Filip Bondy is a columnist for the New York Daily News.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — You want to join the pitchfork posse and blame this whole mess on John Idzik, go right ahead. He’s not the most personable fellow, he’s the one who hitched his wagon to Geno Smith, and you’ll have plenty of company — including the fans waving the yellow towels Sunday in the stands and the ones flying flags outside MetLife Stadium.
But really, there comes a time when the Jets’ coaching staff must take its share of blame for what can only be called truly stupid football. It wasn’t Idzik who called for Smith’s deep drop on third-and-4 at the Pats’ 24, when the Jets were within an easy field goal of taking the lead late in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t Idzik who then iced his own kicker by messing up the play clock and line assignments, calling a hectic timeout.
Finally, it wasn’t Idzik who allowed Calvin Pryor and Dawan Landry to knock Brandon Bolden out of bounds after the Patriot back already had a first down with 1:41 left in the game. At that juncture, the Jets should have let Bolden score, their last, remote chance.
This, in the end, is on Rex Ryan, who once again designed a wonderful defensive scheme to trouble Tom Brady and then ignored a lot of game-management details that made the difference. You want to know what makes Bill Belichick such an uncommon success? He doesn’t miss those details. He sees the whole field, both sides of the ball. He sees the clock, figures the odds. It’s not just about Brady with him.
So Ryan exits East Rutherford for good, in all likelihood, with a final boast and a final defeat. He exits as a fine defensive coordinator, a wonderful guy, and a flawed head coach.
“We’re always the team that gives [Brady] the greatest challenge, whether he admits it or not,” Ryan said. “We play different than most teams in the league.”
Brady doesn’t have to admit anything, not after the Patriots beat Ryan for the ninth time in 13 meetings. There always seem to be these big moments in games, and Ryan’s staff does not often put his players in position to succeed in those moments.
Marty Mornhinweg warned Smith not to take the sack, and after the game Ryan said, “You can’t take a sack in that situation.” But they both should know Smith’s limitations, and that New England would bring big pressure on that down. This was the time for a draw, or simply a running play that would center the ball between the hash marks for Nick Folk.
Instead, Smith was overwhelmed, in every sense of that word. “I didn’t have a chance for an outlet,” he said. The 10-yard loss turned a 42-yard field goal into a 52-yarder, and then the Jets appeared completely confused about what to do next.
“We took a little time to decide what we’re gonna do,” said Folk, after the kick was blocked by Vince Wilfork. “We didn’t have confidence with the line at the 34. That’s where the confusion took place.”
The kick was tipped, as is fairly common with low-trajectory, 52-yard attempts. Then New England came down and ran out the clock, because the Jets couldn’t stop them and then were too dumb to let Bolden score.
Some of this is on Idzik, sure. He helped put together this team with a relatively low football IQ. But some perspective is in order. Idzik was hired less than two years ago. Ryan has been around for five years; he’s assembled his staff. He should know better in so many ways.
Out in Section L-15 of the parking lot Sunday, that’s what a fan, Ken Baal from Centereach, N.Y., was saying, a lonely voice in the void. Baal was flying a green “Keep Patient” flag above his white van, and he might have been the only guy out there who would tell you Idzik was getting a bum rap.
The Jets general manager is catching a lot of the blame from fans for the team’s 3-12 season.
“I’ve never heard of fans calling for a general manager to be fired,” Baal said. “Usually, they don’t even know who the general manager is. I think he’s made some good moves. There’s enough talent on offense and defense not to go 3-12. I have to blame the coaching staff. You gonna tell me that two cornerbacks doomed the whole team?”
The cornerbacks were just fine on Sunday. Everything was just fine until the biggest moments, when the game slipped away again from Ryan. When he and Mornhinweg botched their own goodbye.