By Steve Silverman
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Firing a head coach is a very complicated business in the NFL.
A team is considered to be a Super Bowl contender one season and doesn’t even make the playoffs. The following year, that team falls on its face because the quarterbacks can’t throw the ball and the receivers can’t get open.
That’s got to be the head coach’s fault, right?
Not necessarily. When you look at Rex Ryan and the New York Jets, disappointment is running rampant throughout the organization. Ryan feels largely responsible and he has to bear quite a bit of the responsibility.
Would another head coach have done better with this group?
If that head coach Bill Belichick, Jim Harbaugh, Sean Payton or Mike McCarthy, the answer might be yes. If the head coach was Lovie Smith, Jim Schwartz, Mike Munchak or Norv Turner, the answer would be a resounding no.
It’s not just a matter of firing a head coach and improving the team. You have to make sure the guy you are bringing in is better than the guy you are letting go.
Ryan is not the best head coach in the business. He inherited much of his father Buddy Ryan’s bluster. He will let you know how good a coach he is, how good a team he has and set the sky as the limit.
That makes him a breath of fresh air compared to most of the other coaches in the NFL. He doesn’t calculate before the words leave his mouth.
Take Smith in Chicago. He refuses to give his honest thoughts about anything regarding his football team. As the Bears prepare for their Week 16 game with the low-flying Arizona Cardinals, he stands up before the media and tells them that the 5-9 Cardinals are “a good team” despite their record and how much the “Chicago Bears are looking forward to the challenge.”
Smith is as Vanilla as Ryan is Rocky Road.
That doesn’t make Smith a bad coach and Ryan a good coach, but it’s important to know that the devil you do know may be better for you than the devil you don’t know.
Actually, Smith and Ryan are a lot more similar as coaches than they may seem. Smith is a defensive coach who leaves the offense to his assistants and the Bears have never had a decent offense during his tenure.
Ryan is also a defensive-minded coach – a legitimate guru during his days as a coordinator – but he really doesn’t know much about offense.
The Bears are in the process of taking a 7-1 start to a likely non-playoff finish and the Jets … well, you know the story after Monday night’s horror show of a fourth quarter.
You might look at the Jets and Bears and say both teams would be better off with head coaches who have a background on the offensive side of the ball so they get out of their malaise.
That’s a solid assessment, but it would probably work better with the Bears than the Jets.
The Jets’ issues are also with their personnel. Even under the best of circumstances, the Jets did not have the kind of players who can play the kind of high-powered passing game that is needed to win in the NFL.
You can’t win with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow at quarterback. When your quarterbacks make poor choices and can’t throw the ball accurately, you have almost no chance. Combine that with receivers who can’t get open or catch the ball, and it’s basically checkmate.
The fact that this team got to two AFC championship games following the 2009 and ’10 seasons is simply amazing and somewhat flukish.
But it’s now beside the point. They are not going to get back to that level again with the current personnel. That’s because general manager Mike Tannenbaum has been wrong in too many of his assessments over the year.
Ryan is well-liked by his players, they play hard for him and he speaks his mind. Those are three good characteristics for a head coach and allows his backers to at least make an argument for his continued employment with the Jets.
You can debate the merits of the coach, but not the general manager. He simply is not competent.
Should Woody Johnson look to replace Mike Tannenbaum? Let us know your thoughts below.