“I’m a hell of a lot better football coach than I’m given credit for. I don’t care. I don’t need the credit. But I can tell you one thing, when it’s said and done, they’ll look back and say, ‘Oh man, this dude can coach his butt off.’ And you know what? It’s true. And I’ll let the people that know best talk on my behalf about the kind of coach I am. I don’t have to brag, even though statistically, I can brag about anything I’ve ever done defensively.”
In a recent poll released by Pete Prisco of CBS Sports that set fire to Twitter, Rex Ryan ws named the 14th best head coach in the NFL. Rex was placed behind a legend in Marvin Lewis (79-80 in his tenure in Cincinatti, and 0-4 in the playoffs) and right ahead of a guru in Pete Carroll (two 10+ win seasons in seven years as a head coach). Other coaches listed above him were the incomporable John Fox (coach of a 1-15 team in Carolina that netted them the number one pick in the draft in 2011) and the Canton-bound Mike Shanahan (5 seasons of 10 or more victories in the last 13 seasons, and one playoff victory during that span). Couple that with Rex apparently being on the hot seat and being labeled a quintissential “lame duck” coach, we at TOJ felt it was an appropriate time to look at the man’s legacy.
The son of the 46 defense’s architect Buddy Ryan, Rex spent 22 years as an assistant coach before Woody Johnson hired him to replace Eric Mangini. The Jets interviewed 5 candidates, including in-house candidates Brian Schottenheimer and Bill Callahan. Woody Johnson said that the Jets “got the right man for the job” when Rex was hired. Rex wasted no time letting it be known that he wasn’t afraid of anyone in the league, stating that “the message to the rest of the league is, `Hey, the Jets are coming, and we’re going to give you everything we got.” Rex predicted a trip to meet President Obama, put Bill Belichick on notice that he wasn’t there to kiss Bill’s rings, and provided a very different experience than Eric Mangini, a disciple of Belichick, ever did. The hire was praised in the media, as the Jets were lauded for showing the patience to wait until the Ravens season ended before signing the guy they targeted as their coach from the beginning of their search, instead of settling for an in-house candidate.
Upon being hired, as stated previously, Rex begin to make Super Bowl guarantees on a consistent basis.
While it was easy to focus on the bravado, what went unnoticed during Ryan’s first full season was that the Jets were actually a sound football team, with a dominant defense. The Jets defense did not allow a touchdown through 9 full quarters to start the 2009 season, as Rex ran a hybrid of defenses that included the 3-4 with looks from a 4-3, 4-6 and 3-3-5. The Jets opened the season 3-0 under Rex and finished the season 9-7 to qualify for the playoffs. In the playoffs, they defeated Marvin Lewis’s Bengals and Norv Turner’s Chargers before losing to the Colts and Peyton Manning in the AFC Title Game. Rex, again, vowed that the Jets would win the Super Bowl in 2010, and despite losing the season opener against the Ravens they finished the season 11-5 and qualified for the playoffs again.
The Jets defeated Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in consecutive weeks before falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Title Game. Rex’s defense ranked in the top 5 over back to back seasons and the Jets were pegged as a Super Bown contender due, in large part, to Rex Ryan and his ability to elevate a team with a 22 year old QB, subpar safety play, and no dominant pass rusher to one win away from the Super Bowl in back to back seasons.
2011, if this actually ends up being his last season, will be remembered as the beginning of the fall of Rex Ryan. The Jets entered with big expectations, in large part due to their big coach, and the additions of Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason. However, despite being 8-5 with 3 games to go, the Jets missed the playoffs because Rex lost control of the locker room. This was evident when Santonio Holmes and Wayne Hunter almost came to blows in the Jets huddle during Week 17 against Miami. The defense remained stout, but Rex had clearly lost the pulse of the team that he had consistently during his first two seasons. Rex vowed that 2012 would be different, but the ill-fated trade for Tebowmania (a move endorsed by Ryan) and the ill-fated hire of Tony Sparano (another move Rex endorsed) led to the Jets worst season under Ryan, as the Jets stumbled to 6-10 and had their first losing season under Rex. To add insult to injury, the defense was ranked 8th overall, which is the lowest it has been ranked under Rex in 4 seasons.
For the 20+ years i’ve been a fan, the Jets have consistently broken my heart. From being 8-5 in 1993 before losing the last three games and missing the playoffs, to the fake spike against the Dolphins, to Denver scoring the final 23 points in the 1998 AFC Championship Game, and to Doug Brien’s misses against the Steelers in the 2004 playoffs. Disappointment is common.
However, that all changed when Rex Ryan was hired. As a Jets fan, i’ve watched the Patriots run over the entire league. Rex is the only coach, since his hiring, to have beaten New England 3 times, and is one of two coaches to have beaten Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back to back weeks. The Jets, in the four seasons with Rex, have been a flawed football team with no dominant pass rusher, average to poor quarterback play, subpar safety play, and lacking game breakers on offense. No coach in the NFL has been asked to win with less more consistently than Ryan, and Rex currently holds a record of 34-30, with a record of 4-2 in the playoffs. The Jets should take a page out of the Pittsburgh Steelers book and retain their coach who missed the playoffs in back to back seasons the same way the Steelers retained Bill Cowher. Rex is one of the most successful coach in Jets history (yes, even more successful than Parcells), and his legacy will be one that this Jets fan hopes Rex can continue to add on for many years to come.