The Rundown: Color by numbers

NFL: New York Jets at Tennessee Titans

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

Yesterday, Rex Ryan mused during the Wednesday press conference that he had thought about re-instituting the color-code system the team used with Mark Sanchez as a rookie, again this time with Geno Smith.  Ryan has been trying to find a solution to the team’s turnover problems, problems that center around rookie quarterback Geno Smith.

Per the New York Times, Ryan mentioned the duality several times that seemed to be troubling him yesterday.

At his news conference, Ryan referred multiple times to the “fine line” between maintaining aggressiveness and stumbling toward carelessness.

“We want to be aggressive, there’s no question,” Ryan said. “But you don’t want to do something to the detriment of the football team.”

When asked about what he thought of such a system, Geno Smith was agreeable.  “If it helps the team, if it helps me get better, then I’m all for it,” Smith told reporters Wednesday. “At this point in my career.  I’ve got to look at everything, good or bad, as a learning experience.”

The Red-Yellow-Green system might be a positive learning experience for kindergartners, but Ryan seemed to think better of his idea in a few hours later during his interview with Michael Kay.  Ryan told Kay that it would limit the aggressive offense he’s been trying to cultivate this season with the Jets. 

That Ryan has publicly mentioned that he’s considering the ploy is the problem itself, writes Mark Cannizzaro for the NY Post.

The fact Ryan was considering it gives you an idea of the gravity of the situation, with Smith’s 11 turnovers in four games killing the team. And the fact he backed off of the idea three hours after volunteering it to reporters gives you an idea of how clueless Ryan and his coaching staff are about how to fix the problem.

Clueless seems a tad harsh, in actuality fixing the problem is quite easy.  Geno, don’t hold the ball like a loaf of bread when you run it … Geno, this isn’t this isn’t Paper Lion (look it up, kids!) don’t sell the screen so well that you end up in your own endzone … twice … Geno, slide down past the first down marker rather than trying for two extra yards .. no hero stuff … Geno, if you don’t do these things, we will turn you into Christian Ponder for two drives and make you hand the ball off every time.

Running the ball a tad more is a good and simple means to protect the exposure that comes with a questionably ready rookie QB.  But somehow, some (maybe even Rex) feel like running the ball a little more is a cop-out.

Some writers seemed to like the idea of the color system, while others did not.  ESPN’s Johnette Howard hoped Ryan would have used the color coded method, and seemed downright wistful about the whole thing.

… why not try it?

Old Rex never met a gimmick he didn’t like. Old Rex might’ve gone on to joke that the original color-coded wristband that cured Sanchez of being a turnover machine has been protected in a wall safe in his office, or pressed like some lucky four-leaf clover between the pages of an old Jets playbook, next to the page where the meaning of each color is explained. He would’ve added he’d already told Sanchez to talk up the whole concept to Smith, same as Ryan originally sold it to Sanchez as a way to get a grasp on game situations.

So Howard wants Ryan to act like his old self, which is ironic, considering what she wrote after the 2011 season ended about Ryan and his methods.

Going back to that system might have its merits, but it would have taken a myopic approach to the problem, writes Manish Mehta writes for the Daily News. 

Good move, Rex. The traffic-light approach would have done more harm than good for a young quarterback navigating through a rough stretch.

[...]
Forget about a multi-color wristband system that would have put more hesitation and doubt in Smith’s mind. The Jets must make sure that he plays smarter without losing the aggressiveness that made him so intriguing to them in the first place.

It’s a mistake to try to make Smith a game manager at a time when the Jets’ brain trust needs to properly evaluate him to determine whether he has a chance to be a franchise quarterback.

[...]
Smith needs to cultivate his aggressive mind-set and learn to take calculated risks.

The elephant in the room of course is that evaluating the rookie quarterback regardless of results is all well and good for the Jets braintrust, but could be hazardous to Rex Ryan’s health as the Jets head coach.

Still, the attacking offense was what Rex Ryan wanted all along dating back to his postseason press conference in January.  Even when everyone was healthy at the quarterback spot, the Jets didn’t have a solution that was head and shoulders above the rest.  And in those cases, smart NFL offenses try and limit their young quarterback’s potential to make mistakes.

Credit to Johnette Howard, who asked the only two other players remaining from 2009 with Mark Sanchez during the color-coded run.

… when Jets offensive linemen D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold were asked how much the color coding helped Sanchez, they essentially said, “Eh.”

Ferguson claimed he only vaguely remembered the ploy at all. Mangold said while he did remember Rex’s “red-green-blue extravaganza,” there was “a lot more” that went into the Jets’ turnaround back then.

“We were running the ball really well too,” Mangold said.

Don’t be surprised if the Jets have the same emphasis this week while scaling back what they ask of Smith.

If the Jets aren’t going to use the color system, then at least do some things that can make life easier for the quarterback.  Running the ball some more isn’t giving up, it would give the Jets offensive line a chance at attacking defenses before giving Geno those “green” situations to throw the ball.