By Jeff Capellini
Jets fans are being bombarded right now with a million stories about Rex Ryan’s future.
All I’m going to say is be careful about which ones you take to heart.
General manager John Idzik did some controversial things this past offseason, including taking the job in the first place, considering accepting Ryan for at least one year was part of a package deal that very few new hire executives would have agreed to do.
But once here Idzik bucked conventional wisdom by trading Darrelle Revis for a pair of picks, one that turned into budding star defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, and made the most of a salary cap situation that, let’s be honest, was atrocious if the idea was to immediately improve the Jets over the unimaginative six-win struggle that they were a year ago.
Yet here the Jets are actually better than they were 52 weeks ago, something most of the so-called experts thought was basically impossible. With a win Sunday in Miami, which right this second seems fairly doable, the Jets will finish 8-8, and I don’t know about you but considering what they had to work with this season, especially on the offensive side of the ball, that would be nothing short of a miracle.
One that was basically authored by Ryan and Idzik, on a shoestring budget. They are two guys that didn’t know each other very well, if at all, and they managed to make it work in a manner that exceeded expectations. Maybe their working relationship is a lot better than people think. Maybe, just maybe, there is a mutual respect there and an ease of association.
If so, this idea that Idzik wants Rex out seems cold, callous and somewhat contrived. The truth is we don’t know what Idzik is thinking. We don’t know if the idea of legacy shopping even matters to him. He could be totally content with Ryan and ready to supply him with the offensive firepower he needs to go along with what is his normally very good defense. The Jets could be close to $40 million under the salary cap this offseason and one would have to figure backing up the Brinks truck for wide receivers will be first on this GM’s to-do list.
My question is why would Idzik want to fire Ryan and introduce a new philosophy into Geno Smith’s life when, considering the talent level around him, the rookie quarterback acquitted himself fairly well this season, even with the turnovers? Wouldn’t the Jets benefit from some continuity here with Smith and Marty Mornhinweg getting back at it next summer a year older and wiser? Wouldn’t the acquisition of a true veteran capable of starting help push Smith and provide Mornhinweg with security should his then-second year quarterback falter? Throw in real wide receivers added to Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson (no doubt in my mind he should return) to complement running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell and don’t the Jets look a lot better in 2014?
Add all of that to a defense that Rex created and likely will tweak and is there any way this team is worse on paper next season than it is going to end this season?
I don’t see improving this team as the massive undertaking that so many else think it will be. Considering their cap space, the Jets should be right where they need to be come training camp. If not, then we should start talking about Idzik and job security rather than the head coach’s job security.
Like I said before, just be careful about believing what you read in the newspapers. Those guys might say they know this or that, but you have to remember that their information pipeline was in many ways cut off as soon as Idzik arrived. Remember all of those unnamed sources stories authored by the tabloid reporters? Yeah, well how many have you seen this season? Very few if any at all is the answer.
So, trust me when I tell you that any reports of Rex being fired on “Black Monday” are not coming from credible sources. They are coming from writers’ intuition and deductive reasoning. I’m not saying their gut instincts will be wrong, but I am saying that they aren’t getting fed information regarding Ryan’s job status either way.
As for why I think Rex will return, I just don’t see Woody Johnson unzipping himself and stepping out as a different guy than what we’ve seen over the last few years. It is apparent to me that he still loves Rex. His body language and comments in certain situations also suggest he is as enamored with Ryan now as he was last season.
It’s also apparent to me that Johnson doesn’t break protocol when it comes to talking about issues. If he says he won’t discuss something in-season, 999 times out of 1,000 he doesn’t. His lack of speaking on the Rex issue should not be taken as anything more than Johnson sticking to his schedule.
Ultimately, I don’t see how Johnson, knowing what we know about him and his character, could look objectively at the job Ryan has done this season and honestly say to himself that Rex has not earned another year or two. I mean, literally everyone is in agreement that Rex basically overachieved with this group, and Johnson doesn’t strike me as the type to conveniently overlook something like that just to appease his one-year-on-the-job general manager, if indeed Idzik even has an issue with Ryan in the first place.
Again, it’s about best-guess analysis, but common sense should prevail. Rex took a borderline expansion team in talent and basically led it to mediocrity. That simply cannot go unrewarded. If it does, then Ryan has every right to be furious with this organization for stringing him along. If he is fired, Rex would be justified to scream bloody murder, mostly because we’d all know for certain that the only reason why he was kept was so that Johnson didn’t have to pay him for firing him.
Ryan is a head coach with many flaws, and I understand and even agree with the reasoning a lot of people have for not wanting him back, but the fact remains when basically set up to fail, Rex persevered. And with every passing day leading up to “Black Monday” Ryan becomes more and more of a cult hero.
Is that because he’s just this likeable guy everyone wants to have a beer with? I think those qualities are part of it, but more I believe the fans more or less understand that this guy has been denied many of the things that other NFL teams take for granted, and what’s right would be to see him get an opportunity to coach on an even playing field.
It may not be “show friends” in this business, but if anyone has earned that right, it’s Rex Ryan.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet
You May Also Be Interested In These Stories