By Kristian Dyer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – After the debacle that was 2011 for the Jets, it would have been safe to say that anything would have been easier for Jets head coach Rex Ryan than last year. A toxic locker room combined with key injuries and woes on offense led to the team falling at the end of the season and losing their last three games.
This year was supposed to be easier for Ryan as the Jets were supposed to be better on the field and have a better chemistry off of it. But now, Ryan is in for the biggest challenge of his coaching career.
The news on Monday that the Jets will likely be without cornerback Darrelle Revis for the rest of the season, lost with a torn ACL, is the kind of momentum shifting break that can ruin a season. The Jets might have won the battle in Miami on Sunday with a 23-20 overtime win but they quite possibly lost the war with the injury to Revis. He’s a game changer on defense and quite possibly the best defensive player in the league.
On Monday, a glum Ryan stood gripping the podium during his press conference and he spoke in high terms about how all three phases of his team have to jointly step up and fill the void left behind by Revis. In fact, only one man is needed for that job.
That man is Rex Ryan.
For now, Jets fans get to see what Ryan is really capable of as a coach. He’s always had a winning personality and been a master of the psychological component, using and manipulating the media to his advantage, but this isn’t about his appeal or his mind games. This is about him as the old ball coach, lining up the X’s and O’s with the best player on the field now standing on the sidelines leaning on crutches.
This isn’t about Ryan making quips and drawing laughs, it isn’t about his tattoo and it isn’t about his appeal to free agents. His two AFC Championship Game appearances in his first three years as a head coach won’t help him now.
During his first three years in the league, Ryan has solved so many of the Jets issues – and created one or two along the way – by the force of his personality. There is something endearing about the magnanimous head coach, an affability that is irresistible that has made him the one coach in the league that players want to line up for. But he’s rarely been called a great tactician or been one capable of coaching up his group of overachievers.
Now without Revis, it is Ryan more than the offense or defense or even special teams who must step up. The bell has been rung for the Jets head coach and now he must answer the call.
Instead, it will be up to Ryan to coax an offense that has been underwhelming at best this season to start producing some points to supplant the loss of Revis. It is now Ryan who will have to revamp the defense without a lockdown cornerback and coax the unit into stopping the run and cutting back on costly penalties. Ryan now will have to be much more than a persona, he will have to coach beyond himself.
Even with Revis, the next two games were longshots for the Jets against San Francisco and then Houston, two of the best teams in the league. But if Ryan manages to win one of these games, it would be the best coaching he’s done since he’s arrived in New York.
Often from this team, with the exception of last year’s meltdown, the Jets have played their best when their backs were against the wall. Ryan has cajoled wins from the Jets after big losses and major off the field incidents, invoking an “Us against the world” mantra. Now with Revis down and likely out for the year, he needs to conjure that inner fortitude again.
But more than inspiration, Ryan must now prove that he can coach with the best and that he can bear down on the nitty gritty. There will be no laugh track in the team meetings or while dissecting film but some way, he must devise a plan for this team to play better than itself.
He has become a personality here in New York with his outlandish quotes and his ability to draw laughs, but Ryan now has to be more than just a media darling. Now, Ryan must be a coach.
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer
Can Rex inspire the Jets to continue playing winning ball without Revis? Share your thoughts below…