It's test time for Rex Ryan

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:38 PM ET

TORONTO - Rex Ryan has talked a pretty good game. He’s a champion trash talker. Controversy sits on him like stink on a skunk.

He’s superb at filling a reporter’s notebook and from a media standpoint he’s the best thing to hit New York football since Joe Namath opened his mouth.

He makes great TV. But it is now, as the maelstrom of ineffective performances, bonehead coaching moves, and resentment and division within the team threaten to put this season into the dumper, when we find out if he is also a great coach.

Storm clouds are gathering over the NFL’s good-time boy. Or, depending on how one looks at this stuff, the NFL’s loudest, most obnoxious, overbearing, boisterous bully-boy.

Ryan’s reputation goes deep. Strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi tripped Miami cornerback Nolan Carroll as he ran out of bounds on punt coverage during the Jets’ 10-6 loss. It’s under review by the team and the league. But Dolphins’ linebacker Karlos Dansby said, the dangerous, unsportsmanlike action is symptomatic of Ryan’s teams:

“He’s just taking after the head coach, man. It all trickles downhill,” Dansby told reporters. “That’s how I look at it, it trickles downhill. The head coach, he opened a can of worms over there and now he’s got to fix it.”

Carroll did come back to play after being helped off the field. But the incident shows a total lack of class.

“They’re cheaters,” Dolphins inside linebacker Channing Crowder said. “They do what they do. They cheat. They talk junk ... (Alosi) should be ashamed of himself. A grown man from the coaching staff? That’s high character.”

Ryan has painted himself and the Jets as renegades with a cause: Super Bowl or bust. In the process he has set his team up as a target for the rest of the league. And, the rest of the league is starting to land some punches.

First was the embarrassing wipeout to New England, then the loss to a mediocre Miami team. With back-to-back road games in Pittsburgh and Chicago — combined record: 19-7— the reeling Jets could be looking at a four-game losing streak. They might sneak into the playoffs, thanks to a two-game lead in the wild-card race, but the glowing promise of a special season looks to be gone.

When Ryan showed up for his post-game press conference a mob of about 250 hecklers outside the glass-enclosed structure chanted “Fire Shotty!” in reference to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. That dissension seems to run deeper than just the fan base. Ryan sounded like he wanted to be out there shouting with them: “The fact that we haven’t scored a touchdown two weeks in a row … . The play calling is what it is,” Ryan said. “We’ll take a hard look at what we’re doing.”

In the Miami debacle, LaDainian Tomlinson looked creaky, the offensive line was slow and sloppy, and quarterback Mark Sanchez looked lost. When he did find a receiver there were six drops, including three in the fourth quarter. Santonio Holmes dropped a ball in the end zone. And, when it was over the Jets’ defence was grumbling about Ryan pointing a finger at them — even after holding the Dolphins to 131 yards and six first downs.

“According to Rex we played [bleepy],” defensive end Shaun Ellis told the New York Post. “He said we weren’t good enough. I guess we needed a shutout. I guess that’s what he was talking about.”

Traditionally, December and January have not been kind to the Jets. And, it’s starting to look a lot like Christmas again in Jetsville. Braylon Edwards, who was targeted only twice and barged out of the locker room in a huff, saying: “We got our asses whupped. Period. End of story.”

But this humbug isn’t that simple. Ryan created this team in his own image. He breathed life into it and only he can resuscitate it.

“I’m very concerned,” a subdued Ryan said.

He should be. His team. His career. His reputation: Much of it will be coloured by what he does in the next month. The Jets’ season, Ryan’s philosophy, his craftsmanship, hang in the crucible.

Quick Hits

Bills receiver Lee Evans (ankle) likely is done for the rest of the season and definitely won’t play Sunday. He has career lows in catches with 37 and receiving yards (578) ... Bengals placed SS Chinedum Ndukwe (knee) on injured reserve, ending his season with 60 tackles, one pick, and one sack in 12 games ... With the Broncos season in shambles at 3-10, fans are clamouring to see rookie Tim Tebow but interim coach Eric Studesville said Monday that Kyle Orton will remain the No. 1 QB ... Eagles defensive end Brandon is done for the season with a torn ACL while linebacker Stewart Bradley has a dislocated elbow and is out indefinitely ... Redskins safety LaRon Landry, the team’s best defensive player at times this year, has been placed on injured reserve with an Achilles tendon injury.


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