Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan don't run scared.
Wait, perhaps we should audible that. Only three plays after Mark Sanchez's clutch third-down throw to Jeff Cumberland gave the Jets a chance to run out the clock Sunday in Jacksonville, offensive coordinator Tony Sparano sent Bilal Powell into the line on third-and-8, the final indication of the day that the Jets are frightened to death of their own starting quarterback.
That said, Braylon Edwards again is a Jet because their wide receiving corps is thinner than the GM's skin. Just a week ago, Edwards, coming to the defense of Sanchez, tweeted that the people who run the Jets are "idiots" for not better supporting the quarterback.
The true fool was Edwards, an injured and unproductive player who needed all the friends he could make in NFL front offices to extend his career. But he apologized and Tannenbaum hasn't stood on ceremony. Good for him as Edwards, a no-risk stretch-drive pickup of probably marginal impact, nevertheless becomes another instrument of controversy for perhaps the most riveting, offensively challenged 6-7 team in NFL history.
Ryan, trying to add his own fun to the quarterback pile, joked Monday about activating Al Woodall, but sources tell us that was just a smokescreen for the real target: Don Maynard. We rarely have seen a team with motives more continually questioned than this one, to the point of absurdity. Only in New York — and maybe only when it's Tim Tebow — are there theories about Ryan's job security being threatened by his alleged refusal to bow to his owner's wishes about who to dress as the backup quarterback.
On the contrary, evidence mounts that this is Ryan's best coaching job in his four years here. Without one of the best defensive players in the NFL, Darrelle Revis, plus the only Jets offensive player worth more than 45 seconds of defensive game-planning, Santonio Holmes, the Jets can win their fourth game in five outings Monday night and make it to .500 with two winnable games remaining.
Throw out a 12-minute utter meltdown on Thanksgiving night and ... well, Mrs. Lincoln had been enjoying the play, too, but our point is that Ryan has not lost the team. Despite arguable decisions on who to dress as the backup the last two weeks, he hasn't lost his mind, either.
Minus Holmes since Week 3, and again without Dustin Keller and rookie Stephen Hill (just when it was beginning to appear they knew what they were doing with that second-round pick), the Jets need a receiver that can draw out of the box the extra defender that will be there until they show themselves capable of throwing the ball downfield.
Whether Edwards, who has had only 23 catches in his last two seasons at San Francisco and Seattle, still can draw some attention remains arguable, at least until Monday night in Nashville. But with three games to go and a postseason spot not yet out of the question, the devil the Jets know beats any devil they don't. It wasn't exactly like Wes Welker was on waivers, so Tannenbaum didn't stand on ceremony, making a no-risk move indicative of a GM trying to get to the playoffs rather than trying to get himself and his team out of the glare.
If Tebow's presence has hurt Sanchez, that is the ultimate indictment of Sanchez. Tebow wasn't getting enough plays to disrupt anything except a talk show. For an excuse, we are far more inclined to cut Sanchez slack for his supporting cast, even as his passes continue to sail high and wide and the ball is turned over at a dizzying rate. The state of the Jets offense is attributable to misfortune — Holmes — and miscalculation, but who would have foreseen Sanchez regressing this badly or a year like this from Keller?
Jeremy Kerley can catch the ball. We'll see about Hill, but the roles have been scrambled by Holmes' absence, putting people in over their heads, like balls thrown by Sanchez. The receiving corps is not as terrible as advertised, but it is almost hopelessly banged up. Sanchez once had it going with Edwards. So why not take another shot?
It is with a cloud of dust, not any smokescreen, that the Jets are trying to get to the playoffs. They are running the ball, not their mouths, and good for them — not that, crippled and humbled as they have been this season, they really have much choice. Whether there is any magic left downfield or not, Ryan knows Edwards can block, reason enough to bring him in as the Jets try to pound their way to the postseason despite it all.
Tebow hasn't panned out, at least under this staff. And the Jets are dealing with predictable fallout from bringing in such a polarizing figure. But the people running the team continue not to flinch just for the sake of not looking desperate. They remain more worried about blocking Titans than criticism. So Edwards' apology is accepted, as it should be.