Michael Vick's lax attitude yet another strike against coach Rex Ryan
The fuel gauge is hovering around empty. The engine sputtering.
Rex Ryan held onto his post following the 2013 season because his New York Jets kept slugging right until the end: a hard-fought Week 17 win over a Miami team that had a win-and-in postseason scenario.
Ryan is probably going to lose his job soon -- perhaps during the Week 11 bye, maybe after the regular season wraps -- in large part because the Jets have lost their edge.
The latest proof came courtesy of Michael Vick, who admitted, via the New York Post, that he had not practiced as well as he should have headed into Week 5 and thus was not ready when called upon against the Chargers.
"Maybe I didn’t prepare or I wasn’t prepared," Vick said, "but I’ll tell you what, it won’t happen again."
It doesn't have to. Once is indictment enough for Vick, who took a humdrum approach to his New York role from the outset; and for Ryan, whose team either has tuned him out or is on the verge of shutting it down for 2014. Vick's comment came only after linebacker Demario Davis called out the Jets for going through the motions in practices. Ryan, too, admitted Wednesday that his team was "licking our wounds a little bit" and lacking energy after a 31-0 loss in San Diego.
Eleven games remain on the Jets' schedule. The last few days make it feel like they've already thrown in the towel.
The Vick development should come as no surprise, regardless of how inexcusable it is. He more or less eliminated himself from the Jets' QB competition back in May, stating that the job was Geno Smith's. He then told The MMQB's Jenny Vrentas late in the preseason that being with New York is "an opportunity for me to refresh myself and take a step back away from the game.
"I don’t want that. It’s just -- I’m kind of relishing the moment that I’m in right now,” he said. “I am not required to have to do a lot. Preserving my body right now is very important to me, and making sure I can make a strong push late in my career in case I am needed."
Hardly the words of a player who wants to steal a starting job. Ryan has continued to back Smith as the Jets' quarterback for the present and future, but Vick has done nothing to change his coach's mind. And that includes the ugly performance tossed up by an unprepared Vick last Sunday.
If such issues were limited to one player or position group, perhaps Ryan could brush it off. This has become more than just a Michael Vick issue, though.
"I know we’re not practicing like a championship football team, and I take responsibility for that, because I expect guys to do what I do," Davis told reporters in the wake of that loss to San Diego. "If we’re not giving effort in practice, that means I’m not giving effort in practice. I feel like film study needs to be increased, and I start with myself. I don’t see a lot of guys putting enough effort into film, so that means I’m not putting enough effort into film. We’ve got work to do to correct it, and I’m going to start with myself."
The players should take some of the responsibility here (like with Smith missing a team meeting), but ultimately those practice problems point back to Ryan and his coaching staff. While reps are limited for backup quarterbacks during the season, it's on the coaches to ensure that the No. 2 guy is ready if needed.
Vick wasn't. Neither were the Jets as a team.
Is there any coming back from all of this? Well, it is the NFL after all: An upset win over the Broncos on Sunday could slingshot the Jets toward a strong final 10 games.
There has been no indication so far that they are on the verge of such a breakthrough. Certainly not with Ryan and Smith discussing the absence of a spark Wednesday.
"You play how you practice," Pop Warner famously said.
Right now, the Jets appear to be practicing with little guidance or motivation. Which means Ryan probably won't be the head coach for much longer.