By Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — Contrary to popular belief, Rex Ryan will be the Jets’ head coach for a long time. It really shouldn’t even be a discussion.
Yet the idea of him perhaps being unemployed after this season has been discussed at length in the media of late, mostly because conservative estimates have 80-90 percent of reporters and columnists, both locally and nationally, already penciling in the Jets for a very disappointing season.
I, myself, do not see an implosion or anarchy in the streets of Florham Park. I’m willing to literally take this season week by week, practice by practice and game by game because I, unlike many who think they are the NFL’s version of Nostradamus, have no choice but to look at this season as what it is sure to be:
A major work in progress.
Admittedly, there are many things about the Jets’ current modus operandi that is alarming. I don’t understand the apparent lack of a sense of urgency to get running back Shonn Greene some help, be it due to the team having no true 1A compliment ball carrier, a bona fide blocking tight end to help an offense that’s made it no secret that it plans to run the ball down opponents’ throats, or Greene’s own shortcomings as a player, i.e. his penchant for freaky injuries and his lack of game-changing ability.
I don’t understand giving Mark Sanchez, as maligned a quarterback as you’ll find anywhere, a mega contract extension as an apparent vote of confidence and then making his No. 2 target a rookie wide receiver who had a little more than two dozen catches during his senior year as part of a triple option offense. Stephen Hill may be the goods down the road, but now? Again, a lack of urgency.
I’m perplexed at the notion of the Jets being reportedly $8 million under the cap and not really plugging the aforementioned holes, plus others and then refusing to sign some rookies while cutting some veterans who don’t make a lot, only to replace them with players with no proven track record who make as little or, in some cases, less.
I sort of understood keeping the Tim Tebow-led “wildcat” under wraps during the preseason, mostly because back in March I was one of the first people that sounded the trumpet to acquire the unorthodox quarterback. I still maintain that he could be the ultimate weapon. I guess it’s better for the Jets he be unpredictable out of the box, though most everyone already knows what he’s capable of as a runner and even more so as a thrower of the football.
But I do find myself wondering if there’s more to the Jets’ organizational situation than we have been led to believe. Are they hurting for cash? One would think not, but they are still paying for their share of MetLife Stadium. They will face a tumultuous free agency period after this season, with so many guys either set to come off the books or in need of significant raises.
How else does one explain the Jets heading into their first regular season game so thin at the skill positions? How much better off would they be right now had they signed a Justin Forsett or Cedric Benson to basically “prove it” deals, or took a flyer on a veteran wide receiver for one year? While it’s easy to say the Jets do have some ability at these positions, what they don’t have is the type of depth a now-two running back and pass-happy NFL demands.
Having stated all this, I can’t understand how Ryan could be on anything resembling a hot seat. If anything, it’s general manager Mike Tannenbaum who should keep cardboard boxes and moving companies on standby. He put this team together. He gave Rex help on defense, but, if you really look at it, didn’t address the offense short of acquiring Tebow, who should have tremendous upside, provided about 99 other things fall into place.
If Rex can guide this team to a winning season and a playoff berth I think there will be little doubt that he’s the man for all future seasons. If he’s as involved in all aspects of the team and as proactive at fixing problems as he’s promised and the Jets defy the odds of many and make the playoffs, well, I don’t know how owner Woody Johnson doesn’t extend his contract for many years.
Due to the often nonsensical things he has said in the past and the strange happenings that always seem to take place in the Jets’ little universe, people forget, or choose not to remember, that Rex can coach circles around the vast majority of his contemporaries. He seems to be looked at and judged not for his Xs and Os abilities, but for his bravado, and people can’t wait to see him fail because of it.
But by his lofty standards Rex toned down his act considerably during the offseason and training camp. He tried to rule a bit more with an iron fist, and though that approach seemed like he was serving the media instead of his team, the Jets as a family have mostly heeded his words and have become as united as a group can be without a single game that matters having been played.
Yet he was asked this week — a few days into September mind you — about possibly being fired for his and his team’s performance during a season that hasn’t yet started. That should tell you all you need to know about what the vast majority of the reporting public thinks about the Jets’ chances.
There’s no middle ground in judging Rex’s job performance, but there should be. The story should always be about wins and losses, though we all know actual performance is often an afterthought. Rex is still being forced to pay for not making good on boasts, which strikes me as odd considering the people persecuting him could never, ever walk in his shoes. Sure, that’s the nature of the media, but it also doesn’t mean it’s right or should be taken this seriously.
I look at Rex Ryan and see a career coaching record of 28-20, with two playoff appearances and four postseason wins in three seasons. If you have historical perspective, and that means not looking at the Jets as if they are the Steelers, Patriots, Packers, Giants and Cowboys, among others, that’s pretty damn good when compared to what previous Jets head coaches have done. Now while the idea is to get to the point where the Jets can be compared to the teams I mentioned, it will take decades upon decades for the comparison to fit historically.
But on an individual season basis, there’s no reason why Rex and his Jets shouldn’t be looked at as right there on the competitive scale with anyone. They suffered a let down in 2011 and there were no excuses for it, but even with all their warts heading into Sunday’s opener against Buffalo they are still very close to being as representative as any team under Ryan’s command since he got here prior to the 2009 season.
I just don’t see this impending disaster that so many are clamoring for. I see a defense that should set the tone and keep the Jets above water until offensive coordinator Tony Sparano’s message is finally heard and acted upon. I see the Jets being right there in December.
But if it doesn’t work out and we see 5-11 or 6-10, it almost certainly won’t be because of the way Ryan coached his team. It will be because of all the factors that we still don’t know, the secrets that are being kept behind closed doors. Because whatever they are will be the only explanation Tannenbaum will have for not exhausting the cap, filling the holes and giving his maligned quarterback a fighting chance.
The media should spend more time focusing on all of the unknowns instead of harping on one of the few things the Jets really have going for them — their very human and successful head coach.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet
What will the Jets’ record be in 2012? Is this a playoff team? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …