Quarterback-coach tandems are easy to spot both on the field and in football lore.
Even casual sports fans know the names: Landry-Staubach, Noll-Bradshaw, Walsh-Montana and Belichick-Brady, to name just a few.
Other player-coach tandems are certainly less headline worthy and harder to identify or quantify – unless armed with the illuminating Cold, Hard Football Facts Quality Stats, which highlight the beating heart of statistical storylines like thermal imaging goggles of the gridiron.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan and defender Darrelle Revis are one of those impactful coach-player tandems – or were one of them, until the disgruntled cornerback was traded to the Buccaneers Sunday for the No. 13 overall pick in the 2013 draft and a conditional pick in 2014.
In the immediate future, the Jets are worse today than they were yesterday. The long-term picture is harder to gauge. But right here right now, Gang Green is a team that will struggle badly to win games in 2013.
Most notably, they’re a team with huge issues at quarterback.
Anchored down largely by the embarrassingly bad play of Mark Sanchez, and further tethered to mediocrity by an organization that led an empirically more effective player rot on the bench, the Jets finished No. 30 last year in Real Quarterback Rating (57.5).
In a day and age in which elite quarterbacks account for three or more TDs for every turnover, the Jets last year got just 14 total TDs out of the position against 28 turnovers – low-lighted by Sanchez’s infamous butt fumble against the Patriots, one of the most embarrassing bloopers in NFL history and a symbol of the team's season.
Coupled with the fact that Revis missed 14 of 16 games, it made for a disappointing season even by the largely disappointing history of the New York Jets.
Now both Ryan and Revis face an uncertain future, and one can only wonder how the player and coach needed each other.
Let's start with the impact of Revis, which has been hard to ignore.
He was drafted by the Jets No. 14 overall in 2007 and immediately drew raves as one of the best defenders in the game.
But it wasn’t until bombastic Ryan arrived on the scene in 2009 that the Jets became a formidable defense and that Revis became the deadly shutdown corner who lorded over "Revis Island" like his own little Polynesian empire of pigskin.
Ryan's aggressive coaching and play-calling style, coupled with Revis’s spectacular coverage skills, made for an instantly intimidating defense.
Here’s a look at New York's largely mediocre defense in 2008, Revis’s second season, and the deadly unit in 2009, Ryan’s first season as coach.
Defensive Passer Rating
Defensive Real Pass YPA
Passing Yards Allowed
Pass TDs allowed
lost AFC title game
The improvement was pretty dramatic. The 8 TD passes allowed by the Jets in 2009 is one of the more spectacular hidden stats in all of sports in recent history -- nearly one-third the total allowed by the average team that year. Keep in mind the Ryan-Revis Jets played a full one-quarter of the schedule that year against Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.
The 2009 Jets, in fact, fielded what was probably the best pass defense in franchise history: the team record is in fact held (naturally) by the Super Bowl III champ Jets of 1968 (52.4 Defensive Passer Rating) – no coincidence to those who understand the importance of our Quality Stats.
But relative to the context of their times, the 58.8 Defensive Passer Rating in the Live Ball Season of 2009 was a bit more impressive than a 52.4 DPR in the Dead Ball Season of 1968.
Clearly, by any measure, a Ryan defense anchored by Revis was an impressive unit, and certainly the best in the NFL in 2009.
New York’s defense was never quite as good after 2009. Here’s the team’s Defensive Passer Rating each year of the Revis Era:
But it was still good enough to keep the Jets competitive despite the team’s huge liabilities at quarterback. In fact, it’s fairly impressive the Jets won even six games last year with arguably the worst quarterback in football.
The 2012 Jets were a six-win team with a one-win quarterback.
The defense was also close to its best in the two games in which Revis was able to contribute last year.
The Jets picked off three passes and held Buffalo to a 66.5 Defensive Passer Rating in a 48-28 win over the Bills in Week 1.
Revis made his second and final appearance against the Dolphins in Week 3: the Jets held on for a 23-20 victory highlighted by LaRon Landry’s 18-yard pick-six, while holding rookie QB Ryan Tannehill and the Miami offense to a passer rating of 50.2.
Like we said, the Jets are not as good today as they were yesterday – sobering news for what is a 6-10 team until further notice in September.
But there are plenty of question marks, too, for both the Bucs and the Jets:
Will “Revis Island” rule the Tampa defense like he did the New York defense? Is he fully recovered from his injuries? Will the Jets themselves land a newer, younger model shutdown corner in the draft?
And finally, was Revis a good player who became a great player because of Rex Ryan’s leadership?
The statistical evidence certainly indicates that he became the player we know today when Ryan arrived, the loud-mouth who does in fact know how to coach up defenders despite his cartoon-character quality. But Ryan probably looked better as a coach because he had such a brilliant young player around which to build his defense.
We may find soon that Revis and Ryan were better together than they will be apart.