When Darrelle Revis lay on the turf at Sun Life Stadium Sunday clutching his knee in pain, the worst fears of New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan were being realized. But in a strange twist, the season ending injury to the star cornerback may in fact have been a blessing in disguise for the bombastic Ryan, whose bold predictions of Super Bowl victories in the past have helped to fuel high expectations for the Jets.
Now in his 4th season with the Jets, Ryan's teams have failed to live up to those expectations, coming close in 2009 and 2010 by reaching the AFC Championship Game, but failing to make the playoffs in 2011. In most cities, that would be enough to ensure some level of job security, but not in New York, where the success of their rivals, the 4-time champion Giants and the 3-time champion Patriots, casts a very long shadow.
After missing the playoffs in 2011 with a disappointing 8-8 record, and amid admissions that he may have lost the pulse of last year's team, Ryan is under pressure to return the Jets to relevance in the AFC East. However, with a deeply flawed offense and a lack of leadership, it didn't appear that there was enough firepower to match, must less improve on last years disappointing campaign.
That's where the Revis injury helps Ryan. Should the Jets struggle to a 6 or 7 win season, Rex can point to the loss of the key player on the key unit of his team as the primary reason for their failure to make the postseason.
Revis is the best and most impactful player on the Jets roster. His presence allows Ryan to be much more aggressive on defense, rolling coverage, bringing safeties in on run support, and committing more players to their generally ineffective pass rush.
Revis' impact on the game is felt on the offensive side of the ball as well. The Jets prefer to run their "Ground and Pound" offense, minimizing the limitations of QB Mark Sanchez; it's an offense designed to win close, physical contests, not shootouts. The offense is just not equipped to open up their attack to compensate for a defense that becomes suddenly ordinary without Revis.
While it's true that the Revis injury will be deeply felt on both sides of the ball, the Jets were at best an 8 or 9 win team with a healthy Revis in the line-up, and most likely on the outside looking in at the AFC Playoff picture. That's not enough to get Ryan fired, but it would have certainly placed him (and GM Mike Tannenbaum) firmly on the hot seat entering 2013. However, with the Revis injury excuse, a 9 win season may now be viewed not as a disappointment, but more as a coaching triumph, giving Ryan one more season to deliver on his Super Bowl promise.