Rex Ryan is a player’s coach is every sense of the word. He protects his players, stands up for them and believes in them, and he is loyal to a fault. For those reasons, his players love playing for him, and they would run through a brick wall for him. Ryan is a master motivator, and he routinely is near the top of polls among NFL players asking which coach they would most want to play for.
However, the same traits that make Ryan so popular are traits that at times cost his teams games. Ryan simply cannot see the flaws in his players, and it leaves the New York Jets vulnerable on the field. In his five years on the Jets he has stood by players such as Braylon Edwards, Eric Smith, Bart Scott, Bryan Thomas, Vladimir Ducasse and Stephen Hill despite overwhelming evidence that they simply couldn’t perform at the level the Jets needed.
Ryan will always stand by the players who are “his guys”, and he is very loyal to players who have been successful in the past for him. However, the NFL is a cold, hard business, and when a player isn’t performing he needs to be replaced with one who can. That doesn’t mean the player necessarily needs to released, but it does mean he should be benched. However, Ryan rarely makes permanent switches of that nature. Ryan is following the same tactics this season with Ed Reed, Dee Milliner and Geno Smith, and it is costing the Jets dearly.
When the Jets signed Reed, Ryan was clearly thrilled to be getting a player that he had spent so many years with on the Baltimore Ravens, and he believed Reed would be the answer to the Jets problems against the deep ball. However, Reed has not improved anything, and you can make a pretty compelling argument that he has made things worse. The Jets have lost all three games that Reed has played in, giving up an average of 283 passing yards. The Jets have also allowed 5 passing touchdowns of at least 25 yards in those games.
Not all of the blame for that can be laid at Reed’s feet, but there is no doubt that he has missed tackles and blown coverage assignments that have cost the Jets points. However, Ryan has made it abundantly clear that he will not go back to Antonio Allen, despite the fact that Reed is simply a shell of the player he once was.
Milliner is another problem, even though the Jets drafted him 9th overall in April and Ryan named him the starter early in camp. Milliner has had all kinds of struggles this season, and he has been benched three times. However, Ryan has yet to make the move permanent. In his defense, Darrin Walls hasn’t exactly inspired confidence, but Milliner has been absolutely terrible.
The final issue is Ryan’s refusal to bench Smith. He has been pulled from three games and is statistically the worst starting quarterback in the NFL, but apparently that is not enough to earn Matt Simms a start. It is impossible to say how much influence John Idzik has on this decision, but Ryan is the head coach and should have the power to put out whatever lineup he sees fit. The fact that he has not been willing to give Simms a start is very concerning, because Smith has been abysmal.
Ryan’s loyalty to his players is admirable, but it comes at a price. That price is leaving players who can’t perform on the field and then losing games because of those players. Sometimes changes have to be made to the lineup, and these are three of those situations. However, Ryan refuses to make the tough decisions, and it will continue to cost the Jets.