Let's face it, Jets are a M-E-S-S

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The coach who guaranteed a Super Bowl last season, who once gave his team a playoff itinerary that included a victory parade and who recently said his current team is the best he's had ... well, that coach is gone.

Rex Ryan stood before the cameras and the world Wednesday, trying to convince everybody the giant package of adversity that was overnighted and dropped on his doorstep won't change his expectations for the New York Jets.

Ryan tried hard, but this was a tough sell. Truth be told, there seemed to be cracks in his once-famous bravado. He talked about last Sunday's debacle, and how it was a case of Murphy's Law, insisting he will lean on the resilience of the players in these dark times.

Then he said, "We may get beat again, but I will never question the character of the men we have in our locker room."

The words sounded incongruous coming from Ryan: We may get beat again -- meaning Monday night by the undefeated Houston Texans. Maybe it was a momentary slip, but maybe Brash Rex has been replaced by Realistic Rex.

Who can blame him?

Let's be honest: It looks bleak for the Jets.

In a span of nine days, they lost their best offensive player, Santonio Holmes, and their best defensive player, Darrelle Revis. They're in the early stages of a quarterback controversy. They can't run. They can't stop the run. They got embarrassed at home by the San Francisco 49ers, beaten so badly that they couldn't fire back Wednesday at Carlos Rogers, who accused them of quitting.

"We didn't do too much on the field to prove otherwise," linebacker Aaron Maybin said.

This is the biggest crisis of Ryan's mostly prosperous time with the Jets. It will take one of the all-time coaching jobs to get this team where it wants to go, which is deep into January.

Reaching for positives, Ryan reminded everybody about the time in 2009, his first season, when the Jets lost nose tackle Kris Jenkins and all-purpose dynamo Leon Washington in back-to-back weeks. They still made the playoffs, made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game, becoming the first team in history to reach the postseason after two three-game losing streaks.

Now that was impressive. But here's the thing: They replaced Jenkins with a proven veteran, Sione Po'uha, and they replaced Washington with rookie Shonn Greene, who did his best running that year.

Where are those kinds of guys now?

The receiving corps is so depleted that the longest-tenured wideout is Jeremy Kerley, a grizzled veteran of 20 career games. On Wednesday, the Jets signed journeyman Jason Hill, who was wrapping up a tryout Tuesday with the New Orleans Saints when he got a message from his agent to head to New York -- ASAP.

On Monday night, the Jets could be using a patchwork lineup that includes an off-the-street fullback (Lex Hilliard), a waiver-pickup wide receiver (Clyde Gates) and a former practice-squad tight end (Jeff Cumberland).

The replacement refs are gone. Now we have the replacement Jets.

Good luck, Mark Sanchez.

For different reasons, the defense might be a bigger concern than the offense. The Revis injury is a huge hit, no doubt, but that's not an alibi for lousy run defense. The Jets allowed 245 rushing yards and missed 17 tackles against the 49ers -- "Ridiculous," safety Yeremiah Bell said.

"My team can't play like that," Ryan said. "That's not who we are."

The Jets were able to turn it around in '09 because they had two things to lean on -- a dominant running game and a suffocating defense. Right now, those things are only fond memories.

Ryan will do some tinkering, you can count on that, but don't expect any wholesale changes. When it was suggested that radical changes and a nothing-to-lose attitude might be the way to go, Ryan said: "Last I checked, we're on top of our division, so we have a lot to lose."

They're on top of the AFC East, all right. But they also could be tied for last by the end of Week 5. The landscape changes quickly in the NFL. One twist and one tear have pushed the Jets to the brink.