After a disappointing 8-8 2011 season, things were supposed to change this season for the New York Jets. Head coach Rex Ryan admitted to Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports back in September that last season's Super Bowl prediction was ill-advised and pledged that this year would be different.
Well, things are different this season, in that they've gotten worse.
Since last December, only the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns have a worse record than Ryan's Jets, whose general manager spent the team's bye week throwing the starting quarterback under the bus, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.
And so, as the Jets prepare to travel to Seattle to face the Seattle Seahawks to kick off the second half of their season, we've entered a stretch of games that may well determine Ryan's fate in the Big Apple.
Unfortunately for Ryan, there aren't many worse ways to kick that stretch off. The Seahawks are undefeated at home this season, where their rowdy fans afford the team a distinct advantage, but Ryan told Cimini that he's hopeful this tough test will rally the team and serve as a jumping off spot for a playoff push.
"It can't get much tougher, but maybe that's what we need," said Ryan, alluding to the opponent, the venue and everything else stacked against the Jets. "Maybe that will pull this group together."
Um, yeah Rex, because it's not like the Jets have developed a habit of turning on one another like underfed goldfish over the past year or so.
With that said, the table would seem to be set for the Jets to at least have a puncher's chance of righting the ship. Only three of New York's final eight opponents presently sport a winning record, and of all the games on their slate, only this week's tilt with Seattle and a Week 12 matchup with the hated Patriots stand out as games that I "expect" the Jets to lose.
So, let's say for the sake of argument that the Jets improbably go 6-2 down the stretch and finish 9-7. That may be good enough for a wild card spot in the AFC, and given the Jets' runs in 2009 and 2010, it's not inconceivable that they could pull out a postseason win that would all but certainly get Ryan a stay of execution for at least one more season.
The problem with that scenario is that I don't know that it's what's best for the franchise in the long-term.
Ryan has become the face of the most dysfunctional team in the NFL. The Jets have become all about making headlines for the wrong reasons, whether it's a quarterback controversy between two mediocre signal-callers, their head coach being voted the most overrated man in his position to the NFL, or the player that led the team to its only Super Bowl win lambasting the franchise, according to Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz of USA Today.
"I think the focus is changed, subtly," Joe Namath said. "It's more toward grabbing headlines, and everything starts at the top. And you can go back to when the seat licenses were initiated, how we started conducting things. I don't think winning has been put at the top of the board. Winning headlines has replaced that."
Namath's dripping bitterness towards the current regime aside, he has a point. The New York Jets have become as much a sideshow as a football team, and that reflects very poorly on both general manager Mike Tannenbaum and Ryan.
Rex Ryan remains a great defensive mind, but the fact of the matter is that both he and Tannenbaum need to go if the Jets are going to move forward as a franchise.
However, their soft second-half slate may be enough for Ryan to keep his job, which means that in all probability the circus will be in town again next season.