There are more ways to get to 9-7 than through 4-4. Of course, 4-4 is a preferred way to 3-5, why the Jets told themselves last week that the Dolphins would be the last flight out to contention.
But it is not over. The Jets were 4-6 under Ryan in 2009 and 2-5 under Herm Edwards in 2002 and won playoff games both seasons against what might have been a deeper AFC field that this one.
So not only is the coach not fat any more, he wasn't singing the blues before everybody took a deep and needed bye-week breath.
"We really have to take a hard look at what we're asking our players to do, and not just offensively but in all phases," Ryan said. "Is there something we can do that we're missing?
"I think we have enough talent."
We aren't the only one with doubts about that, but we'll soon find out. With rare exceptions, it's always all about the talent, even if the coaches in the end get blamed. The next eight weeks are about Ryan taking a hard look at his players, too, determining which ones can take the franchise forward.
If the Jets win six out of seven against Seattle, St. Louis, Arizona, Jacksonville, Tennessee, San Diego and Buffalo — which hardly sounds impossible — could they still be as dangerous in January as Ryan's teams in 2009 and 2010? More dangerous would be the assumption that the Jets can plug back in Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes next season and instantly resume Super Bowl contention.
There was one major fluke element to the Dolphins' 30-9 domination on Sunday: uncharacteristic poor play by Mike Westhoff's special teams. Against the Texans, Patriots and Colts, the Jets had been showing signs of being Rex Ryan's Jets again, but, that said, they haven't beaten any of the four acknowledged heavyweights they've faced — New England, Houston, San Francisco and Pittsburgh.
So in light off the losses to injury of the best player from each of their offensive and defensive units, who really has stepped up?
Antonio Cromartie had until he got baited into a personal-foul penalty on Sunday. Otherwise, the best Jets still standing have been solid at best. Assuming Woody Johnson hasn't lost faith in a coach who has twice gotten the Jets to AFC title games, the next eight weeks are about projecting how far the organization is from another one.
Midway, the drawing board seems increasingly calling for work in pencil, not ink.
Will Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples begin to look like the impact pass rushers they were drafted to be? Is Kyle Wilson, who struggled against Miami, better than just a nickel back?
With Vladimir Ducasse still a backup, with Stephen Hill dropping passes, that's five recent first-round picks about whom the jury is still out, on top of the Vernon Gholston washout. With the Gholston pick, the Jets should now have a good player in his prime. Instead they have nothing, which in the big picture is a much bigger problem than one special teams meltdown and the usage of Tim Tebow, as frustratingly scant as that has been.
On Monday, Ryan promised to look into using more Tebow and also suggested that Bart Scott, hampered by a toe problem, still has a lot left. So we'll see if that's true, too, in the final eight games, when at least half the starting positions on the team should be undergoing auditions for 2013.
That includes quarterback, where Mark Sanchez was as bad against the Dolphins as he was good in New England. Never mind the Jets' blockers were flummoxed by a Miami game plan two weeks in the making, never mind six drops by receivers. Even when Sanchez had time, he was all over the place with some throws, hardly what you want to see in Year 4 from a fifth overall pick in the draft.
Sanchez's inconsistency is maddening and the Jets can't live with it indefinitely. But it would be insanity to go to Tebow now in a desperate attempt to get a spark and a couple of wins, when the entire NFL knows he doesn't throw the ball well enough to be a No. 1 guy on a contending team.
What remains is to identify the guys who can be good players on contending teams. And if they don't reveal themselves, a second half of discovery will leave the Jets in position to draft a new quarterback, and these eight games will have served that purpose regardless.