If you’re not a fan of bluster and braggadocio, you have to admire Eli Manning, and you have to appreciate what he’s done over the last two weeks to make life better for fans not only in the New York area but around the rest of the NFL as well.
What Eli has done, in successive weeks, is shoot down two Ryans. If he was a World War I ace, this would probably go under the heading of “Blimp Busting.” On Christmas Eve, despite completing just 9 of 27 passes, Manning was able to throw the ball deep enough to collect 225 yards in a 29-14 victory over the Jets in the Battle of Jersey’s Finest. That pretty much settled Rex Ryan’s hash. Then last Sunday, Eli threw for 336 yards to finish off the Dallas Cowboys and with them, presumably, the career of Rex Ryan’s brother Rob, the Dallas defensive coordinator.
Let’s add it up: That’s 571 yards for Eli in consecutive weeks on 60 throws for a spectacular 9.5 yards per throw average, 4 touchdowns, and just one interception.
Let’s also look at what Manning did on December 11, when he led a breathtaking come-from-behind 37-34 win over Dallas, which means that in two games against Rob Ryan’s defense, Eli threw for a truly eye-popping 746 yards and 5 TDs. I’d be very surprised if Dallas isn’t interviewing for Rob Ryan’s job by the time the Giants and Atlanta Falcons kick off this Sunday.
Rex, unfortunately, is probably going to be with us for some time — or at least it looks that way based on what he and management are saying — but I very much doubt if he’s going to make it through October of 2012. In the AFC championship game for the 2009 season, the upstart Jets were ahead of the Indianapolis Colts 17-13 at the half; in retrospect, it seems like that was the peak for the Jets under Rex. (The Colts won the second half, 17-0, and took the game.)
The Jets are now 36-24 in 3 years under Ryan, 4-2 of that coming in the postseason. This year’s 8-8 team will miss the playoffs for the first time since Rex took the head job, and Sunday’s 19-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins left the Jets and their fans dazed and confused, losing 3 consecutive games by a total of 33 points. There are no silver linings left: The Jets defense, which two years ago was on the verge of becoming the best in the league, and Mark Sanchez, after a brilliant rookie season, now seem hopelessly battered. The offensive players, who have not been in sync with each other all season, are pointing fingers everywhere, everyone is pointing a finger at Antonio Holmes, who apparently is not going to keep his mouth shut as long as he continues to wear green and white, and though the players haven’t said it openly, most are adamant that offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer “should” be back next year. (Again, unfortunately, this does not seem to include the front office, who are standing by Schottenheimer even as he interviews for the Jaguars’ head job.)
It looks like nothing short of a complete overhaul is going to turn this franchise back in the right direction, a sober and depressing thought considering the energy and good vibes that Jets fans carried into the 2010 season.
It isn’t that Rex Ryan’s act has become tired; just about any antics by the hometown coach seems amusing to fans when they’re winning. But the way the Jets closed out 2011 offers hope for nothing next season, not even a hot shot draft pick. The Jets seem to have been sucked back into that whirlpool of mediocrity they have been caught in ever since Joe Namath guaranteed that win over the Baltimore Colts — and, unlike Rex — delivered. Yes, Jets fans, 42 years ago, during which time the Giants, who were supposed to be the stuffy, stodgy conservative franchise from the old, declining National Football League have been to the Super Bowl 4 times, winning 3.
Eli and the Giants at least have done the Jets a big favor by making it clear that nothing is going to come from the so-called Ryan era and that if it isn’t dead, it’s on life support.
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