Woody Johnson and John Idzik have marginalized Rex Ryan this offseason, turning the once brash head coach into a muted version of his former self.
The Jets’ owner and new general manager maintain that every offseason move has been a “Jet decision,” which apparently requires only two-thirds approval to pass.
Nobody believes that Ryan endorsed the Darrelle Revis trade to the Buccaneers over the weekend, no matter how hard the coach tried to justify it with a disjointed explanation on Sunday night.
Ryan, more savvy than stupid, has one life raft to help extend his tenure with the Jets beyond 2013: He should try to convince his bosses that Gang Green must draft a quarterback with one of the team’s two first-round picks (Nos. 9 and 13) in the NFL draft on Thursday night.
Ryan escaped the ax after missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season, partly because Johnson owes him between $6 million and $7 million on the two remaining years of his deal.
The coach called it a “new beginning” for him in January. He’s also strategically distanced himself from Mark Sanchez, whom he once declared would be the starting quarterback for as long as he was in charge.
If Idzik doesn’t draft a quarterback, Ryan will almost certainly be fired after the season unless the Jets make the playoffs or, at the very least, show marked improvement from their 6-10 showing in 2012. By the looks of one of the most anemic rosters in the league on paper, neither scenario is likely.
So, Ryan’s self-preservation plan should include selling the same vision he had four years ago with Sanchez: Build a team around a rookie quarterback.
Ryan would buy himself more time.
Would Johnson realistically expect Ryan to take another rookie quarterback to the playoffs like he did in 2009, when the Jets snuck into the postseason thanks to the Colts’ late-season generosity? Probably not.
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Ryan would be safe for at least two more years if the Jets draft a quarterback on Thursday night.
Ryan’s new signal caller would be his coach’s life raft. Ryan would likely get at least a one-year extension out of it after the 2013 season (to prevent him from being a true lame duck entering 2014).
The Jets would be tacitly endorsing Ryan if they select a signal caller with one of their top two picks, believing that the coach should start the second phase of his coaching tenure with the organization with a rookie quarterback.
The move, however, would make little sense for Idzik, who almost certainly prefers to hire his own coach after the season.
West Virginia QB Geno Smith, whom the Jets could pick, plays in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Johnson already made an unconventional choice by requiring his new GM to inherit a head coach. Would Idzik, a measured, careful planner, continue on that backward path by asking his next head coach to inherit a quarterback he may not like?
Idzik wouldn’t hesitate to draft a quarterback in the first round if Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III was available, but this year’s quarterback class that includes Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib, E.J. Manuel, Matt Barkley and Mike Glennon appears to be mediocre, at best.
The Jets, whose roster has been systematically gutted over the past few months as part of a rebuilding process, have needs all over the field. Idzik admitted Wednesday that he’d be open-minded about possibly trading down in the first round to acquire more draft picks.
The new GM is likely more inclined to address problem areas such as edge pass rushers, offensive playmakers, interior linemen and defensive backs and hold off on a quarterback until next season.
Idzik doesn’t need to reach for a quarterback, because he has the luxury of time.
Ryan does not.
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ON THE RADAR
Here are three players the Jets could target in Thursday's first round:
Height: 6-2 Weight: 245
Key numbers: Led the country in sacks (14½) and tackles for loss (24) in 12 starts last season. Added seven forced fumbles.
Big concern: Spinal stenosis condition prompted him to transfer from USC. Doctors ultimately cleared him to play, but the medical red flag can't be ignored.
Why him? A prototypical 3-4 edge rusher Rex Ryan has lacked during his tenure.
Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib.
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College: West Virginia
Height: 5-8 Weight: 174
Key numbers: Led country with 223.9 all-purpose yards per game last season. Has 4.34 speed.
Big concern: Smallish size raises questions about his ability to withstand rigors of NFL.
Why him? Explosive dual threat that could thrive in Marty Mornhinweg’s offense and the return game.
Height: 6-0 Weight: 201
Key numbers: Had 20 pass breakups and two interceptions last season.
Big concern: Had five surgeries (knee scope, sports hernia, tibia stress fracture and both shoulders). Still hasn’t fully recovered from recent shoulder surgery, raising questions about whether he’ll be ready for training camp.
Why him? The loss of Darrelle Revis leaves a mammoth hole in the secondary. Milliner’s arrival could slide Kyle Wilson back to the nickel position, where he spent his first two seasons.