By Kristian Dyer
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Rex Ryan just got a lifeline that might extend his stay in New York at least one more season.
In all likelihood, the details will never emerge to truly tell us who and how the decision was made by the New York Jets to start Geno Smith for this Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders. Whether it was a dictate from on high or a consensus decision from the coaching staff, the worst rookie quarterback in recent memory will start for the 5-7 Jets, likely putting his team at an immediate disadvantage with his ineptitude and sheer lack of ability to quarterback at the NFL level. That isn’t a slam, it is just reality right now.
And as the leader of the worst passing offense in the league, Smith’s almost automatic nod as a starter takes away any culpability from Ryan for a season that once had promise and now is diminishing.
The Jets weren’t supposed to be this good, weren’t supposed to have a 5-7 record at this point in the season. They were supposed to be among the worst teams in the league who instead overachieved. But three straight losses and a quarterback who hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since Oct. 20 is an automatic built-in excuse for the Jets’ head coach.
He might as well wear a placard that reads, “You expect me to win with this?”
Truthfully, there’s no way he can. For this, there should be no way that he gets fired.
2013 was always a rebuilding project on both sides of the ball. Six new starters on defense, plenty of new names on offense and all three coordinators having been replaced is not an easy task in one season. But despite this, the Jets still mathematically are alive in the playoff picture and they can still finish with a better record than last year’s 6-10 mark.
There has been a lot of talk around Ryan this week that his fifth year with the Jets will be his last. In a season that included a dramatic road win at the Atlanta Falcons before a national audience as well as wins over the Patriots and the Saints, it was all but a foregone conclusion that there would be a “Rextension” at the end of this year. The team was overachieving and the defense, Ryan’s precious baby, was borderline dominant.
Now with three straight losses and the season teetering on the brink of the blah, the pendulum has swung back to where it was in the preseason. “Fire the head coach” seems the logical answer. It must be Ryan’s fault. Fire him.
But this is an offense that can’t move the football — let alone score — an issue that rests more upon the shoulders of an unproven and unready quarterback than on the coaching staff. Starting Smith last week, this week and the week after is tantamount to waving the white flag on the season. He can’t win right now. He might not ever be able to win.
Smith brings little to the offense, meaning a repeat of the last two weeks where six combined points were scored is likely. The Jets can’t be expected to win games with Smith under center at this point unless the defense and special teams can put enough up on the scoreboard to cover the offense’s woeful ineptness.
To pin this on Ryan, a defensive mastermind, is a bit much. This isn’t his offense and this team isn’t a final product. General manager John Idzik knows this. He also should know the pulse of Ryan’s team.
What is clear is that Ryan hasn’t lost the locker room. This is a team that hasn’t quit on its coach, that continues to play hard. After the loss to the Dolphins, the locker room afterward was a morgue, a team despondent over what had just happened. This wasn’t a team that quit, it was just an episode of the Keystone Cops on offense.
It wasn’t a loss that falls on the coaching staff. It falls squarely on a quarterback who couldn’t complete a simple pass and an offense that only ever moved backwards.
Ryan can’t be blamed for this latest disaster on offense. His defense, despite a massive overhaul and youth movement, is still clicking relatively well. But an offense that is simply putrid shouldn’t be his fault.
It isn’t his fault.
It should be as good as an extension already. He can’t win with this team, but he can win with next year’s — and Ryan should be given that chance.
Kristian R. Dyer covers the New York Jets as a beat reporter for Metro New York and also is a contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer.
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