There is a downside to having a big mouth, running it regularly and building a persona of being a tough guy who coaches a bunch of tough guys.
You always have to back it up and, when you don’t, it comes back to bite you. There have been a lot of volatile coaches in the NFL who have the ability to divide a locker room. It happened to the Vikings in 2001 and 2010. Minnesota entered both of those seasons coming off an appearance in the NFC Championship Game and had aspirations of Super Bowl or Bust. In both cases, the head coach – Denny Green in 2001 and Brad Childress in 2010 – were gone before the season ended.
Rex Ryan appears to be in the same quicksand. When a coach outshines his players – in good times and bad – it’s rarely a good thing. Ryan has thrown himself in front of the spotlight talking tough only to fall on his sword at the end of every season with the Jets.
He saved his job last year when his offense was as brutal as it could possibly be with rookie Geno Smith taking his lumps and throwing interceptions. The Jets finished 8-8, in second place in the AFC East and Ryan was spared.
At 2-10, Ryan is riding out the string until he is fired, and the circus is coming to Minneapolis Sunday. The problem is that the Jets have the players to be a good team. But their weaknesses are so glaring that they are a team that deserves to be 2-10.
The Jets go against one of the most basic mantras of football – run the ball successfully on offense and stop the run on defense and you win games. Not the Jets. New York has the second-rated rush offense and third-ranked rush defense, yet only Oakland has a worse record.
On offense, the problem with the Jets is obvious. The quarterback position has been brutal. Geno Smith began the season but was so hideous that he got replaced, having thrown seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions in seven games and one quarter. He had more than one touchdown pass in one game. He didn’t throw an interception in just one game. Frustrated and hearing it from their fans, Michael Vick came off the bench but fared little better. Taking big hits and feeling all of them, Vick was never a long-term solution, but he was the short-term starter.
Ryan wanted to keep Vick as the starter last Monday against Miami. He was overruled. Smith started and Ryan retaliated – throwing just eight passes in the first 57 minutes of the game and running more than 45 times. For three quarters, the Jets were in control, yet found a way to lose.
The quarterbacks have both been shell-shocked and simply can’t be counted on, which is a shame because the Jets have the talent to have a pretty strong offense.
The running game has quietly been impressive. With Chris Ivory, a Marshawn Lynch clone, and speedy veteran Chris Johnson leading the way, the Jets have rushed for 1,778 yards this season – an impressive 4.8-yard average as a team. If they didn’t have to stop running in the second half, they could put away games with the run game.
It hasn’t happened.
On paper, their receiver corps looks strong. Eric Decker was a star complementary receiver in Denver. He has struggled at times in his role as the go-to guy, but he has the ability to be a component part. The Jets traded for former Viking Percy Harvin, who is a multi-layered threat that can hurt opponents in a lot of ways. Rookie Jace Amaro is a downfield threat the Jets are hoping to develop into their version of Tony Gonzalez. They have the weapons.
It hasn’t happened.
The Jets have an offensive line that has well-known names, which is something of a rarity in the NFL. Offensive linemen are typically anonymous to casual fans, but anyone who follows football has likely heard of left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, center Nick Mangold and guard Willie Colon. Joined by Oday Aboushi and Breno Giacomini, the Jets have the capability of being a dominant offensive line. While the run game has thrived, the team has allowed 36 sacks. The talent and experience is there for this unit in any game to be dominant.
It hasn’t happened.
The Jets defense has the same problem as the offense – one glaring weakness. It’s in the secondary.
Again, on paper, the Jets have the makings of a suffocating defense. Muhammad Wilkerson, who is likely to miss Sunday’s game with a turf toe injury (the first game-missing injury of his career), can be dominant. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is going to be a very rich man before he is allowed to hit free agency in two years. Damon Harrison is potentially a Pro Bowl nose tackle. It can be argued that the Jets have the most talented and potentially dominant defensive line for the rest of the decade. Wilkerson is in his fourth year. Harrison is in his third. Richardson is in his second. They’ve done their job.
The middle of the defense has veteran Calvin Pace and third-year pro Quinton Coples on the outside and the unit is pretty strong, especially in the blitz package. No Jet has five sacks this season, but 10 players have more than one. They bring it, but they have been a liability in the passing game and haven’t got the job done to make up for a hideous secondary.
When a quarterback has a passer rating of 100 or above, he’s a pretty big deal. Only two quarterbacks have a passer rating higher than 106.6 – Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning. Why is 106.6 the base number? That is the season-long passer rating of opposing quarterbacks facing the Jets.
Opposing quarterbacks have completed two thirds of their passes for more than 3,000 yards with 27 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Those are Pro Bowl numbers and the Jets are the Washington Generals every week.
The Jets lost top cornerback Dee Milliner for the season, and the defensive backs quartet of cornerbacks Marcus Williams and Darrin Walls and safeties Jaiquawn Jarrett and Dawan Landry are struggling. They have been routinely scorched because when the front seven has done its job and forces an offense to pass in bad down-and-distance situations, the pickings have been lush in the Jets secondary.
As the Vikings prepare to face the Jets, if they can get out early on them, this is a team that knows its season was over. It can be a “here we go again” scenario. For a team with so much talent, the Jets’ record is indicative of the problems that have plagued them. For all their talent, no team has underachieved more and, worse yet, everyone knows why – quarterback and defensive backs.
Preview: Jets show two glaring weaknesses
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