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Green Lantern: Conviction Is One Thing, But For Jets' Rex It's A Blinding Obsession

By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork/

NEW YORK (WFAN) -- No matter how hard Rex Ryan tries to be Mark Messier he always seems to come out smelling like Patrick Ewing.

In the wake of the Jets' latest December collapse, many of my colleagues have taken Ryan out to the woodshed for his over-the-top bravado, mostly because this time around his mouth has written checks that he, his fellow coaches and players let bounce.

And as much as Rex has probably earned somewhat of a mulligan coming off back-to-back AFC title game appearances, this is, after all, New York. You only get a pass if you win a championship -- and even then you better hire a good lawyer to work out all the details.

This criticism has obviously been warranted because the 2011 Jets have failed to live up to any expectations. While for some teams in the parity-filled NFL being 8-7 with an outside shot of still making the playoffs is an accomplishment, it shouldn't be for this team, considering all we were told to expect.

Personally, I view this season as an unmitigated disaster on just about every level. And while we in the media and fan base have a multitude of places to begin breaking down exactly what went wrong and why, I tend to scratch my head when it comes to this notion that Rex can get his head handed to him by the pedestrian at best Giants and then come back two days later and start yapping again.

It's almost buffoonery at this point.

I'm not in any way intimating that the Jets should fire Rex, nor do I think his talking directly impacts the outcomes of games. Absolutely not. He's just had a crap year as the head coach of the supposedly new and improved Jets on every level and he'll be the first to admit it. That said, though, he's still on the short list of the best coaches in franchise history, a list that includes a legend in Bill Parcells and Weeb Ewbank, the only guy to ever truly earn that mulligan we were discussing earlier.

I just think Rex doesn't care who he alienates, even if now his own fans are among the annoyed.

Rex's "problem" is he's lost the ear of the vast majority of the base. I don't think they doubt for a second that he truly believes all that he says he believes, but even they are now asking when is enough enough? Messier made good on his one boast and it wrote his ticket as a man to listen to. Ewing made prediction after prediction that rarely came true and even his most ardent supporters spent the better part of the end of his career rolling their eyes.

Now there's Ryan, who never met a boast he wouldn't take out for a spin. If the Jets were 1-14 right now would we still be hearing the "well, if I could play the (insert team here) right now I would and I'd still think we are better" diatribe?

Probably, and that in itself is sad, because it lessens the man.

Rex gets away with doing this because owner Woody Johnson seems to act as if his coach can walk on water. Johnson loves having stars in his employ, so naturally when Ryan gets like he gets in press conferences it's as if he's almost being given that cryptic nod by Johnson. And this is nothing new. When Rex took the job three years ago I'm sure he said he was going to be who he is and Woody rubbed his hands together dreaming of even more fame and fortune.

Because the idea back then was to change the culture and make the Jets the back-page story. Now it's about winning championships, and the last thing people want to hear when you are a game above .500 with one to play is how good you still are -- on paper.

So my next question is when will the "Rex just being Rex" routine get old with Woody? The odds are the Jets will miss the playoffs this season. Is there a secret ultimatum for next year that we're as of yet not privy to?

Why do I think not.

What Rex doesn't get is making concessions is endearing. Admitting you are human and make mistakes is generally viewed as being classy, especially when you vow to right the wrongs going forward, not intimate that you are the leader of the best 8-7 football team in all the land. Nobody cares. Trust me. Nobody.

You should relish the fact that most everyone outside the fan base dislikes you because it's a good weekly motivator. Plus, who gives a damn what they think anyway, right? But what happens when the same people that viewed you as their leader right or wrong suddenly begin to think your foxhole isn't all that it was once cracked up to be?

It doesn't take much conviction at all to figure it out.

The expectations were high enough coming off the consecutive conference title game appearances and then the lockout. Now you throw in what has amounted to a .500 season with a collection of talent that should have at least dictated the tempo of the playoff chase instead of always being caught looking around at how other teams are doing.

Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway, the pressure on Rex next season will be astronomical.

Which is why he better talk to his biggest fan, Mr. Johnson, and convince him that changes must be made -- and I'm not just talking about replacing Wayne Hunter at right tackle. Not even close.

The Jets' many assistant coaches and veteran players are being shielded by Rex's large frame, but when this season finally comes to an end, be it after this weekend's game in Miami or if they are lucky enough to make it, after a playoff game or two, the Jets are going to have to make some decisions with regards to this staff before they even consider how to plug the many needs they actually have on the field.

There are a lot of people out there who think serious changes to this coaching staff are warranted, but Rex, to me at least, is the ultimate company guy. He will tout his guys as "hardest working" or "100 percent dedicated" until the cows come home, and will never express any public dissatisfaction with their work. That's part of the reason why he's loved by everyone who plays for him.

But the question still needs to be asked: does Rex truly respect the job offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has done? There's no way to really know, but I'm sure, privately, he's not pleased that Schotty's offense is ranked 27th in yards per game, including 22nd on the ground, a part of the offense which was supposedly the Jets' "strength" coming into the season. I'm sure he's none too pleased that Schotty has been unable to correct Mark Sanchez's many wrongs. But, as I stated earlier, Rex is never going to tell anyone that. He's loyal to a fault while there are games to be played. There's a time and place to handle things.

Well, that time and place better be soon and nearby, because if Schottenheimer returns God help us all. Forget the Jets for a second, Rex can't even afford to have him around.

(If you are a Peyton Manning conspiracy theorist, I guess you can stop reading here. But if you are a realist, please continue.)

I've made it abundantly clear that there is no way the Schottenheimer-Sanchez relationship should be allowed to continue beyond the conclusion of this season. To better understand this coordinator-quarterback "bond," simply take a refresher course by reviewing the Jets' offensive production basically any time since mid-September. Granted, you'll see some good moments, but just skip ahead to the next box score and you'll see the type of maddening inconsistency that has plagued this team since the second we found out there was indeed going to be football in 2011. And though you may think because Sanchez threw for around 700 yards in the first two games they had the right idea, the Jets still made a course correction in philosophy shortly thereafter.

And that's the biggest problem of Schotty circa 2011. The Jets have simply lacked any kind of offensive identity all season. There has been nothing they have done particularly well, unlike the previous two seasons when you knew, come hell or high water, they would run the ball with efficiency and turn to Sanchez to keep things honest, often with excellent results.

Rex cannot afford to have the lead anchor that is Schottenheimer roll out yet another year of needing 15 plays just to get a field goal.

Then there's the defense, this team's supposed backbone. In 2009 and 2010 you knew the Jets would make the necessary adjustments at just about any juncture of any game to change the momentum. But this season those pivotal moments of creativity and ingenuity have been few and far between. When teams have needed to they have marched against this defense and they haven't been selective about when and where. No distance has been too long or short. Turnovers have been easily turned into points and 80-plus yard drives allowed have become the rule at times rather than the exception.

My question is does defensive coordinator Mike Pettine wear a bulletproof vest? Is he untouchable because he's a Rex guy? I guess we're going to find out, but I would say yes. "Teflon Mike" may be just that because he's the vessel that allows defense-first Rex to actually look over other aspects of this team. Next season, as Pettine goes, so should Rex, not the other way around.

The special teams, long a staple of excellence under Mike Westhoff, has been an utter nightmare this season. From turnovers to poor punt coverage to shoddy tackling, the Jets, unlike in the previous two seasons when you knew they would make a play, have often been unable to get out of their own way.

Is Westhoff to blame? He's so revered among everyone it's almost taboo to say a negative word about the guy. My personal opinion is if he chooses to come back yet again, the Jets should grant him the boat. He's been dealt a hand of players that haven't understood the mantra that states that special teams are the last bastion for life in the NFL. And since they haven't, if Westhoff so chooses to do this again, he should be given a new group to command in 2012. He's that good a coach and makes Rex a better coach, overall.

And that's what it has to be about for Rex going forward -- a coaching staff he can trust. Because if he insists on continuing this insane rhetoric, regardless if you honestly believe it's who he is or just some wild act, he needs a safety net. He's used up the goodwill he generated from the previous two seasons and now his street cred is being mortgaged. Only a truly competent coaching staff will allow him to continue to be who he wants to be.

Assuming, of course, that General Manager Mike Tannenbaum gets back to being the player personnel wiz he once was.

But that's a story for another time, and, trust me, it's coming.

Read more columns by Jeff Capellini

Is Rex's act old to you? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

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