Friday, November 22, 2013

Rex Ryan's Last Stand? Next Two Games Could Play Role in Head Coach's Fate

It didn't have to come down to this, but when Rex Ryan decided that chilling out at Dave & Buster's in Buffalo the night before his club's game in western New York was more important than defensive and offensive meetings, he put himself back on the hot seat.

For nine weeks Ryan had basically taken himself out of the hot seat conversation with a team that had overachieved with a 5-4 record and wins against Atlanta, New England and New Orleans; three teams that everyone thought the Jets would lose to.

Now one mistake and one horrific performance by the Jets in Buffalo has New York reeling. The Jets (5-5) have let everyone into the race for the final playoff spot in the AFC, and it is fair to say that the next two weeks for the Jets will go a long way in determining their playoff fate.

While New York could still make the postseason, the disturbing fact is that if this team should fail to qualify, it could be curtains for the coach.

Ryan came into this season on a short leash after two disappointing seasons in a row where he both coddled Mark Sanchez, and let his own goofs catch up to him. This past week was a return to the same old song for the Jets.

By taking his team out the night before the Bills game, Ryan echoed memories of some classic Rex follies, from the middle finger in Miami, to foot-gate, Tebow mania, the Mark Sanchez jersey tattoo, and of course the empty guarantees for the Super Bowl.

While, Rex has been fairly quiet this season, taking his team out the night before a huge divisional contest spoke volumes about how Rex still struggles to grasp the moment, and still struggles to grasp the pulse of his team. Reports earlier in the week stated that Ryan felt his team didn't practice well on Wednesday and Thursday leading up to the game. If that was true, then it was his responsibility to make sure that everyone was on the same page for Buffalo, even in the late stages of Saturday night.

While Dave & Buster's-gate didn't lose the Jets the game on Sunday, it didn't help either.

On top of that people have questioned his new pet project quarterback in Geno Smith, who hasn't really played well since the Jets victory over Atlanta at the end of September. Smith has turned the ball over 18 times already this year, with 16 of those being on interceptions. His 8-for-23 performance against Buffalo has raised questions about whether Smith is the guy, and whether Ryan should bench him.

Smith is quickly turning into Ryan's worst nightmare: Mark Sanhez-redux.

Now Ryan is in an even bigger pickle. Does he stick with Smith, whom everyone agreed at the beginning of the year, wasn't ready to lead this team to the playoffs anyway, or does Ryan go to Matt Simms, who is the popular untested back-up?

Either way, Ryan could be burying himself no matter what he decides to do at the position.

The Jets play the Ravens and Dolphins the next two weeks. Both teams are on the Jets heels, and if the Jets should lose these games it will all but put the Jets behind the virtual eight ball, and likely out of tie-breakers to get into the playoffs.

The question then is, what does owner Woody Johnson and GM John Idzik do? A lot of people predicted Ryan's magic number to keep his job would be 7-8 victories, since expectations were so low anyway. Others thought playoffs or bust.

But here we are today, November 22, two days before the Jets are to take on the Baltimore Ravens. New York is 5-5, Baltimore is 4-6. If New York comes out of it 5-6, en route to a 7-9 finish, it is hard to argue that Ryan should stay, especially with a team so close to returning to the postseason.

It is hard to argue that in light of the events of last week and what doom could loom that Ryan should stay.

Then again, perhaps the Jets have a trick or two up their sleeve. This entire season has been a roller coaster for win, lose, win, lose, and if the pattern continues, the Jets should win Sunday, and Ryan and his gang will continue to defy the odds.

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