Commentary

Rex, staff left Gang Green to rot

Ryan's Jets display ghastly decision-making in Halloween humbler versus Packers

Updated: November 1, 2010, 10:42 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- They couldn't throw the ball or catch it, and their punter decided to run it when he should've kicked it -- one of the all-time brain cramps. Yes, for Halloween, a bunch of New York Jets came dressed as Buffalo Bills -- utterly inept.

There were a lot of reasons why the Jets were shut out for the first time in four years, a 9-0 home loss Sunday to the Green Bay Packers -- and Rex Ryan belongs on the list. Ditto, some of his coaches.

Ryan exhausted his replay challenges by the end of the first half (a major no-no) and misused his timeouts late in the game (he burned all three before the 3:50 mark). He also shares culpability on Steve Weatherford's ill-fated decision to try a fake punt on fourth-and-18 at his own 20. The result of the mental and physical blunders was a back-to-reality defeat that snapped a five-game winning streak.

"It feels embarrassing to be shut out at home," right tackle Damien Woody said. "Our personnel and coaching staff are too good to be shut out at home."

Woody is right, but Mark Sanchez threw two interceptions, his receivers dropped five passes, the team committed seven penalties, Nick Folk missed a 37-yard field goal -- and the Jets (5-2) lost to a team that has seven players on injured reserve.

And the coaching staff didn't have one of its better days, either. Let's start with the fake punt, which backfired when Weatherford came up a yard short on his mad sprint for the first-down marker.

Ryan and others were quick to blame Weatherford, saying he made the call, but the punter shouldn't have had that option on fourth-and-forever. What, is he Rickey Henderson? Is the green light always on? Weatherford took the heat, but he should've been warned by special-teams coordinator Mike Westhoff: "No fakes."

It was a huge swing, as the Packers converted the break into a field goal -- a 3-0 lead that stood up until the fourth quarter.

"In that situation, it probably would've been wiser to punt," said Ryan, throwing Weatherford under the bus.

Then came Ryan's bad replay challenge, which came on an interception by Packers cornerback Tramon Williams at the Green Bay 40. Ryan felt Jerricho Cotchery had made the catch and was down by contact before Williams wrestled the ball away. He probably had a 50-50 chance of winning the challenge, but that wasn't the issue.

It was a risk-reward matter: Too much risk, not enough reward.

This was a third-down pass that ended up well short of the sticks; there was no chance of prolonging the possession. Even if the Jets had won the challenge, it would've been fourth-and-8 from the Packers' 40 -- no-man's land. What, then, a 58-yard field goal attempt? Folk started walking on the field, but afterward, Ryan claimed the decision would've been a punt.

[+] EnlargeBrian Schottenheimer
Alan Maglaque/US PresswireOffensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has admitted he can go overboard with the game plan when given extra time to prepare.

"That would've made a huge difference," said Ryan, sounding as if a punt would've won the game in that situation. "Instead of getting it on the 40-yard line, they're getting it on the 10."

But the 30-yard difference wasn't worth the potential ramifications. It was the Jets' second failed challenge, meaning no more challenges for the rest of the game. Ryan had to keep the red flag stuffed in his pocket and, boy, he could've used it in the fourth quarter.

In a play reminiscent of the Cotchery-Williams wrestling match, cornerback Charles Woodson ripped a pass out of Dustin Keller's hands for another interception. Replays showed that Keller was down with possession, but Ryan had no recourse. It was a huge play in the game because the Jets finally were showing signs of life on offense.

Asked if he was kicking himself for having burned his two challenges, Ryan insisted the situation was moot. Saying it was "almost identical" to the Cotchery play, Ryan claimed, "I'm sure that would've been Green Bay's ball anyway."

Easy to say afterward. You can bet Ryan would've had a different opinion if he hadn't handcuffed himself.

Some of the Jets' problems were rooted in the decision to give the team a six-day vacation last week for the bye. Obviously, it affected the offense, which resembled the opening-night offense -- completely out of sync.

Ryan scoffed when asked if there was a rust factor, saying, "There's no rust. Write whatever you want, that's fine. When you lose, you can say what you want. We were fresher and healthier than we've ever been. We just never got it done."

Fresher, healthier and rustier on offense. Ryan took the same approach last season -- a six-day break -- and the Jets lost two straight after the bye. Coincidence? He should rethink the R&R for 2011.

There's another common denominator: When offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has extra time to prepare for a game, he gets too cute and goes overboard with the game plan. It happened in Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens -- he admitted as much -- and it looked the same against the Packers (5-3).

There was no flow, with Schottenheimer constantly shuffling his personnel packages. He seemed more concerned with balancing the playing time and keeping everybody happy than sticking with a plan and attacking the Green Bay weaknesses.

The Jets also got too pass-happy, calling 41 pass plays and only 28 runs -- not a good idea with Sanchez (16-for-38, 256) doing his impersonation of the '09 Sanchez. Afterward, Ryan admitted, "I would've liked to have seen our balance be a little more run than pass, but we were in a situation where we were playing from behind a lot."

Yeah, they were behind by three points for 42-plus minutes -- a monster deficit.

The Jets had two weeks to prepare for the Packers. Most teams would turn that into a positive, but not them. Their offense is better on short rest. Maybe they should play to avoid a first-round bye in the playoffs, just to be safe.

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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