Rex Ryan was right Sunday. Not about how to motivate his team in San Diego, or how to handle his quarterback situation, or even how to handle Philip Rivers.
Ryan was right when he took blame for the team’s 31–0 debacle at the hands of the Chargers.
Actually he should apologize for this whole disappointing 1–4 season.
This is not to say that Rex is a bad coach. Anytime you can win four playoff road games in two years with Mark Sanchez as your quarterback, you must know what you’re doing.
But it’s Ryan’s handling of the current quarterback situation that’s killing this team. Sound familiar? Yes, Ryan’s been way too slow to yank his starting quarterback before.
Take 2012 as an example—Sanchez’s fourth and final year as the starter for the Jets. After a great opening week performance against Buffalo (19/27 for 266 yards, 3 TDs), Sanchez then posted four straight games where he completed less than 50 percent of his passes. It was the first time any NFL quarterback had done that (minimum 25 pass attempts) since 1999—13 years! Did he lose his job then? Nope.
Sanchez rebounded (sort of) to put up a couple of lukewarm performances before his infamous butt-fumble game during a most embarrassing 49–19 rout, courtesy of the Patriots, on Thanksgiving Day later that fall. Did he lose his job then? Of course not.
Not until the Sanchize went 13/28 passing for 131 yards and 4 costly picks in a 14–10 loss to the Titans on Dec. 17 (week 15) did Ryan finally pull his starter and try Greg McElroy the next week. By that time, the 6–8 Jets were at the edge of the playoff bubble and would end up losing their final two games. By the way, Sanchez finished the season 31st out of 32 quarterbacks with a QB rating of 66.9.
This year, Smith had a similar teasing start to Sanchez’s 2012 campaign—23/28 for 221 yards in a win over Oakland. He looked confident and poised in the pocket—exactly what you want in a quarterback.
The following week against Green Bay, Smith was great in the first half—10/14 for 103 yards—but was terrible (6/18 for 73 yards) in the second half as the Jets managed just three points after halftime and blew an 18-point lead in the loss.
He put up halfway-decent numbers the next week out against the Bears, going 26/43 for 316 yards, but committed two especially damaging turnovers in the 27–19 loss. On the second play from scrimmage, Geno threw a pick-six to Chicago’s Ryan Mundy that put the Bears up 7–0, 32 seconds into the game. Then in the third quarter, with the Jets trailing 24–13, Smith was picked off in the end zone as the Jets scored just one touchdown in six trips to the red zone.
It was his performance last week, though, against the Lions, that finally warranted giving the four-time Pro Bowler Michael Vick a try. Geno led the team to a field goal on the team’s first drive of the game and then promptly put up five straight three-and-out possessions to end the half.
If Ryan was waiting for the right time to put in Vick, halftime last week was the time. But he kept Geno in and paid the price.
In the fourth quarter with the game still in reach, the Jets had four possessions to get back in the game or tie. Geno ended the first possession with an interception, and then was hit and fumbled the ball away to end the second one. On the third one, Chris Johnson ran 35 yards for a score to pull the Jets within seven. But then with 4:36 remaining and the Jets still down seven, Smith led them to another three-and-out and they never got the ball back. He finished 17/33 for 209 yards.
Of course he still kept his starting job. This is where the rest of the team starts to realize that if Geno can do a poor job (he’s currently 32nd out of 33 qualifiers with a QB rating of 69.3) and still keep it, despite a capable backup, then either Ryan is promoting complacency or he’s more interested in developing Geno for the future.
Either way, he’s not keeping players on their toes.
Ryan may have subbed Vick in the second half Sunday, but he continued his mistake by announcing Geno as the starter next week.
Maybe a 1–5 start will make him re-evaluate his ways.