By Kristian Dyer
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Rex Ryan deserved better than this.
Truthfully, he did. The firing of Rex as Jets head coach on Monday was certainly more puzzling than the firing of GM John Idzik, who in two years with the team got fired at almost a record pace. It was Idzik, after all, who missed on nearly all the top free agents this past offseason, failing to land the requisite help to take this team to the next level.
And it was Idzik, again, who got minimal impact from two NFL drafts. Of 19 picks, only Sheldon Richardson looks anything like an impact player.
And it was Idzik who, in late-October, put on a clinic on how not to handle a press conference, bombing with an 19-minute monologue that essentially put the nail in his own coffin. None of those things were Rex’s doing, and yet he had to fall on the sword as well.
So to unceremoniously lump Rex in with the rest of the trash heap is surely not worthy of this man’s resilience over the years. And it should in no way tarnish his legacy.
He had his faults and gaffes, from flipping the bird at hecklers in Miami to his foot-fetish video, but he cared deeply and passionately about this team. It was a team that he saw as an extension of himself, and he treated it as such.
No moment sums up Rex’s time with the Jets more than during the AFC Divisional Game in January of 2011. On that day, after Shonn Greene scored a touchdown, Ryan celebrated with the team. Not just on the bench, mind you but huffing and puffing down the sidelines to join the pile around Greene. It was raw emotion, pure exuberance normally seen on the face of a Pop Warner football player.
It was the Jets’ head coach — make that former head coach — all summed up in one chubby, limbs-a-flutter moment. It was pure Rex, unfiltered and unedited.
He was just known as “Rex.” Not coach and not even “Ryan.” The simplicity of this was the mark of a man to whom status didn’t matter, who coached as if he wanted to play.
And now he is fired, a fourth straight year without the playoffs sending him ingloriously to the soup line. But he deserved so much more than this.
The Jets teams handed to him over the past three years look nothing like the previous incarnations that made consecutive AFC Championship Games. Those teams blended established veterans and stars with young talent, making for that balance needed to make a playoff push.
But the teams trotted out on the field over the last 48 games have been inferior in talent and poor in makeup, leading to two general managers having been let go during his tenure.
That he got eight wins a year ago and was in so many games this year with a 4-12 team — seven losses this year were by a combined 34 points — shows not just that he didn’t lose the locker room. It shows that the man can still coach.
He is still the same Rex who coached those playoff teams, as Idzik famously declared a few months ago. And Rex showed that in his final two games. He had the right game plan to beat the New England Patriots, but simply had inferior personnel. The 17-16 loss showed just how good of a coach he can be.
And on Sunday afternoon, his team came back despite being down by two scores in the second half. He beat a Miami Dolphins team that seemed primed for the postseason just a few weeks earlier.
The man can still coach, the evidence shows. Sadly, it won’t be here in New York with the Jets. But he will do it somewhere, and he will win if given the proper support and commitment.
Rex will have the last laugh on this one.
Kristian R. Dyer is the Jets’ beat reporter for Metro New York, and he contributes to Yahoo! Sports as well as WFAN. He can be followed on Twitter @.
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