Rex Ryan should cherish the time he spends with Darrelle Revis in the next 10 days as the Jets open their offseason conditioning program Monday. Their days together are likely dwindling to a precious few.
Of course, you should never trade your best player unless you somehow get something like Dallas got for Herschel Walker from Minnesota (three No. 1s, three No. 2s, among other things) and that is never going to happen again unless it involves a franchise quarterback in his prime.
The draft is one week from Thursday and there’s a good chance Revis will be with the Bucs by the time Tampa’s 13th pick in the first round comes up with the expectation that it will be the Jets on the clock following the trade. There are reports the Jets will also get the Bucs’ third- and sixth-round picks.
The Jets have no intention on signing Revis to a new contract - that’s where they have gone off course - and will lose him for nothing as a free agent in 2014. Considering he’s coming off an ACL tear and Tampa is the only team showing interest, GM John Idzik will be making the best of a bad situation if he gets those three picks from the Bucs.
This is not good news for Ryan. No coach ever wants to lose his best player, especially when he’s a rare commodity - the best shutdown corner in a league where every rule is made to benefit the passing game - and especially when the coach is No. 1 on the endangered list going into the 2013 season.
Ryan is in an impossible position: Idzik has gutted the Jets after their 6-10 season and plans to fix them and the salary cap by rebuilding through the draft, and for now, with cheap free agents. At least a dozen Jets starters from last year have signed elsewhere or will not be back.
This season has the potential to do a tremendous amount of damage to Ryan’s reputation and ability to get another head coaching job. He was retained after last season for two reasons: Jets owner Woody Johnson truly does like him. And, he has two years at about $3 million per season left on his contract, and paying off Ryan and his staff would have been costly.
Ryan remaining as Jets coach in 2013 was a condition of employment in the general manager search. At first, that seemed like a negative for Idzik, but as one NFL source outlined last week, having Ryan around to take the heat as Idzik implements his program, will work to the GM’s advantage.
“Rex provides cover for one year,” the source said. “It’s almost like having a shield. You can do what you need to do and the guy who is going to get the arrows is Rex. He is an easy target. John can stay behind the scenes like the Wizard of Oz.”
If Johnson had fired Ryan, then all the attention and pressure would be on Idzik for fielding a team with expansion-level talent. Instead, the season will be dominated by stories about Ryan’s job status as Idzik keeps a low profile. Then, if things go badly, Ryan will get fired and Idzik will hire his own coach.
“The Jets are in a hole and need to get to the ground floor,” the source said.
Eight coaches were fired after last season and Philly’s Andy Reid was the only one to get another head coaching job. Reid was hired by the Chiefs less than one week after he was fired by the Eagles despite a 4-12 season. Reid built up enough good will in his 14 years in Philadelphia with five NFC title games and one Super Bowl appearance that the Eagles’ collapse last year was not held against him.
Ryan has one year remaining on his contract. After the season, Johnson/Idzik will either extend him or fire him. Unless Ryan makes the playoffs, I think he’s gone. Then Ryan is really going to be in a tough spot. It’s one thing for the Chiefs to be able to sell their fans on Reid after a 4-12 season, but Ryan will be a tough sell for any owner if he is coming off three non-playoff seasons, and with the perception that he has run a dysfunctional shop. Ryan might have been better off getting fired after last season to avoid the 2013 Jets being on his resume.
If he gets fired, he may have to take a step down to coordinator and restore his reputation as an assistant, which is how Bill Belichick worked his way back to being a head coach after he was fired in Cleveland, or he will have options in television, where his reputation as a loose cannon will play well.
Idzik is trying to get the mess Mike Tannenbaum left him straightened out, even if it gets ugly in 2013. Ryan needs to win to stick around past this season. It won’t help that Revis is about to be the next to go.