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Greenberg: Finding a New HC Is Not the Issue

Posted Nov 29, 2012

Timing is everything in life. Ask Mark Sanchez, who unfortunately arrived at the confluence of Brandon Moore and Vince Wilfork at the worst possible moment and will be forced to look at that video for years.

“Embarrassing,” the quarterback said sheepishly Wednesday after confessing it happened because he was trying to slide down. This pretty much is the same story being told by Fireman Ed, who says he has bailed not because at 4-7 he can’t take it anymore but because the heat of wearing a Mark Sanchez jersey has driven him out of the kitchen that is the lower deck at MetLife Stadium.

Not cool. There are five games to go in what threatens to be the worst Jets season in six and the self-appointed never-say-die team mascot suddenly decides to announce his feelings are hurting even worse than Tim Tebow’s ribs? Ed couldn’t suck it up for two more home games, the first of which finds the Jets the favorites Sunday against a Cardinals team that has lost seven straight?

Afraid so. He is now Private Fan Ed, one more giggle at the expense of a franchise enduring a tough year that some observers insist has wiped the usual Cheshire cat smile off Rex Ryan’s face and turned his public persona into Andy Reid’s. That’s more than a little exaggerated. Nevertheless, the new, subdued Rex is being wildly celebrated by the Somebody Please Shut His Big Mouth Police.

These constables protect and serve the minions who never could stomach Ryan loudly raising expectations for the franchise on his day one. His way, admittedly not to everybody’s tastes, nevertheless got the Jets to conference title games in his first two years, something Bill Belichick, Bill Cowher, Don Shula, George Allen, Don Coryell, Tom Landry, Chuck Noll and Weeb Ewbank didn’t do with their teams. But a year and 11 games later, it appears four road playoff victories did nothing but set up Ryan for failure.

His best single players on both offense and defense have been out for the year since the season’s fourth game, his tight end didn’t appreciably play until Week 6 and still doesn’t look like his old self, and Ryan’s quarterback holds the ball longer than Joe Walton could carry a grudge. But when the perfect storm hit in that second quarter on Thanksgiving night, it was Rex’s fault for not properly shuttering the windows and heeding Fireman Ed’s orders to evacuate.

The majority of Jets Nation probably still prefers to believe this is not Ryan’s fault, just doesn’t have the blind trust he engendered going to Foxboro in January 2011 and winning a playoff game against a Belichick team that had smoked the Jets, 45-3, on the same field six weeks earlier.

Hey, blowouts can happen to the best of them. They just can’t happen to make you 4-7 without a resumption of speculation that heads will roll, especially following a game where Ryan’s team lost its collective head with five turnovers and an utter 15-minute meltdown. But this is the same Rex who won a playoff game at Foxboro in as fine a coaching job as any for this franchise since Ewbank made Don Shula look like a rank amateur in January 1969.

Given time, Shula proved his worth many times over, as did Cowher, who didn’t win the first of his two Super Bowls until his 14th season. After consecutive appearances in AFC title games in his third and fourth years, Cowher eventually suffered back-to-back losing seasons and didn’t lose his job.

Belichick got run out of his first head-coaching job in Cleveland (one winning season in five) and Tom Coughlin, who had four consecutive losing years bridging his Jacksonville and Giants runs, lost his first three playoff games in New York before winning all four in 2007. The Giants front office didn’t quit on Coughlin, it worked with him to sand down his unlikable edges and has reaped ongoing rewards.

The people who know best — other coaches — say there isn’t a better defensive brain in the game than Ryan, which has been proven multiple times, just not lately. That’s subject to change, and still might over the next five winnable games, which, for all that has gone wrong, would represent another superior coaching job if Ryan pulls things together to win all five.

Of course the Jets are a long way from doing that, which is why the approach is the one game at a time that Ryan emphasized Wednesday and the players parroted to the media, another sign they are still listening. If they weren’t, the rope would have slipped from their hands before that convincing win in St. Louis. But the second-quarter meltdown on Turkey Day was so frightful, we next have to determine if the rapid-fire events challenged common belief more than they challenged Ryan’s team’s belief in itself.

“Some of those things [that happened against the Patriots] are hard to explain,” Ryan said, certain his team’s confidence did not take a hit.

The only hard explaining Ryan has to do should be to owner Woody Johnson if the Jets look disinterested the rest of the way. With their playoff chances so remote, one could argue about the value of beating Arizona, Tennessee and Jacksonville over better position in April’s draft. On the contrary, the remaining schedule is the test of leadership an owner should want to grade, not that we expect Ryan to fail it.

Brainlock is the only explanation for not having Greg McElroy active last week. Tebow, the world’s most celebrated decoy, was not capable of replacing Sanchez had he been injured, but the starter was not, so Tebow became a red herring again. The real issues going forward are adding a dynamic presence on both sides of the ball, not the backup quarterback or finding a new head coach.

When it comes to free agency, money talks even louder than did Rex for three years, but any players worth signing are more likely to be interested in the Jets with Ryan as their coach than without. Players want to play for him. That might be disproven in the next five games but we doubt it.

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