By Jeff Capellini
What comes with being the head coach of the Jets can be unfair at times, but at the end of the day the NFL is a results-oriented business. Rex Ryan might be beyond saving, even with that one ace in the hole he’s always carried around.
A lot of people like to use the old “they have overachieved” excuse with this particular incarnation of the Jets. And while it’s true they came into the 2013 season devoid of talent and experience at key positions on both sides of the ball, they still started out 5-4. One can’t tout overachievement one second and then hide behind the cupboard supposedly being bare the next, which has been the battle cry somewhat now that the Jets have lost four of five and their playoff hopes have all but disappeared.
Someone has to pay for that collapse.
The owner and the general manager are not going anywhere, even though you can make the argument that Ryan has done a better job this season than both Woody Johnson and John Idzik, taking a team picked to be one of, if not the, worst in football and leading it to relevancy for the season’s first 15 weeks.
If a season like this one had followed a playoff season or two, I think the reaction to Rex would be much more favorable. But this will be three straight seasons of the Jets staying home in January, following two straight seasons of nearly playing in February. It’s just very hard for a lot of people to defend regardless of the circumstances.
And circumstances there have been many. It’s just that the Jets are probably at the point now where some new ideas and philosophies should be introduced. They need someone at the top who can oversee the development of a kid quarterback, since the odds are the Jets will likely have Geno Smith, a first-round draft selection or a young veteran starting next season.
Idzik is not one to give up on investments so easily. He drafted Smith. He will make sure this kid gets another chance. Smith may have to earn it, but this idea that he’ll be demoted to Matt Simms status is silly. By hook or by crook, Idzik will create a quarterback competition next summer. If he doesn’t, Johnson should sue the firm he used to help find Idzik in the first place.
My guess is Ryan would not be trusted to run that competition. His failures to take command of the offense and “coach up” the players at the skill positions he’s had over the last few years have been well-documented. Should that be the offensive coordinator’s job on a day-to-day basis? Yes. But Rex’s lack of assertiveness and his loyalty almost to a fault has contributed to this offense going backward during the second halves of the last three seasons.
And considering the Jets have struggled on offense since the height of the Bill Parcells era — or the “season of Vinny” back in 1998 — it’s inexcusable to keep trotting out there an offense that simply does not put up the requisite number of points needed to win consistently in this league. It’s criminal and the definition of insanity to keep starting inexperienced quarterbacks, period. Is all of that Rex’s fault? Absolutely not, but the buck has to stop with someone, or else what’s the point of any of this?
When I defend Ryan on Twitter, which I do a lot, I point to the following facts — and they are, indeed, facts:
Ryan has never had a good quarterback to work with during his five seasons with the Jets. He had a rookie in 2009, a second-year QB who played like a rookie in 2010, a third-year QB who played like a second-year QB in 2011 and a fourth-year QB who played like a rookie again in 2012. Then, Johnson decided everything was Mike Tannenbaum’s fault and fired him and hired Idzik, who immediately drafted Smith and staged a quarterback “competition” that had more plot twists and conspiracies than an Oliver Stone flick.
Ultimately, Rex was saddled with a rookie in Smith, another rookie in Matt Simms and veteran David Garrard, who had not played in the NFL since 2010, as the “consultant.”
Is this reality? I mean, name for me a coach that wins more than Ryan did with that allotment of NFL know-how at the most important position on the field. Good luck. And that’s not even acknowledging the wide-receiver corps, which, let’s be honest, may be worse than the talent the Jets have at quarterback.
But having said all that, you have to wonder if Rex can be trusted to coordinate what really is a massive overhaul on offense. I think Idzik would trust Rex to do what he feels is needed on defense, but this head-coaching job at this point likely requires an overseer of all things, someone who has the pulse of everything and at least has the basic skills needed to diagnose problems and remedy them in short order.
You also have to figure that Idzik took this job knowing he’d eventually get a chance to legacy shop — to make decisions that determine the future at quarterback and head coach, choices that can more often than not lead to long-term success. I’m not saying Idzik viewed Smith as a franchise quarterback, but I do think considering the awful finances this past offseason, lack of trade chips and horrible quarterback play he inherited, he drafted Smith because he really had no other options.
Idzik was also in no position to dictate terms to Ryan’s biggest supporter, Johnson. He took his marching orders, but who knows what was said behind closed doors, or what Rex needed to accomplish to save his job.
At 5-4 the case was clear: Rex deserved to be back. At 6-8, with identical personnel, Rex looks like someone who has lost his way. There are no excuses in this league. To get the opportunity to collapse a team first has to be pretty good.
The sample size is large enough to draw fair conclusions. Rex is indeed a victim in a lot of ways, but that does not preclude him from responsibility when the Jets pull the equivalent of not playing a full 60 minutes over 16 games.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet
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