By Jeff Capellini
Ed Reed may not be the force he once was, but he’s certainly still enough of a player to help the young Jets become men.
And he’s here now for one reason and one reason only.
His relationship with Rex Ryan.
Ryan was supposed to be the dead coach walking as the Jets stumbled and bumbled their way through a brutal season that would almost certainly end with three or four wins, a ton of “I told you so” quipping from the media and him eventually interviewing for defensive coordinator jobs elsewhere.
It just goes to show just how clueless a lot of people really are when it comes to this team.
When Reed, a nine-time Pro Bowler and considered by many to be the best ball-hawking safety to ever play in the NFL, was released by Houston on Tuesday just a few months into a three-year deal he signed in the offseason, logic suggested he’d end up with a contender, most likely New England or Denver.
Little did people know Reed longed for familiarity. He chose the Jets because of Ryan’s defense. It was the vehicle he used for seven years to become one of the greats to ever play his position.
“I’m glad to be a Jet. I’m glad to be in green and white,” Reed said after practice. “I don’t plan on rocking the boat. They already had a good thing going.”
And while the Jets (5-4) may not be considered a contender by the intelligentsia, they are, in fact, every bit capable of beating any team on any given day. Reed’s job now will be to help the Jets stay away from the other side of that coin — the side that says they are equally capable of losing to anyone on any given day.
“That’s a huge factor,” Reed said. “It was a huge factor in playing this year, in general, being with a team that was going to contend and be in the playoffs.”
What this signing really does is fill a leadership void. That’s not to say the locker room was headless, but now at least the Jets know they have walking among them a true elder statesman who has been there and done that, and whose reputation and credentials are beyond reproach.
Of course, if the 35-year-old future Hall of Famer can pick off a few passes in the process, you won’t hear anyone complain. In fact, I’d like to think that 60 or 70 percent of Reed is still better than 90-95 percent of other players.
Reed said Thursday that Houston “wasn’t the right fit,” and a lot of the criticism he received for the Texans’ struggles was unfounded considering the ball really didn’t come in his direction all that much.
And if the Jets have it their way, the same will be the case here, but for all the right reasons. Ryan would probably be thrilled if Reed’s mere presence in certain situations convinces opponents not to even bother throwing down field, much like the benefits the Jets enjoyed when Darrelle Revis was on one side of their secondary.
“We’ve had some issues with the deep ball,” Ryan said. “Let them throw it there now.”
Ultimately, Reed was brought here to speed up the young Jets’ maturation process, because if they somehow do make the playoffs they can’t be deer in headlights. They have to have some understanding of what it takes to stick around for a while.
Ryan and Reed have long had a mutual admiration for each other. It appears general manager John Idzik didn’t need a lot of convincing to reunite star defensive player with star defensive coach.
And there is absolutely no downside to this move. The Jets gave up nothing and will be paying peanuts for at least seven games for a player who has the ability, even now, to change games in a second. Owner of 61 career interceptions, including seven for touchdowns, Reed brings an element to an already very good Jets defense that its safeties are still trying to grasp:
Reed knows Ryan’s defense upside-down and backwards.
“We put him in some defenses just to see what he could remember with his partner (Dawan) Landry out there,” Ryan said after practice. “It was like, ‘Whoa, here we go.’
“It was like he hadn’t missed a beat.”
So, what the Jets have now is another defensive coordinator, only he gets to strap on a helmet and fly around the field. If you look at the one weakness the Jets have on defense it is their secondary, and while Reed isn’t going to match up with top receivers, he will be asked to cover tight ends, long a problem for this defense, and will be able to take risks in coverage provided the Jets’ stout front four continues to get to opposing quarterbacks.
And let’s not forget, this dude reinvented the safety blitz.
This signing is by no means a vote of no confidence against safeties Landry and Antonio Allen. Both have played well this season and will continue to play integral roles in what the Jets’ secondary ends up being by season’s end. But at least now they have someone to bounce their thoughts off of. There’s no better player-teacher at the position than Reed and his presence will likely take a lot of pressure off of Ryan in practice, as well as games.
More than anything, the signing of Reed speaks to a bigger issue. It further illustrates the clout Ryan still has, even if many want to continue insisting on marginalizing him. It cannot be said enough: players love this man and would walk into fire for him. And as we now know those players don’t necessarily have to be on the current roster.
All Rex has done this season is continually kick to the curb preconceived notions. He wasn’t supposed to survive last season’s 6-10 nightmare. He wasn’t supposed to have any say in the makeup of this roster. He was certainly going to get run out of town for playing Mark Sanchez in the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game. He would rue the day he went back to another rookie quarterback.
He’d never make the playoffs. He would never get an extension. This GM didn’t hire him and wouldn’t think twice about firing him.
It goes on and on.
Yet, there was Rex on Thursday doing everything he could to suppress a huge grin.
He got his guy, and the Jets are better for it.
Sooner or later people need to start thinking of Rex in the same way. You got your guy — and the Jets are better for it.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet
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