Neil Cohen
Author

Rex Ryan Should Keep His Job

Dec 26, 2013 1:28 PM EST

Some of the focus before last Sunday’s Jets game was on Rex Ryan’s job status, with players from rookie Geno Smith to veteran Willie Colon talking how they hoped the coach would stay past this season. 

That focus increased when reports, led by Fox’s Jay Glazer, leaked how Ryan had said before the 24-13 win over Cleveland that he believed the organization had started to look for his replacement and his five-year reign would end after this week’s game against Miami.

When Ryan was named as Jets head coach, he was a brash presence, much different than the man he replaced, Belichick-wanna be-Eric Mangini. Ryan spoke of having a Super Bowl parade by the time President Obama left office, how he wasn’t going to kiss Belichick’s rings. He was brash and bold and a star when the Jets were featured on “Hard Knocks.” That changed after the humbling 2012 season; he will still talk but there have been no more Super Bowl predictions.

But should Ryan be let go? After bringing the Jets to the AFC title game in his first two seasons, the team has failed to qualify for the postseason the past three. However, his career record is 41-38 and a win against Miami would return the favor from two years ago when the Dolphins knocked the Jets out of the playoffs. The Jets would finish with an 8-8 record, which means Ryan would have just one losing season on his resume.

That came last year, when the Jets collapsed at the end to finish 6-10, between the disastrous Tim Tebow signing and injuries to Santonio Holmes and Darrelle Revis. 

After the season, general manager Mike Tannenbaum was fired and John Idzik was hired, but Ryan was kept. Everyone figured it was a shotgun marriage and only a playoff spot would save him with a team in a definite rebuilding phase. Idzik has been quiet about Ryan’s status and his main supporter, owner Woody Johnson, hasn’t said much either. 

On Monday, when Ryan was asked if Idzik or Johnson approached him about the team meeting, Ryan said, “Our focus, what we talk about is getting ready to play against the Dolphins. That’s really where the conversations have been. After you play a game, you talk about the game that you just played, what was positive, what was negative, how we can improve. Those are the things that you focus on and then right away it gets to the next week’s opponent. That’s where the conversations have been.”

Even if the Jets lose to Miami, there are many reasons to keep Ryan. A 7-9 record when many predicted a four-win season is quite an achievement. The team’s talent was compared to an expansion squad, and that was before quarterback Mark Sanchez was lost for the year after getting injured in a meaningless preseason game (although Ryan has to take part of the blame for that).

Ryan had to deal with a rookie quarterback for the second time, one who had even less playmakers than Sanchez had in 2009. Smith showed what he could do against the Browns, completing 20 of 36 passes for 214 yards, two touchdowns and most importantly wasn’t picked off or sacked. The running game has improved, but the team has no game breakers anywhere on the offense. If Ryan goes, that might also spell the end for offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, which would make four coordinators in four years.

Ryan’s specialty is defense, and the Jets, with Muhammed Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, have the makings of a dominant front line. Even cornerback Dee Milliner showed some flashes of why he was a first-round pick.

One strike against him is the team has seemed undisciplined at times, with the 20-penalty game against Buffalo. They have made a whopping 52 presnap penalties this season. Also, the team faded two seasons ago and struggled this year after getting to 5-4.

But the most important thing in his favor is Ryan hasn’t lost the players (except maybe professional malcontent Holmes) or the fans. 

"I love the guy to death,'' Colon said in an article by Newsday’s Kimberly Martin last week. "I love his passion. I love his heart. I think if he doesn't come back, it will be a step back for us as a team.''

Players still go all out for him and haven’t tuned him out in the locker room. While every other coach from Joe Walton to Mangini got chants for their ouster, there have been few boos directed Ryan’s way.

While that might not be reason to keep a coach, there are other reasons. Idzik would probably want to replace Ryan with a more offensive-minded coach, but there aren’t any big names out there. Hiring a defensive guru would make no sense, since you have one of the best leading the team. If Ryan was let go, it would be a short time before another team would hire him as a defensive coordinator.

Unless there is some sharp offensive mind out there who can turn things around right away, the Jets might as well stay the course with Ryan. Unless Idzik wants to bring in his own man. Then the question is why did he keep Ryan around for this season?

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