Insider Thursday Team Report

The Case For Rex

Take a closer look at the job Rex Ryan's done in his first season as a head coach. You'll see he's done far more good than bad.

We’re just three days away from the Jets’ all-or-nothing clash with the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday night, the game that will seal their fate as either a playoff team, or an epic disappointment.

It’s still a little amazing this team is in this position.  With all the ups and downs this roller coaster of a season has taken, Gang Green still holds their destiny in their own hands.

So just how big would it be for a first-year head coach to make it to the playoffs in the biggest city in the world?

“It’d be a great accomplishment,” Ryan said of making it to the playoffs in his first year as a head coach.  “Clearly this is what every team is gunning for, it’s what your goals are.  We expect to be in.  It’s going to be a huge disappointment if we don’t make it.  But again, we know we’re playing the best the North has to offer this year, so it’s going to be a big challenge.  But I think our guys are preparing well.  We know it’s going to be the Cincinnati that plays a very physical brand of football, and it’s going to be an old-fashioned NFL game.”

A great accomplishment is an understatement.  There’s been points where Ryan has shown his inexperience as a first-year head man, from misusing timeouts to poor clock management.  You can also point to the collapse his team suffered after the scintillating 3-0 start, plummeting all the way to 4-6 through the season’s first ten weeks.  Rookie signal caller Mark Sanchez also hasn’t improved much at all over the course of his first season as a pro, seemingly turning the ball over more than he’s making a productive play in recent weeks.

But take a look at the big picture, and you’ll see just how remarkable  a job Ryan has done in his first year as an NFL head coach.  We all knew he could coach defense, but he also had two NFL Defensive Player of the Year winners on the same unit in Baltimore.  Sure, the Jets added Bart Scott who’s had a fine season, and Jim Leonhard, a safety who knows Ryan’s system and has also been solid.  But it’s awfully impressive what he’s been able to do with a defense that brought back a majority of the same players from a year ago, turning them into the number one statistical defense in the game.

And then there’s the job he’s done changing the culture within the locker room.  His bravado has trickled down to his players, who’ve done as much as guaranteeing victories over the course of this season.  He’s changed the way the players view this team, and made them believers, which cannot be ignored.

That belief could be the major reason why this team now sits one victory away from postseason football.  Think about the soul-crushing losses this team has had throughout this season.  Any one of them on the road to 4-6 could have caused this team to fold its tent.  The loss to the Falcons two weeks ago could have meant the end, but instead the team picked themselves off the mat and defeated the previously unbeaten Indianapolis Colts, on the road no less.  Their never-say-die attitude resonates throughout the team in every corner of the locker room, and it all comes from their coach.

They have wins over New England, the Colts, and the Texans, all either playoff locks or teams on the verge of the postseason.  Everyone seems to be looking at the negatives surrounding this team, but we need to start looking at all the positives Ryan and his staff have achieved over their first season in New York.  If they can pull off this last victory, it will cap a season that is a testament to his ability to lead NFL players, and more importantly, to get them to follow him.  I think they made the right choice when they hired Ryan to take the reigns of this team, and it’s clear he’s building something potentially special.  A win Sunday will be the first step towards validating the job the rookie head coach has done.

INJURY UPDATE

Gang Green will be at nearly full strength when they welcome the Bengals to the swamps of Jersey Sunday night.  Darrelle Revis, Thomas Jones and fullback Tony Richardson all participated fully in practice today, while cornerback Donald Strickland was the lone Jets player to miss the workout with a lingering quad injury.  Rookie running back Shonn Greene returned to the practice field and was a full-go, and Shaun Ellis was limited in practice with a knee injury.  Sanchez participated fully in practice as well.

It appears Strickland will not be able to go Sunday, leaving the Jets one short in the secondary.  Otherwise, the team will be at full strength as it takes on the Bengals Sunday night.

The team returns to practice for a workout Friday morning.  Check back to JetsInsider.com for all your news and updates.

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