One of the most common questions surrounding the New York Jets this year is “what is it going to take for Rex Ryan to keep his job?” The Jets have low expectations and many argue that the front office has set him up to fail so new General Manager John Idzik can bring in his own guy next off-season. Rex Ryan isn’t an optimum situation but I wouldn’t paint him as a dead man walking quite yet.
The Jets are rebuilding because they need to rebuild. Their salary cap situation and talent level demanded it. There was no quick fix available and the front office has smartly taken a patient approach this off-season, setting the table for next year when they will have massive amounts of cap space and likely 12 draft picks. That being said, moves have been made this off-season to incrementally improve one of the league’s worst rosters in 2012.
Make no mistake, the Jets had one of the least talented teams in football last season and Rex Ryan still had them at 6-7, playing meaningful football into December. They had the worst quarterback situation in the NFL, were giving major reps to Mardy Gilyard, Clyde Gates at wide receiver, had no playmaking ability at running back and were painfully slow at linebacker. Yet, they were 17 Mark Sanchez fourth quarter turnovers on Monday Night against Tennessee away from being in wild-card contention in week 16.
Rex is going to keep this team competitive. This won’t be the 3-13 team that many project them to be. The defense will be good, particularly with an influx of speed at linebacker (Antwan Barnes and Demario Davis in a larger role) and defensive line (Sheldon Richardson). They also added a top ten draft pick at corner and while there are questions at safety, this is a defense that made the AFC Championship Game starting Brodney Pool and Eric Smith. The running game should compliment the defense well and help mask what is going to be a weak passing game.
The real question becomes, what is good enough? Will Idzik be satisfied with a 7-9 team who is competitive throughout the season and shows progress as the year goes on? He should be. Rex is the least of this team’s problems right now. A 34-30 record with 4 playoff wins through 4 years is nothing to scoff at, particularly with the inconsistencies at the quarterback position and lack of playmakers present on offense. Rex is far from a perfect coach but he brings a needed energy to the organization that players like playing for. You want Rex on the recruiting trail for you next season when you have 40 million dollars of cap space.
Who is out there that you want to start over with? Are you going to scrap the defense that Rex is building around Muhammad WIlkerson, Quinton Coples, Sheldon Richardson, Demario Davis, Dee Milliner and whatever other young players step up this year? Are you going to allow the new Head Coach to fire Marty Mornhinweg so Geno Smith is going to have to learn two offenses in two years?
Nobody is saying Rex is untouchable. If this team is getting whipped week in and week out. It is time to go. If they lose something like 7 of their last 8 and none of the young players progress as the season goes on. It is time to go. Yet, if Rex goes out and has this team playing meaningful football in December? Idzik should bring him back and let him head up a team that should see a substantial increase in talent thanks to free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft.