- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan is a players' coach, no doubt about it, but he was a coach's coach Monday night. And that isn't a good thing for the immediate future of the New York Jets.
The decision to play Darrelle Revis -- and play him the entire game -- appears to have backfired because the star cornerback's troublesome left hamstring was barking during and after the game, and his status for this weekend's game in Denver is uncertain, Ryan said Tuesday.
The Jets beat the Minnesota Vikings 29-20, an ego-gratification victory over a nonconference opponent, but the outcome may have done more harm than good. They're exactly where they didn't want to be, hoping (maybe praying) that Revis' hamstring doesn't become a season-long issue.
Ryan knew the potential consequences, but like most coaches, he took a short-sighted view: just win the game. He won, all right, but he weakened his team. The Jets' pass defense isn't the same without Revis or even a less-than-healthy Revis, and their next three opponents have top-10 passing offenses -- the Broncos, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.
They should've rested Revis for a third straight game, especially in wet and slippery conditions. That would've been the safe play, the smart play. It would've allowed him to be that much healthier for the pass-happy Broncos, who might throw the ball 50 times against the Jets. But now they have to worry about the hammy, living injury report to injury report.
Some 12 hours after the victory, Ryan conceded that Revis was experiencing "added swelling," but he defended his decision to play his $46 million corner. He insisted he didn't rush Revis into the lineup, saying the subpar performance was simply a matter of Superman experiencing an off night.
"If this was golf, we expect him to birdie every hole," Ryan said. "That's the truth. Now, if he has a couple of pars and a bogey every now and then, [it's] what's wrong with Revis?"
What's wrong? He's not healthy, that's what's wrong. The Vikings finally figured it out in the second half, and they started picking on him. Revis lacked his usual explosion and couldn't keep up with Percy Harvin on a simple crossing route that turned into a 34-yard touchdown reception.
Afterward, Revis said his hamstring was "very sore" and "hurting throughout the game." Ryan said that was news to him. Say what? He actually said he wanted to ratchet up Revis' workload, challenging him with tougher assignments.
That, of course, was second-day spin. By not putting Revis on Randy Moss, it was a tacit admission by the Jets that their best defensive player wasn't 100 percent. Ryan tried to explain the decision by saying Antonio Cromartie was better suited to covering Moss because of his success in Week 2, but that, too, sounded hollow. Since when is Ryan shy about putting Revis on anybody?
Revis indicated last week that he wasn't going to play unless he was 100 percent, but he apparently fudged the numbers. He was put into a difficult position, as Ryan did him no favors by announcing Thursday that the team doctors had cleared him to play. The ultimate decision, Ryan said, belonged to Revis.
No player should be put into that position, at least not publicly. No doubt Revis felt the pressure to play, especially after missing the entire preseason because of a contract holdout. The pressure probably intensified when the Vikings traded for Moss, his archrival.
If Revis decided to sit out, he would've been painted as selfish. People close to him urged him to rest another week, but he took one for the team. It's the team's job to protect the player from himself, but that didn't happen in this case.
Ryan cares deeply for his players, there's no question about that, but he cares about winning, too. He said medical staff gave the green light, but this was the same medical staff that allowed Revis to play in Week 2 despite midweek hamstring soreness -- and look how that turned out.
It would be a surprise if Revis played against the Broncos, especially with the bye week after that. Ryan said he's hoping Revis is ready, but what else did you expect him to say? Anything less would've been an admission that he messed up by pushing Revis to come back too soon.
"If he's healthy, we want to play Darrelle," said Ryan, hoping this apparent setback is simply a matter of natural soreness. "If he's healthy, it's not vacation time. It's time to beat somebody. This is an AFC opponent, and we need to win games so we can get into the postseason."
But the Jets won't get too far if Revis Island is deserted.
2hJohn Keim and Adam Caplan