By Ernie Palladino
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The Jets did some good things Sunday in a 37-27 win against the Raiders. The question now is, can they put together enough of those moments from now until the end of the season to save their coach’s job?
They are 6-7 now, certainly in position to finish with a winning record. Problem is, they don’t get the Raiders three more times. Instead, they get resurgent Carolina, a suddenly dangerous Cleveland and a Dolphins team that thumped them just last week.
So, we are left again with the question. Can Rex Ryan’s team do enough good, show enough potential, to force John Idzik to bring him back for one more shot at respectability next year?
The answer lies not in the stars, as Shakespeare’s evil Cassius might say, but with his players. And those guys might well prove the death of Ryan as a Jets head coach.
Oh, there were encouraging signs, all right. Geno Smith, the rookie quarterback Idzik saddled Ryan with all season, made some nice plays with his legs to help stretch out their biggest lead of the season — 10 points — into a fourth-quarter blowout. Jets fans had to love that 32-yard quarterback draw he pulled in the fourth quarteer to set up Chris Ivory’s bruising 15-yard touchdown run that sealed the game at 37-20.
But the kid showed that he still locks onto receivers, and he narrowly missed giving away a scoring opportunity when the 4-9 Raiders failed to intercept in the end zone earlier in the game.
Still, he made the big play at the right time. That brings hope. So, too, does Ivory’s performance. A violent runner, he’s just what the Jets need to pick up those hard yards. Health willing, Ivory should become an ever-more important part of the running game next year, regardless of who is at the coaching helm.
Yet, there were some disturbing aspects to this one as well. The defense that had played so well gave up 27 points to a team led by a fourth-string quarterback in Matt McGloin. That will undoubtedly cause concern in the front office.
Safety Ed Reed, the Hall-of-Famer-in-waiting, did turn back his personal clock in the second quarter with a great interception off a slant read. It was the best play he’s made as a Jet. But two quarters later, Reed and Antonio Cromartie combined on one of the season’s worst mishaps in the secondary when they came together on Rod Streater’s catch over the middle. Reed and Cromartie wound up dazed and on the ground, while Streater finished the play in the end zone after going the last 30 of the 48-yard play untouched.
The Raiders, of course, gave up plenty of their own plays. They are, after all, hapless. But that is exactly the kind of team the Jets needed to bury early. Instead, they kept them hanging around until the fourth quarter before a quarterback the coaches would prefer make plays with his arm, made one with his legs. Smith actually made several on the run, as his 50 yards ranked second on the Jets’ rushing list behind Ivory’s 76.
The bottom line is that even in victory, the Jets too often look like a team trying to lose. They haven’t appeared in real command since Nov. 3, when they played their best game of the season against New Orleans. Since then, it’s been three straight losses and an up-and-down showing against a totally down Raiders squad.
It says a lot when an offense can score 30 points against a team — the Jets’ other touchdown came on Antonio Allen’s blocked punt into the end zone — and still have plenty to criticize.
That affects coaching careers. This win probably won’t get Ryan off of any of Idzik’s many hooks. Only his players can set him loose.
The problem is, they may not be good enough to wiggle him to safety.
They have three games to get good enough.
If Ryan wants to remain a head coach in New York, he’d better hope they start swimming downstream, and fast.
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