You can be a players' coach, but you must not lose the coach aspect of the description. Rex has been valued throughout the league as the consummate players' coach, and, tracing the string of missteps and failures of the past two years, he's lost the authoritative side of the equation. This is a gigantic problem.
Examples of his decline can be found on both sides of the ball. Even a casual fan would notice the decrepit linebacker corps getting burnt every game by any level of running back, but little to nothing has been done to correct the problem. Santonio Holmes throws a hissy fit like a petulant teenager, but his punishment is a momentary benching. Braylon Edwards gets a DWI during the season and misses the first quarter. Eric Smith continually fails in coverage and blows the Denver game last year; he's the "cerebral leader" of the defense.
There is loyalty, and then there's blind loyalty, someone covering their ears and trying to drown out the loud and the obvious.
With Mark Sanchez, Rex might as well have buried his entire body under sand. Sanchez has the quarterback ability and the job security of a tenured college professor. He continually exhibits a lack of development from his rookie season, a disregard for ball security, and maddeningly levels of inconsistency. Yet, through his career, he has never been truly tested or challenged for the starting gig.
Mark Brunell was a husk of his former self, riding out the end of a career. We all remember dear old forgettable Kellen Clemens. Tim Tebow, a business decision masquerading as a football move, is the most popular and least plausible backup quarterback in league history. Today, Greg McElroy is the newest "threat" to the throne, a college success story with limited pro experience but the always enjoyable hidden upside of the unknown backup. He has every right to the job, but he will never enjoy a legitimate shot.
Sanchez has played his way out of this job since the end of last season. The weight of his contract, and the blind optimistic faith of Rex, have kept him as the starter regardless of the results. I understand the economics of this decision, as the contract restructuring leaves the Jets with a large cap hold in 2013. However, I worry that the sheer inability to punish mistakes, to remain accountable, will doom Rex and the Jets as he's the leader of the team. Sanchez offends the team on two fronts. One, his continued position as starter creates the idea that the way you play has no impact on your playing time. Two, this continued position makes Sanchez out as the coach favorite, a pretty accurate term and one that shows misplaced support for a flawed player.
If Rex wants to maintain any sort of integrity, with the team and with the fanbase, he must be accountable. Clinging to Sanchez may save his job in the interim, but it will cost him his team and the fanbase. Loyalty to an expensive flop is not loyalty to the success of the team. Rex should use a short leash and pull Sanchez at any mishap. Play McElroy, Davis, Coples, and all the young guys. Believe that you can sell Woody on the young guys, the development of the rookies and second-year players. Ultimately, wake up and realize that Sanchez is merely one player on your entire team. Stop treating him like the only reason you have a job, and stop believing that starting him is the only reason you'd keep your job.
Be accountable for the first time in your Jets tenure. Be a players' coach for all the players, not just the expensive quarterback.