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Silverman: Ryan Has His Faults, But He Knows Reed Can Still Play

By Steve Silverman
» More Columns

You don't have to listen very carefully to hear the laughter.

The laughter that is being directed at Rex Ryan for his decision to sign Ed Reed and let him play for the Jets during the season's home stretch.

There's a lot of laughter out there because Reed was cut this week by the Houston Texans. The belief among a lot of football experts is that Reed is done and that he's too slow to help an NFL team anymore.

Ryan, who was the Ravens' defensive coordinator before he became the Jets' head coach, believes that Reed can still play.

Reed and Ray Lewis were the stars of the Ravens' defense during Ryan's run as defensive coordinator.

There are many reasons to believe that Ryan is in over his head as an NFL head coach. He simply doesn't have the offensive expertise to compete with the best in the business. The Jets have often looked amateurish compared to other teams, and if they had not decided to let Coach Meatball (Tony Sparano) go and bring in Marty Mornhinweg this year, who knows how bad their offense would look this year.

Mornhinweg has helped the Jets put a much more competitive offense on the field and that's why the Jets are a winning football team to this point in the season.

But when it comes to defensive football, Ryan does not have to take a backseat to too many coaches. In addition to his own success, he grew up eating and breathing defense because his father Buddy Ryan was one of the greatest defensive coaches of all-time.

The elder Ryan led the 1985 Chicago Bears defense, often considered to be the best one-season defense of all-time.

Rex Ryan was a linebackers coach on the 2000 Ravens, often considered to be the best defense since that Bears team.

Ryan knows defense, and if he tells me that Reed can still play, I believe him.

Ryan did not say that the Jets had brought in Reed during his prime, just that he was still a good player who is capable of helping the team win games.

This seems reasonable. Reed is one of the best defensive backs in the history of the NFL. When he was at the top of his game, he combined great athleticism with a remarkable knowledge of what his opponent wanted to do and where it wanted to attack.

His instincts were so finely honed that every time the ball was in the air and Reed was within a stride of it, it seemed that he was always going to knock it down or intercept it.

Those instincts have not disappeared. He may have lost a half-step or more, but he still knows what opposing quarterbacks want to do.

A few years ago, while working on a book about the best players of all-time, I spent some time interviewing former 49er (and Jet) Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott. He was one of the keys to the 49ers' multiple Super Bowl titles and he was a fearsome hitter.

Yet, when I interviewed him, he said the player that he had admired the most was Reed. "Just look at what he can do when he can reach the ball," Lott said. "I marvel at what he does when he gets his hands on the ball. He has brilliant moves and it's like he's a great offensive player once he gets his hands on the ball.

"I could not make people miss like Ed Reed. He runs well, but it's the moves he has that make him such an amazing player. I admire him so much and I love watching him play."

So, listen to all the experts who are laughing at the Jets' pickup, saying that Reed can't play anymore.

Ryan knows the kind of talent he has to work with and so does Lott. Reed may have lost a step, but he can still play in the right environment.

Don't be shocked if Reed helps the Jets win one or more games the rest of the way. If that one win gets the Jets to the postseason, the signing will prove worthwhile.

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