After ’ embarrassing nationally televised undressing by New England last Monday, the question of the hour — every hour — was how would ’s once-bodacious team respond against the teetering on Sunday.
This was an intriguing question for those who thought — and still think — that the Jets may reach the .
The Dolphins arrived in New York early so that they could take in the theatrical production of “Lombardi” on Saturday, and raised some Jets hackles by using the Giants’ practice facility by New Meadowlands Stadium. By all accounts the Dolphins players were inspired by the play, although many wondered if coaches really screamed at players like that back in the day.
In any event, the Jets’ response Sunday was disheartening. While the were grinding up the Bears in the snow in Chicago, 36-7, the Jets dropped a 10-6 decision to the Dolphins at home in the rain.
To make matters worse, in a season that appears to be slipping away, the Jets’ strength coach, Sal Alosi, tripped a Dolphins player during a runback.
Suffice it to say this was not the back-at-you effort the Jets or their fans had in mind.
“I’m concerned,” Ryan said. “I know I’m the optimist, but we’ve got to get it done.”
Ryan now faces his first crisis as a head coach.
The snappy one-liners, the bragging that was so amusing last season and made the Jets’ appearance on ’s “Hard Knocks” amusing have run their course. Ryan now faces two critical questions: Can he adjust and adapt? More important, can Ryan lead this Jets team out of a deep, dark canyon of doubt?
As impressive as the Jets were on defense Sunday, the play of the offense and especially quarterback was dismal. The offensive line, the class of the league last year, put Sanchez in peril all afternoon.
What made Sunday so disappointing is that in the days leading up to it, the Jets played all sorts of mind games in an effort to purge their rout Monday night from their memory.
On Wednesday, Ryan, ever the master of gimmicks, led his players in a ceremonial burial of a ball from Monday’s game to symbolize putting the loss behind them.
Ryan also announced that effective immediately, he would meet with his young quarterback every Thursday to discuss game strategy and life. Sanchez, who appears to be losing confidence by the quarter, called the game at New England “a bump in the road” and said that “one of these days, after the season, hopefully, we’ll take it deep in the playoffs, win a championship and we’ll look back and say, ‘That was really too bad,’ but that’s it.”
In light of this loss, Sanchez sounds delusional. His play was so lackluster — he completed only 17 of 44 passes, with an interception — that Ryan said that, for the second time this year, he thought of benching Sanchez.
“I considered it,” Ryan said. “But when you look at it, I think he gives us the best chance to win. He’s not the only one to blame here. If I thought that was the case, we would have yanked him.”
Ryan added: “We have plenty of talent, we have to find a way to get it done. This was not on one man. You’ve got to look in the mirror. There’s a heck of a lot more to blame than Mark Sanchez. The kid’s an excellent quarterback; we got to find a way to execute better.”
So where do these back-to-back losses leave the Jets?
Each week we place great weight on games. The reality is that one game does not make or break an entire season. Although they trail the Patriots by two games in the A.F.C. East, the Jets are 9-4, with a two-game cushion for the last wild-card spot.
You can dismiss the loss to New England as a bad day. The Patriots were playing at home and eager to avenge an early-season loss to a rival that had been doing too much talking.
But the loss at home to Miami is cause for Ryan to sound the alarm and cause for fans to begin to reassess Ryan.
Ryan is assessing carefully, too. “You look at our next opponent, you think this defense is good — just wait till next week,” he said, referring to the . “We got to make sure we find a way to get better; we’ve got to get better.”
The Jets were supposed to be better, younger and deeper, and many of us, perhaps more enthralled with the story than reality, were convinced they were.
We kept being told that Sanchez was improved, despite what we were seeing. “I think Mark is better,” Ryan said. “I think the addition of Santonio Holmes really makes us a better receiving corps and a chance to be special.”
Now there is serious doubt and little Ryan can say to remove it.
Talk is entertaining and talk is fine. But talk is also cheap.
One game does not make a season; the Jets and Ryan have three more to prove that they are not what they appear to be:
The same old Jets.