Rex Ryan has spent a lot of time as a punching bag this season, but he deserves a little bit of vindication after Sunday's 17-10 win over the Jaguars lifted the Jets' record to 6-7.
All year long, Ryan insisted that the Jets weren't as bad as they looked whenever they looked like one of the worst teams in the NFL. It led to guffaws and the Jets did their best to make Ryan sound like a liar, but Ryan might just get the last laugh.
They certainly aren't a good team, but they also aren't awful and they definitely haven't thrown in the towel on the season. If you squint your eye just enough and imagine a healthy Darrelle Revis, Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller, it's almost possible to see a situation where the Jets are comfortably in the playoffs at this point in the season.
We're well aware that's not how things work and even more aware that the Jets have only what any reasonable person would deem a snowball's chance in hell of actually making the playoffs, but it does seem Ryan's read was a bit more correct than others might have allowed. The Jets, for all their flaws, are just a game out of the playoffs with three games left against teams who have achieved even less than the Jets.
These developments are not without its downside. More than ever before, it is clear that the Jets' failure to develop a competent solution at quarterback is going to hold this team back from achieving what might have been in their grasp with someone better under center.
There's no point in rehashing four years of Mark Sanchez's career because you need only remember that the team could wind up one win short of the playoffs for the second straight year and that Sanchez has turned the ball over 45 times since the start of last season. The Jets coached around their quarterback on Sunday, something that worked while also making you wonder why they stick with a guy who you have to protect against hurting you in his fourth year as a starter.
Ryan might have been right about the big picture, but he's been dead wrong about Sanchez. Here's the rest of the good, bad and ugly of the Jets win.
GOOD: Even when you account for the lack of quality of the competition, the Jets defense should feel good about allowing just 16 points over the last two weeks. Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples and Garrett McIntyre all made big plays, raising some hope that the team's defense will return to its past heights sooner rather than later.
BAD: Sanchez wasn't good -- will he ever learn to protect the ball? -- but it's getting harder and harder to find anyone who could actually threaten defenses in the passing game. Stephen Hill's injury left the team with Jeremy Kerley, Jeff Cumberland and a few guys they found playing catch while tailgating before the game.
UGLY: However dark things have gotten for the Jets, they can take solace in the fact that they aren't the Jaguars. Injuries have ravaged the team, but there's a serious talent shortage all over the field in Jacksonville.
GOOD: Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell won't challenge for the top of the list of the great backfield duos in the NFL, but they were highly effective on their way to 155 yards Sunday. This is the offense the Jets want to be, although it will only work against horrid teams like Jacksonville because the lack of a passing threat will kill them against decent opposition.
BAD: The Jets chose to go with Tim Tebow as Sanchez's backup with Greg McElroy inactive on Sunday, but didn't play Tebow in any packages. Ryan said it was because they needed to keep an extra running back active because Joe McKnight was having a migraines, an explanation that only makes sense if McElroy was active because he's the only guy they've shown they trust to play quarterback other than Sanchez. It was more likely a way to make Sanchez feel less threatened, something that is patently ridiculous for a player at this point of his career.
GOOD: The playoff chances may still be of the pipe dream variety and the Jets may still be a roster with more holes than strengths, but there's at least a reason to watch the final games of the season. That's better than a lot of the awful Jets seasons of the past and offers something to chew on about what the future might hold for the Jets.