Rex, Jets struggle for answers in 1-8 start
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) These are dark days for Rex Ryan and the New York Jets.
Ryan is a coach with an uncertain future, and that means beyond even Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets will go on their bye-week break at this time next week and speculation has started that they could say bye-bye to their coach.
After all, the Jets (1-8) are searching for answers and, more importantly, victories in a season marked by eight straight losses that has a disappointed fanbase already thinking about the NFL draft and next year.
''Our fans, I recognize their frustrations,'' Ryan said Monday, ''and it's probably not easy to be a Jets fan right now.''
After a 24-10 loss at Kansas City on Sunday, this group of Jets became the third in franchise history to lose eight consecutive games. The last time was in 1996, when New York finished 1-15 under Rich Kotite, a season widely recognized as the worst - and most embarrassing - in team history.
Before that, the 1975 Jets dropped eight straight on their way to a 3-11 season.
Yep, those were tough times, too.
But nine straight losses? It has never been done in the history of the franchise.
''It's just a stat, man,'' defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson said. ''We didn't want to lose eight straight, so we most definitely don't want to go nine.''
But talk about bad timing.
Up next for the Jets, dealing with a shaky secondary situation all season, are the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger, who is coming off becoming the first player in NFL history to throw 12 touchdown passes in a two-game stretch, with six in each.
''Nah, no concerns,'' Ryan said, almost rolling his eyes. ''I mean, when you look at it realistically, obviously, it is a huge concern. They're on fire right now.''
And, quite frankly, the Jets are the complete opposite.
Picked by many before the season to hover between seven and nine wins and be in the playoff hunt, the Jets will be hard-pressed to win three or four games.
''We didn't expect to be in this position,'' said quarterback Michael Vick, who'll start against the Steelers. ''Obviously, coming into the year, you set high expectations and we had a lot of goals and to be one of the best teams in the league. To be in this position is very shocking.''
Some disgruntled season ticketholders set up a website last week called FireJohnIdzik.com, dedicated to urging owner Woody Johnson to part ways with the team's general manager. The site has raised $10,000 to buy space on a billboard near MetLife Stadium to further their cause.
Idzik is feeling the heat, maybe even more than anyone else in the organization, because of the perception that he did little to provide Ryan with a roster that could be successful.
Angry fans point to the lack of depth at cornerback, failed draft picks - only five of the 12 from last May are on the active roster - and the failure of Geno Smith to prove himself as a franchise-type quarterback.
Ryan is not without blame, though, with in-game decisions and his once mighty defense failing to be dominant key strikes against him. Some fans and media believe it's not a question of if, but when Johnson will cut ties with Ryan - and very possibly Idzik.
If the Jets owner comes to that conclusion, it probably would be after the regular-season finale in Miami in December, but Ryan insists he's not thinking of that.
''I don't look past Pittsburgh,'' Ryan said defiantly. ''I know my opportunity is to be a head coach right now and I'm going to do the best job I possibly can do for this football team, and to give us a chance to be successful.''
When Ryan was hired in 2009, he was a breath of fresh air to a stale franchise. He was a brash, bold media darling who commanded attention because no one knew what he might say or do.
He restored the Jets to relevance on a national level, leading the franchise to consecutive trips to the AFC title game in his first two years.
But, Ryan has toned things down a bit, and it's understandable, considering the Jets are looking at their fourth straight season out of the postseason. That's hardly a stretch that guarantees he'll be back next season, and Ryan knows it.
''Well, 1-8, we all get it,'' Ryan said. ''I understand it, but the season is not over. You judge by when the season is over and you make up your own mind. But I know one thing: It isn't going to be by lack of effort, lack of passion, lack of anything.
''The results aren't there yet, certainly they aren't there yet, and that's not acceptable to anybody's standard, certainly not mine. So again, we have a lot of season left and I think our football team is going to play a lot better.''
AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL