rush one guy. And giving up 245 yards rushing.
"How's that for a recipe?"
This was a disaster. And it could only get worse for the Jets with the NFL's other best team, the Houston Texans, coming to town next Monday night.
Dazed-looking Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez tried to murmur something afterward about the team still being 2-2. Don't listen to him. Sanchez finished 13-for-29 passing for only 103 yards Sunday, and he had two of the Jets' four turnovers. Another pick was dropped. So if it turns out the Jets do lose Holmes -- their best offensive player, by far -- just days after losing their best defensive player, All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis with a season-ending ACL injury, they are not going to recover.
X-rays on Holmes' foot were negative, but he's still scheduled for an MRI on Monday. And even with Holmes on the field, the Jets' offense was lame.
"We couldn't even throw a screen pass today," center Nick Mangold said in a stone-silent locker room, unintentionally giving a glimpse of more lowlights to come.
Brace yourself for a quarterback controversy. Sanchez was that ineffective.
Get ready for everyone to take a long look at the draft choices and other personnel decisions that have left the Jets' roster looking more threadbare than it ever has in Ryan's tenure with general manager Mike Tannenbaum, who should be feeling some heat, too.
Get ready for the "How do you like Brian Schottenheimer now?" jokes, too, and the sight of first-year Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano being reminded that the Jets didn't even have the best backup quarterback running the option Sunday.
While Tim Tebow again had next to no impact in a marginally expanded role, the 49ers rolled into MetLife Stadium and cut loose their backup quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, in a take-that option attack of their own. And he ran wild for 50 yards rushing and one touchdown. It would've been two TDs if he hadn't slid at the end of a 30-yard run late in the game, just short of the goal line. Kaepernick was pretty much everything Tebow was supposed to be when the Jets brought him here.
This was so bad, Jets running back Shonn Greene, normally an agreeable man, said, "I ain't talking today." Four games into the season, that ground-and-pound offense Sparano and Ryan decided to build around Greene is still struggling to average 3 yards a carry. So who's pounding whom?
This loss was so comprehensive, Ryan called out the coaching staff, too. And he didn't say it in the perfunctory way coaches often say it after routs like this. It was one of those midnight-of-the-soul admissions that something is systemically wrong. Miscalculations have been made. No more just blaming the players.
"We can't just say it's poor tackling, this and that. ... We have to look at it from a schematics standpoint and determine if we're putting our players in the best position to be successful," Ryan said. "I don't know the answer right now."
That was a quite an admission for a guy who likes to say "I know I'm good" and just last week, after Revis was hurt, insisted that even in private he never has "Oh no" moments after setbacks.
But again, it only underscored that as good as the 49ers are, this debacle wasn't just about them. The score was only 10-0 at the half and, as Ryan alluded to, San Francisco's lead could've easily been just 7-3 heading into the third quarter if Sanchez hadn't made one of those mistakes he's been making since his rookie year.
With the Jets facing a third-and-7, and already in position for at least a field goal try at the San Francisco 25, Sanchez tried to take off running and fumbled it away. He also had a couple of passes slapped back at him, including that screen-pass problem Mangold referred to. One was intercepted to kill the Jets' first drive of the third quarter, when they still had a chance to make it a game.
Though Sanchez took blame for the fumble -- "Huge mistake. ... That can't happen," he said -- he wasn't as ready to wear the interception. "I try to keep chance and luck out of it," he said, "but that's a pretty unlucky play."
Ryan won't be thrilled with Sanchez's response after the coach told the entire team to spend Monday and Tuesday away from the facility "eating this one," as safety Yeremiah Bell said.
At some point it's fair to ask if Ryan's grip on this team is loosening. All week long he had talked about the Jets pulling together closer than ever to get over the loss of Revis. Then they get this response? So much for that "Next man up" mantra he was preaching. Kyle Wilson, Revis' replacement, was called for pass interference on the very first play of the game. And not much got better for the Jets from there.
The Jets' offense had nothing up its sleeve with Holmes. When he stumbled and fell to the turf on the first play of the fourth quarter and stayed down, clutching his left leg, unmindful that 49ers defensive back Carlos Rogers picked up his fumble after the catch and was now running 51 yards for a touchdown the other way, the Jets were no longer worried about just this game. They had to be worried about their season. It was also a little spooky because Revis went down untouched on his injury, too.
Ryan came out firing in his postgame session anyway. And it wasn't a surprise. His remarks just made what everyone else was already thinking official: The Jets are not very good. They were getting a beatdown from the 49ers even before they got more beat up. And now here comes Houston, ready to do the same next Monday night.
Let the blame game begin.
Rex Ryan was mad. His Jets were just plain bad. And the future isn't bright.