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From Jets Loss Comes an Opportunity

What should Rex Ryan learn from Sunday's embarrassing loss?

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    Educators love to talk about "teachable moments" -- when something happens in the world to hand you a topic that's so timely that it becomes easy to reach even the most distracted students.

    Football teams can benefit from such moments as well, which is why there might be something good to come out of the Jets' shutout loss to the Packers on Sunday.

    All during their bye week, Rex Ryan said that his team needed to improve in the weeks to come if they hoped to succeed at the level expected of a team with so much talent on the roster. Now they have an object lesson in just how much improvement needs to happen if the Jets are to climb back into the driver's seat they abandoned on Halloween.

    Don't allow yourself to be too fooled by what happened on Sunday. It was a dreadful performance from start to finish, and even the defense can't go too crazy patting themselves on the back. A loss is a loss for the entire team.

    That said, until the Packers kicked a field goal with 27 seconds to play, the Jets were one play away from winning the game. The season opener against the Ravens played out the same way. As brutal as both losses were, they weren't far from being wins, and that tends to be the sign of a good team.

    Ryan can hammer that point home in the days to come, although the teacher also needs to become the student. This loss was the product of many fathers, but Ryan has to take ownership for all of it because he stands at the very top of the family tree.

    Ryan has established himself as a different sort of head coach by speaking brashly and by giving his players and assistants a remarkable amount of self-control over their fiefdoms. That's been a welcome breath of fresh air, but Sunday's game should have shown Ryan that there are times when he must be the same kind of overriding force as Bill Belichick and Sean Payton, to name a couple of coaches with rings.

    That means telling Steve Weatherford that his green light to fake a punt is revoked on 4th-and-15 from your own 20. It means telling Brad Smith that it doesn't matter if he thinks he was down before fumbling. It means weighing the big picture before challenging a play with very little upside for the Jets. And, more than anything else, it means doing everything in your power to make sure that your team plays the way you want it to play.

    "I would've liked to have seen our balance be a little more run than pass, but we were in a situation where we were playing from behind a lot," Ryan said.

    The Jets were behind three points for most of the afternoon, which is hardly enough to make you abandon the run when you've been preaching the benefits of a "Ground and Pound" offense since taking the job. There was no reason for the Jets to go so pass-happy, no reason for them to call trick plays when going straight up was working, and no reason for the offense to fall into predictable rhythms that negated the vast advantages that come with their plethora of weapons on offense.

    Teams are allowed mulligans, even ones as ugly as the Jets turned in on Sunday, so long as they take the lessons from those games and use them to be better in the future. It's up to Rex to make sure those lessons are learned by everyone up to and including the man in charge.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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