NEW YORK (WFAN) — John Idzik is warming up to Rex Ryan. That is, assuming he was ever cold on him in the first place.
Since the day Idzik was hired to replace Mike Tannenbaum as general manager, the best kept secret in Florham Park, N.J. has been what the new executive actually thinks of his head coach. A lot of people have stated as fact a lot of different things, but Idzik has repeatedly chosen not to show his hand, leading to even more speculation.
The most likely scenario is Idzik is waiting for this season to play itself out in full so he can judge his head coach’s complete body of work before making a decision on the future. The fact that the Jets have greatly over-achieved so far this season should be a big check in Ryan’s corner for an extension beyond next season, which will be his last on his current contract.
The case to keep Ryan was compelling even before his Jets opened this season 5-4. He had been 34-30 in the regular season and 4-2 in the playoffs during his first four seasons. But following a 6-10 disappointment last season many people were ready and willing to run him out of town.
All the Jets have done since has been respond to their many critics with surprising play. They would be in the playoffs if the season ended today and, with their wins in Atlanta and at home over New England and New Orleans, have proven they can beat anyone.
Then again, losses to woeful teams like Pittsburgh and non-competitive efforts in defeats to Tennessee and Cincinnati could speak to Ryan’s tutelage as much as it could the fact that the Jets are simply a young team learning on the fly.
Idzik broke the ice a bit on Monday as the team embarked on its bye week, addressing the issue of his head coach during a sort of Jets state of the union. His answers to numerous questions seem to suggest he likes Ryan — a lot. But his refusal to commit to him beyond this season likely proves nothing has been earned through just nine games.
The general manager also hinted that he thinks the Jets could possibly be even better than their record, and considering their statistically dominant Week 2 loss to the Patriots and the complete no-show against the Steelers three weeks ago, it’s hard to say he’s wrong.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise to any one of us in the building,” Idzik said, adding that “no one is happy at 5-4.”
“Our job is incomplete,” he added. “We have a long way to go.”
It’s no secret that Ryan’s strength is understanding and executing defense, but he’s often not given enough credit as a motivator of men. His players to a man would walk into fire for him. Recently retired Brandon Moore got emotional when discussing his former head coach during a retirement ceremony the Jets held for him last week. New Jets like veteran guard Willie Colon have spoken of Ryan as if they wish they never played for anyone else.
“He’s the fire. He’s the fire behind all this,” Colon said. “Right now, he’s being a great coach and doing a great job.”
All of the Rex worship is hard to ignore and it appears Idzik isn’t trying to avoid it. Neither is owner Woody Johnson, who has also come out in support of Ryan, though he, too, said nothing will be decided until the offseason.
“I think he’s done very well,” Idzik said. “It’s been great working with Rex and his staff. … Rex has pulled it all together. He’s our leader.”
It’s hard to predict what will happen to Ryan if the Jets falter over their final seven games. They’ve already exceeded so many expectations it’s difficult to imagine this team going south in a manner that could cost him his job. After all, many thought this was a three-win team. ESPN even went so far as to rank the Jets 32nd in their preseason power poll.
But has Ryan done enough?
It’s no secret that general managers want their fingerprints all over their teams. Often, legacy shopping is a driving force why certain coaches are hired and fired and players are jettisoned and acquired. But in this case, nobody knows how big Idzik’s ego is.
Which is yet another reason why what he ultimately decides with regards to his head coach will remain anyone’s guess.
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