By Kristian Dyer
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Sitting in line around 7:30 A.M. on Thursday morning at a local gas station, inching along through a two-hour wait to fill my gas containers, I couldn’t help but take time to turn off “Boomer & Carton” for a few minutes and watch the sun rise – blasphemy on this website I know. As I inched along a back road of northern New Jersey, I couldn’t help but notice the orange sun reflecting against a perfect baby blue sky, dotted with puffy white clouds. It was perfect, picturesque even as the wind blew ever so calmly.
After days of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction, it felt like a fresh change was sweeping over the area, like the worst was finally behind us. Perhaps the Jets will get the same second chance during this their bye week, to let the storm clouds pass over them.
To say that the first eight weeks of the NFL season was a storm by football standards is an understatement as the Jets encountered a flood of bad news that was almost biblical in proportions. The loss of star cornerback Darrelle Revis in Week 3, arguably the game’s best defensive player, was bad enough news for a season let alone what was to come next. Then the next week, the Jets lost Santonio Holmes, perhaps their only true playmaker on offense, to a season-ending foot injury. Factor in two blowout losses in their last four games and a 3-5 start to the season and the Jets are knee-deep in their own storm fallout.
But the thunderstorms and clouds of the first half of the season are rolling away. It is up to head coach Rex Ryan to see if he can be that fresh breath of air to the Jets and blow out the storm clouds of earlier this season. Can he rise like the sun against a perfect backdrop and inspire his Jets team past the mediocrity of their first eight games and get them playing playoff football? With Ryan, it’s possible.
Now the Jets have a manageable stretch of the season where they can do some potential damage and perhaps roll off some wins. Their next six opponents have a combined record of 20-27 and no one has a better record than the 5-3 Patriots, whom the Jets took to overtime on the road two weeks ago.
That’s not exactly a brutal schedule and five wins is very possible if the Jets play like the team that went toe-to-toe with the Texans on Monday night a couple weeks ago and then almost took down the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. This Jets team is better than 3-5, but can they be playoff good?
It boils down to the Jets head coach and if he can unite a team that could well get despondent and splinter apart.
For Ryan is that uniting figure of the Jets, a man who has perhaps a clownish reputation around the NFL but who inspires the very best in his team. It was Ryan who, in 2009, cried in front of his team when he thought they missed the playoffs, only to inspire a late season push that ended in the AFC Championship Game, just short of the Super Bowl. And it was the same Ryan who a year later amidst scandal in his own locker room got the team playing an “us against the world mentality” and again led them to the AFC Championship Game.
Now with their backs up against the wall, Ryan and only Ryan can rally his team. Only he can show them in no uncertain terms that despite their record, there is a viable path to the postseason for this team. There’s little room for mistakes or errors or even losses, but the Jets can do it and they can unite behind Ryan as the storm clouds from earlier this season get blown away.
But only Ryan can bring that change, only Ryan can be that fresh air to cleanse the Jets from the storms of this season.
Kristian R. Dyer covers the Jets for Metro New York and can be followed for news, insight and snarky comments plus breaking Jets news @KristianRDyer.
What do you think Rex Ryan needs to do during the bye week to turn this season around? Share your thoughts below.