- Johnette Howard, ESPN.com columnist
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It doesn't seem to matter that the New York Jets have tried the celebrity-quarterback route twice before with Brett Favre and Tim Tebow, and it blew up with one-and-done seasons both times. The Jets scare you most at times like this.
When they're down on their luck, when they're looking for a quick fix, when owner Woody Johnson can feel the business side of the operation slipping just as sharply as the on-the-field product, they usually go for the big splashy move like -- no, no, no! -- signing Michael Vick, the splashiest name who's expected to be available this offseason.
Every one of those tendencies was worth pondering Wednesday as the Jets' latest circus -- Day 3 of Rex Ryan's Mouth Held Hostage -- played out. Ryan is still the only NFL head coach among the 25 still employed who has not held a news conference since the season ended Sunday because of what was termed an "organizational decision."
But who could've imagined there was another reason that Ryan and Johnson won't meet the media until Jan. 8 -- Rex is away on vacation, reportedly at a swanky resort in the Bahamas, where he can swim with dolphins and hug sea lions while, you know, the rest of the league's teams are hustling to fix themselves and line up the best staffs possible.
Especially the losing teams. Like his.
It was a typically unique Rex response to a typically dysfunctional new twist in his petulant tenure. And what's the logic? That Jets fans will forget how hacked off they are? That maybe a little R&R or conch chowder will help Ryan forget the mess he's now mired in?
The GM who hired him (Mike Tannenbaum) just got fired. The quarterback they drafted together (Mark Sanchez) has cratered. Ryan now has one year to save his job while working for a headline-loving owner who is running out of patience with him and a GM he hasn't even met yet.
And for Ryan, saving himself starts with having to fix the offense -- the facet of the team he still knows least about, while relying on his third offensive coordinator in three years.
The Jets scare you at times like this, all right.
Vick will be this year's equivalent of Favre and Tebow when he shakes loose from the Eagles by early February, before they're due to pay him $3 million of the $17.5 million he's scheduled to earn next season. And while there is always the chance the Eagles will hire Oregon's Chip Kelly to replace Andy Reid and Vick will somehow get to stay, Vick himself is already talking like a goner. And he and the Jets were already doing a little back-channel speed dating the past couple of weeks before the regular season ended Sunday.
Ryan laughed uncomfortably just before Christmas when he was asked for his appraisal of Vick, saying only, "I'll just focus on the players we have on this roster instead of somebody else's players." But it's hard to forget how Ryan raved about Vick late in the 2011 season after Vick led the Eagles to a 45-19 rout of the Jets. "He's a complete quarterback now," Ryan said then.
When Vick was told those quotes immediately after the game, he said, "That's an awesome compliment coming from a coach that I really have a lot of respect for."
So it's not surprising word has floated up just in the past week from someone "close to Vick" that Vick would consider the Jets if he was assured of starting and paid more than Sanchez. Or that Vick himself has spoken a lot about what he'll be looking for in a new team, as though he believes that turning 33 in June, committing 32 turnovers in his past two seasons and a 10-12 record as a starter over the same span, all while failing to stay healthy, nonetheless gives him the sort of leverage to still make such demands.
Perhaps that will fly with Oakland or Jacksonville or Arizona, which are also desperately looking for franchise quarterbacks. But it shouldn't with the Jets.
The Jets are more than $25 million over the salary cap, they're bereft of extra draft picks, and they're staring at a rebuilding job that will stretch from the roster to the coaching staff to the scouting department. What they need is a thoughtful, comprehensive redo, not a quick jolt of attention that yet another flawed celeb quarterback would bring.
They should run from Vick, not toward him.
Given the hot seat Ryan is on, you have to hope the Jets' new GM will be the voice of reason.
While Vick has a bigger reputation than Sanchez, did you know their production the past two seasons isn't significantly distinguishable? Sanchez averaged 1.58 turnovers a game to Vick's 1.34; Sanchez completed 55.6 percent of his passes the past two seasons to Vick's 59.0; and Sanchez's winning percentage the past two years (.437, or 14-18 in his past 32 starts) is actually higher than Vick's (.313 in his past 22 starts).
Granted, Vick had a bad offensive line in front of him, but he usually had a better running back/receiver combo to work with than Sanchez did, and Reid is considered a far better offensive mind than anyone the Jets had in-house.
Long story short: Sanchez isn't the athlete or talent that Vick is, but they're both overpaid underachievers.
Unlike Sanchez, Vick also has a worrisome injury and concussion history building. Vick suffered the second known concussion of his career against Dallas in mid-November, which Reid termed "pretty significant." Vick wasn't cleared to play for a month. He didn't get into another game for six weeks, until his replacement, Nick Foles, broke his hand and Reid turned to Vick in the Eagles' season finale, a 42-7 whitewashing against the Giants.
Afterward, Vick ripped his teammates for a lack of effort.
(The Jets have had enough of those guys recently, too.)
All of that should be enough to scare off the Jets. But, as usual, it hasn't.
You know Rex.
He has one season to save his job, and he has a tendency to see blue skies where everyone else sees storm clouds. He thinks he can coach up players with whom other coaches have failed. He's on record declaring Vick a "complete quarterback" when even Vick himself said just last week that it's only been in the past two years -- his ninth and 10th in the league -- that "I just feel like I have made so many strides as far as learning the defensive part of the game and kind of piecing it together with the offense. … I've kind of gotten better in the protection game and learning defensive schemes."
And yet, just before Christmas, an unnamed Jets source told the New York Daily News that Ryan's reaction to Vick would be, "Bring it on. … [Rex] loves Vick."
Of course he does.
With Ryan's and Woody Johnson's Jets, it's always been boom or bust, splash and thrash, pull the trigger and assess the collateral damage that could result only later.
The Jets shouldn't want another retread celebrity quarterback like Vick.
And yet, instead of saying no, no, no, Ryan still seems willing to say, "I do."
11hEric D. Williams
1dSharon Katz & Hank Gargiulo