Rex Ryan has a month to find his lost team and resurrect the Jetsí season.
If he does not and this season spirals into the kind of ignominious ending last yearís did, it is hardly a reach to wonder if the futures for both Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum with the franchise might be in jeopardy.
Smart money ó hopefully smart thinking by Jets owner Woody Johnson, who has a history of making some drastic knee-jerk decisions ó is that Ryan remains with the Jets.
Ryan is a good coach with special qualities, beginning with his player relationships and as a motivator, and we should not forget he did lead the team to AFC title games in his first two years.
But under his watch, Ryan cannot let what transpired Sunday against the Dolphins ó a 30-9 home loss in a game his team needed to win and yet looked lifeless and noncompetitive ó become a habit or Johnson could become influenced by his angered fan base and become trigger-happy the way he did four years ago.
Ryan got this job because of Johnsonís sudden decision to fire Eric Mangini after the Jets missed the playoffs in 2008 and his irate fan base wanted Mangini gone.
Millionaires do not always change their stripes, so donít bank on Johnson straying from old habits. So this could happen again, only this time Tannenbaum would likely not get off scot-free like he did when Mangini was hung out to dry as the lone scapegoat.
But think about this scenario: What if the Jets return from their bye week and lose in Seattle, where the Seahawks are playing very good football, and then get beaten by Brian Schottenheimer and the Rams in St. Louis the following week?
That would lead to a 3-7 record and a Thanksgiving night home game against the Patriots, who would take utter delight in burying the Jets in their own building.
How do you think the futures of Ryan and Tannenbaum would look after a Patriots win over the Jets, leaving them at 3-8 and having lost five in a row?
Reality says the Jets should not be faced with the above doomsayer scenario. They have enough talent and experience to remain relevant at least into December.
But how can the way they performed against the Dolphins not make you wonder what this team and its coach are really made of?
This is the first true pressure-point moment of Ryanís tenure as Jets head coach. Since the two AFC Championship game rides, the Jets have regressed, missing the playoffs at 8-8 last year and now are in jeopardy of a first sub-.500 season under Ryan.
Ryan, remember, signed off on letting Schottenheimer go and replacing him with Tony Sparano, who has brought no improvement whatsoever to the Jets offense.
Ryan also had significant say in bringing in Tim Tebow, who has been a categorical bust through half of the season thanks to the teamís lack of any clue how to use him.
Sparano on Thursday made admissions his deployment of Tebow has been lacking and Ryan yesterday said he was going to ďtake a hard look at how weíre using him,íí indicating Tebow will be used more often.
Perhaps more damning to Ryan than the Tebow mess is his defense, always a staple of his success, has been nothing better than pedestrian this season.
So this is Ryanís mess to clean up, and his motivational and tactical skills will be put to their toughest test yet in the next few weeks as he tries to save what has been a lost season to date.
If he doesnít produce positive results and bring back a couple of wins when the Jets return home to face the Patriots on Thanksgiving, Ryan likely will have lost the fans.
When and if that happens, that is when Johnson, whose motivation to win might only be edged out by his desire to sell PSLs and keep the Jets a high-profile business success, may react.
Appearance sometimes is everything, and, for Johnson empty seats in the home stadium represent the worst look of all.