Playoffs or not, Rex Ryan's job with NY Jets appears safe for now
The Jets aren’t expected to be playoff contenders in 2013, but Rex Ryan’s future with the franchise may not be tied to a postseason berth.
Owner Woody Johnson’s decision to fire general manager Mike Tannenbaum and keep the head coach after a 6-10 season raised questions about whether Ryan, who is under contract through the 2014 season, will be a lame duck this year. Unlike the Chicago Bears, whose new general manager, Phil Emery, fired the coach he inherited, Lovie Smith, after the team missed the playoffs despite finishing 10-6 in 2013, Johnson would probably be ecstatic if Ryan led the talent-strapped Jets to an above .500 record after last year’s disaster.
“I’m not worried about being a lame-duck guy,” Ryan recently told the Daily News as the Jets’ offseason program came to an end. “I’m not worried about that. I am not. I look at this as an opportunity. . . . Look, I’m disappointed in the product that we put on the field (in 2012) both personally (and for) our fans. Because I’m a Jet fan. I’m no different than anybody else.
. . . So I know they’re disappointed. I know they’re ticked off at how we played last year. And I’m sure they’re upset at me and rightfully so.
“At the end of the day, we’ll see what happens,” he added. “I’m certainly not worried about it. In fact, I’m doing just the opposite. I can’t wait. I’m popping out of my skin, because I feel in my heart I know what it’s going to look like.”
First-year general manager John Idzik, who gutted the roster this offseason, will have an important say in Ryan’s future, but Johnson will make the final call to keep or fire the coach after the season.
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Not long ago, Ryan was kicking butt, taking names and telling everyone who was next on his list. His self-confidence, coupled with the Jets’ early success, emboldened him and helped changed the culture of the franchise.
Two consecutive disappointing seasons have humbled Ryan. The toned-down version of Ryan isn’t a result of any directive from his superiors. However, Rex 2.0 (sans outrageous predictions) has been well-received in the organization and viewed as the next step in the evolution of his leadership.
Robert Sabo/New York Daily News
Despite toning down his act, Rex Ryan remains as confident as ever.
Ryan is 38-32 with four road playoff wins and two AFC Championship Game appearances, but his head-coaching accomplishments have been front-loaded. He went 22-13 (.629) in his first 35 games and 16-19 (.457) in his next 35.
Ryan says he has learned valuable lessons from the team’s recent failures — the Jets have lost 13 of their last 19 games — but he’s no longer interested in revisiting last season.
“I don’t even give a s--- about last year,” said Ryan, whose team begins training camp in Cortland on Thursday. “I’m tired of talking about it.”
His players have remained loyal throughout the turbulence. For all the criticism surrounding the Jets last season, Ryan’s players never quit on him. So the perception that Ryan is coaching for his job is nothing but white noise.
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“Who cares about all that?” Pro Bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie told The News.
“There’s no such thing as a hot seat. You just got to go out and win games. . . . He’s beyond the right guy for the job. I think everybody that’s here wants to come in and play for Rex. That’s what it’s really all about. When you get guys to buy into Rex’s system and what he’s doing and what he’s saying, then you can go out there and play better.”
Ryan’s sense of urgency was reflected in his decision to reclaim the defense for this pivotal season. He may have given former defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman the title, but make no mistake: Ryan will be the de facto defensive coordinator now that Mike Pettine is gone.
“I’ll be in every single meeting,” Ryan said. “I will run every single meeting. I’ll do it all. Every bit of it. Just like I did the first year when I came here. Every single bit of it.”
After last year's disappointing season, Rex Ryan promises to be a more hands-on coach.
Ryan admittedly became too detached from the defense last season. The Jets have finished first, third, fifth and eighth in total defense under Ryan. However, the Jets finished 20th in scoring defense for the second consecutive season after leading the league in 2009.
“I’ll do it . . . run every script,” Ryan said of the weekly defensive game-plan preparations. “Just what I’ve done in the past. That’s the way it’s going to be. The reason for it is that’s really who I am. I’m sure 99% of the coaches would be better at doing things differently than me. But the way I need to do things to be successful is to be hands-on on the defense and be in every single meeting and every single thing that there is. Is that possible being the head coach? It is. My first two years, we did it.”
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Ryan also made it clear that he won’t lose sight of the other side of the ball. New offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will have freedom to mold the offense, but one of Ryan’s themes will be “making sure my message is clear” with that unit.
His public persona is likely to be much different this season.
“Through fines and everything else, you’re probably right,” Ryan said about him sounding and acting a lot more like a typical NFL head coach these days. “You learn from experience. Sometimes you learn from mistakes. And I clearly made some mistakes.”
Ryan says that the new faces —nine new assistants and 10 new starters — have energized him. He wants to teach, but the Jets appear to lack sufficient talent to realistically be a playoff contender this season.
“I got this position not just by my own talent, but the talents of people around me,” Ryan said. “The players are the ones that got me this job. Well, the players are going to be the guys that keep me as well. . . . That’s why I can walk out confidently no matter what public perception is.”
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