The Rundown: An A+ for optimism

NFL: New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

Heading into the Week 10 bye, the Jets were riding high.  Many urged the immediate re-signing of the head coach who only had one year left on his deal.  At the time Idzik was pleased with his coach’s performance, but didn’t offer any guarantees to Rex’s job security.

Since then, the Jets have lost three straight and have essentially eliminated themselves from the playoff hunt, mostly due to the woes of the offense. With just four games left what will become of the Jets and their head coach?

This has been the topic of many an article over the past three days in the wake of the Jets loss to the Dolphins.  While there’s a number of interesting reads on the matter, a funny thing happened on the way to the chopping block; when questioned about the lack of results from the 2013 NFL Draft class, Rex Ryan gave out A-pluses to the Jets rookies where C-pluses might still be a stretch.

Per Darryl Slater over at the Star-Ledger, here’s what Rex said when asked about his rookie class.

“If this is not an A-plus class, I don’t know what you’re looking for,” he said. “I think it’s as strong as I’ve ever seen. Will they all make it? I don’t know. But when you watch them, I see improvement. I think it’s going to be a real strength for this franchise moving forward.”

Eaaaaaaasy there Rex.

But not before another solid quote of Rex chiding the media, per Seth Walder in the Daily News.

“For us to be critical of a draft class that has five starters in the national football league? As rookies? I understand it’s New York media, but this might be a little tough. This is a bit of a stretch, to criticize this draft class.”

Actually it isn’t a stretch at all.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at New York JetsIf Rex is going to offer up the proof that since they are starters that empirically means they are good, then let’s disabuse everyone of the notion that all save one have played well.  This has nothing to do with it being “New York media” and it has everything to do with how those guys are playing.

It might not be definitive, but Pro Football Focus demonstrates how these five starters are stacking up:

  • Dee Milliner — 108th of 112 ranked (below CB3 replacement)
  • Sheldon Richardson  – 5th of 43 ranked (elite)
  • Geno Smith — 38th of 38 ranked (below QB1 replacement)
  • Brian Winters — 70th of 75 ranked (below OG2 replacement)
  • Tommy Bohanon — 27th of 27 ranked (league worst)

While many of these players might one day be stalwarts for this team, only one player is currently above reproach from this rookie class.  So far, everyone else has yet to demonstrate any competence at their given spot or the projection to own their starting roles come 2014.

Dee Milliner might be making progress, but he’s still more detriment to the secondary than help as we saw last week, even when asked to play a more friendly Cover Two.

The whole offense might be devoid of talent, but Geno Smith has still been the anchor of this offense, failing to find open receivers, look off defensive backs and leading the league in interceptions and the worst passer rating.

NFL: New York Jets at Buffalo BillsBrian Winters is starting at left guard and Rex said he’s been “up and down.”  The only ups I have seen come from the rookie picking up his FieldTurf pellet flecked haunches after being unceremoniously thrown to the ground on every other snap.  He is the single worst guard the team has fielded since Adrien Clarke.  Are there signs of growth?  Some, but not enough.

Tommy Bohanon was drafted to play a role that has been all but phased out by most NFL teams and even when he is, he is scraping the bottom of the NFL barrel.

But for me, it is Oday Aboushi and Will Campbell are the faces of this draft class.  As best I can gather, neither have been activated through 12 games yet there they remain on the active roster.  I saw nothing in their preseason work to make me believe that they at risk to be signed away should they hit waivers or the practice squad.  While better players who could contribute on special teams or in package work have been cut or shuttled on and off the roster, Aboushi and Campbell haven’t budged.  It’s one of the most transparent PR attempts by the front office to not bring attention to the lack of value these players offer.  Hidden in plain sight, if you will.

So is it this draft class, this Justice League 2.0 that deserve an A+?

Rex contends that the rookie starters won their job through competition, but that isn’t entirely the case.  Again, Seth Walder’s Daily News piece.

Ryan said the five starting rookies were impressive because they all had won their job through competition. That’s a bit of an exaggeration: Milliner didn’t have to beat anyone for his job; Mark Sanchez and Lex Hilliard were injured, opening the door for Smith and Bohanon respectively; and Winters only started after Vlad Ducasse played his way out of the left guard job after the season started.

Rex and IdzikThere are many potential reasons or combinations of potential reasons for Rex’s comments:

  1. Rex sees things we can’t in terms of development for the rookies
  2. Rex is saying what he can to save his job
    • He’s under some a gag order on that topic and following it to the letter
    • He’s trying to oversell himself and Idzik as a united front
    • He wants to talk up Idzik regardless of the backlash
  3. Rex is unwavering after being convinced by Idzik that these are great picks much as he stayed true to Tannenbaum’s sales job on Tony Sparano
  4. Rex wants to talk up the rookies despite the backhanded impression it gives of other depth players
  5. Rex is overly optimistic
  6. Rex is delusional

I would argue that there’s some truth to all of that, although it’s impossible to assign any one reason to Rex’s insistence.  Either way, Rex’s comments of this draft class are far enough off the mark.  It is hard to determine whether this is just Rex’s cheery positivity, so ingrained in him or whether the GM just has a gun to his coach’s back.

Rex is nothing if not Quixotic.  The problem though with that approach is that it is fundamentally dangerous to be so out of touch, even if just publicly, with the bold faced facts.

In this day and age, not many captains are willing to go down with their ships.  Andy Reid proved that beyond a doubt in his casting everything not bolted down overboard a year ago in Philly.

Is Rex signing up for such a classically Romanticist ideal?

We’re about to find out, but so far he’s showing no signs of cracking.




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