Mehta: Jets’ meltdown in San Diego marks new low point in Rex Ryan era

PAUL BUCK/EPA Mike Vick proves to be no better than Geno Smith as nothing goes right for the Jets on Sunday.

SAN DIEGO — The Jets ruined a sun-soaked Southern California Sunday afternoon with the kind of dumpster fire that you’ll be telling your grandkids about one day from a green-and-white rocking chair.

The tale will surely include colorful metaphors along with some more suitable-for-print language such as inept, embarrassing, punchless and horrific.

Rex Ryan’s team was a special kind of bad in a humiliating 31-0 loss to the Chargers that exposed many warts — such as an overmatched quarterback, moth-ridden secondary and general lack of good football players.

The coach shouldered 100% of the blame for the meltdown, but he wasn’t fooling anyone. The Jets are a wretched mess thanks to inept roster building, putrid execution and middling talent.

“It was a complete ass whuppin’,” Ryan said, trying to take the bullet for the guys upstairs in suits and the guys in the locker room in shoulder pads. “And it was me that was getting my ass kicked.”

Ryan and his players cling to the fading hope that they can magically reverse course at 1-4 and be a viable playoff contender this season, but the painful truth is that it’s not going to happen. The Chargers treated the Jets like the Brooklyn Bolts of the fledging FXFL, overpowering the visitors in every imaginable way.

The ineptitude was far-reaching.

“We got to do a lot of soul- searching,” Mike Vick said.

The Jets offense didn’t cross midfield until midway through the fourth quarter en route to racking up a grand total of 150 yards (half coming during fourth-quarter garbage time). Geno Smith (4-for-12, 27 yards, INT and 7.6 QB rating), who missed team meetings on Saturday, according to a source familiar with the situation, looked lost before getting yanked at halftime. Vick (8-for-19, 47 yards, 49.7 QB rating) didn’t quite provide the second-half spark that Ryan had hoped for.

“Everything was a blur,” wide receiver Jeremy Kerley said. “You look at the score and it’s like, ‘Wow.’ ”

On a day when the expectations for the offense hovered somewhere between low and center-of-the-Earth, Ryan’s beloved defense never looked worse to ensure the first four-game losing streak since he rolled into town oozing with confidence five years ago.

The Jets allowed three 90-yard touchdown drives — 306 total yards in the first half — to dig an insurmountable 21-0 hole. Even the league’s top-rated run defense cracked, turning fourth-string running back Branden Oliver (182 total yards, two TDs) into LaDainian Tomlinson without warning.

Linebacker Demario Davis admitted that “right now we’re not practicing like a championship football team” and that “I don’t feel like guys are not putting a lot of effort into film,” which, frankly, is unacceptable.

There were defensive breakdowns everywhere — from poor execution to blown blitzes — for the better part of 3 hours, 11 minutes. “It was a combo platter,” Ryan said.

Ryan somehow masked similar deficiencies to win eight games last season, but the magic has worn off. “We have enough talent here,” Ryan said.


There’s nowhere close to sufficient talent on this team to be a viable playoff contender. Then again, general manager John Idzik, the “architect” of the last-place roster, already knew that.

Ryan is a master motivator, but inspiring pregame speeches can only stretch so far. Sooner or later, he needs enough talented players to win. The problems won’t disappear when Ryan wakes up Monday morning or the following 12 Monday mornings.

There are only so many ways to make chicken salad out of less-than-desirable ingredients.

The Jets need a franchise quarterback, at least two cornerbacks, two receivers, a pass rusher and an interior offensive lineman or two. Other than that, everything is perfectly fine.

Ryan said he’s sticking with Smith as his starter next week against the high-octane Broncos, but that’s only a temporary fix. That guy isn’t the answer.

With each poor performance, the picture becomes clearer: The Jets must find another quarterback this offseason.

Smith looks on from the ground after getting his helmet knocked off.Donald Miralle/Getty Images Smith looks on from the ground after getting his helmet knocked off.

“It was definitely a pathetic showing on my part,” said Smith, who has thrown an interception in 17 of 21 career games. “I didn’t help out at any point of the game.”

Although Smith was far from the only culprit on Sunday — there were unofficially 52 other guys that deserved to get benched as well — Ryan has a serious issue at the most important position in the sport. Vick looked, uh, rusty in relief.

The secondary was consistent. Philip Rivers (20-for-28, 288 yards, 3 TDs and 125.3 QB rating) took turns burning everyone not named Dee Milliner in the defensive backfield.

The Jets also committed 12 penalties to add to the heartache. The smart money is that the issues are too great to fix over the next 13 weeks, but the few frustrated players in the losing locker room still say they can climb out of this cavernous hole.

“We got to,” defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson said. “We better. We don’t have a choice. Otherwise, there’s probably going to be some changes.”

Ryan knows that better than anyone. Time is running out three weeks before Halloween.

Now that’s downright scary.

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