Take a Deep Breath and Relax

Anyone who says the Jets' season is over never understood what this season was supposed to be about.

Based on their braggadocio early on, head coach Rex Ryan and some of his players (including a benched safety) overrated their talent and unrealistically inflated their chances, too.

But skewed self-perceptions could not rock reality: a "win-now" team and rookie quarterback don't mix. Possess a cursory knowledge of NFL history and you should understand raw rookie Mark Sanchez (who should probably still be in college) would have been hard-pressed to lead the Jets to the playoffs.

Add to Sanchez' mistakes a season-ending injury to the most important defensive player on the roster, terrible game management by a rookie head coach, and the lack of premier pass rushers and you have the 2009 Jets: mediocre.

But these next six games are hugely important. Even if the playoffs are close to an impossibility, the development of the Jets' $50 million dollar quarterback is paramount, as is the sorting out of whom Ryan wants to keep for his defense. Kerry Rhodes? No, thanks.

That is why I say the Jets (and their unnecessarily despondent fans) should take a breath and relax. The playoff pressure is off. It should no longer distract from the most important goal of improving for next season. Even Ryan seems to understand—after 10 games—that he is supposed to coach the ENTIRE team, not just the defense.

Sanchez has the talent, but where's the coaching? To my eyes, he has been trying too hard. It should have been drummed into him from the beginning that turnovers are unacceptable and could result in his benching. Instead Sanchez has turned into a turnover machine with 14 interceptions in the past seven games.

"My challenge to him today is, let's get better at protecting the football and understanding that sometimes it's okay to throw the ball away," said the head coach on Monday. "If you're not sure about that completion, then sometimes it's better just to throw the ball away and punt the football. That's what he has to understand."

Credit Ryan for realizing he must take a more hands-on approach with his raw signal-caller. In my view, Sanchez has to relax in the pocket. His head still isn't on a swivel, either. These are key areas to look for improvement. Have you noticed how few passes are thrown to Jets' running backs? The rookie QB isn't going through his progressions to his check-downs. He's locking on to the first read.

Kudos to Ryan on another front. Rhodes deserved his benching. He had become one of the most overrated players in the NFL—and he overrated himself. NO interceptions, NO sacks, NO forced fumbles. Just lots of silly talk, including his vow to embarrass the Patriots in Week 2. New England QB Tom Brady got his revenge, didn't he?

It became obvious the Jets could not deal with "win-now" pressure after how they played the past two weeks. The losses to Jacksonville and New England each followed motivational Hail Mary's from Ryan. First the Jags' game was a "must win." Then the Patriots game was a "must win." Even the usually soft-spoken RB Thomas Jones held a players-only meeting to exhort his teammates to answer the call. Ryan shed some tears.

None of it worked. The Jets simply aren't good enough to string wins together. Ryan needs to take a breath, too. If his coaching career is to last, if it's to be a journey instead of a sprint, he can't emotionally exhaust himself after 10 games!

Fans have gone bonkers, too. The overreaction by some to every Sanchez mistake, to every loss with the "SOJ" mantra, is wearing on me. Take a breath and relax. This year is about next year. There's nothing wrong with that, either, because there is still a lot to play for. It starts with the first of three "winnable" games this Sunday against the Panthers, followed by the Bills and Buccaneers.


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