New York Jets – Examining Rex Ryan’s Tenure As Head Coach

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“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 Hire

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.

The Bravado

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.

The Hubris

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.

The Legacy

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.

  • Angel

    Didn’t Rex only GUARANTEE a Superbowl win once before the 2011 season?

    I know every year he says his GOAL is to win the Superbowl, and he predicts they will win the Superbowl, but I don’t specifically remember a guarantee other than the one time.

    The problem is the NY media savaging this guy and everyone else on the team. I hope Geno is paying attention.

    I think Rex gets a bad wrap. Same goes for Tom Coughlin, you know, before winning his second NY Superbowl.

  • David

    Agree 100%. This season they will need an outstanding defense and strong special teams to make up for the weak-sister offense. Can the O run the ball, can they pass the ball well enough to keep the safety’s out of the box and finally, will they come together a team.

    The buck stops at Rex, time to prove 9 and 10 were not aberrations. A strong season, lots of picks next year and we can be contending with the right coach. I want it to be Rex

  • joeydefiant

    Hopefully Rex stays for the next ten years. There are no better coaches out there and changing head coaches in the middle of rebuilding is a horrible idea. All the players drafted are a fit in the current coaches system. Change the HC and you have to start all over from scratch and get set back 2 seasons. The last 4 years have still been the best 4 years as a Jets fan since the 60′s. You can argue the Vinnie/Parcells era but thats about it.

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  • kane

    Get Rex a decent QB that does not turn the ball over and the Jets will be a constant winning team.

  • Geronimo

    Rex is great. It would be silly for Idzik to get rid of him after the season.

    All the talk about him being a brash loudmouth is ridiculous. Much of the time he is joking around. I like the fact that the head coach engages in this. You get the feeling nobody ever played sports, because half the fun is talking stupid.

    Seems Idzik may have given the big guy a little talking to, because he seems to be finding himself some new outlets for goofing off, like running face first into a hail of paintball pellets, or vaulting fences in Pamplona.

    I hope Ryan sticks around. There is a kind of cult of professionalism in America. It is 100 percent stupid. You can be very good at what you do, very focused, and very dedicated, and still joke around, enjoy yourself, and have a good time.

  • matr dontelli iii

    good points, for the most part, joey. i’ve pointed out many times that woodhead johnson has yet to hire a head coach or gm with experience. they’ve all been rookies (who cost less). when he had a chance to hire cowher he went around the world on vacation (as though he needs a vacation) avoiding him. if you’re gonna hire rookies you’ve got to let them grow into the job, you can’t keep switching coaches after a few years. sure rex has made mistakes but he’s had some tremendous and unlikely victories. fortunately idzik doesn’t seem too concerned with the media, who seem to be rex’s greatest challenge at this point. i think rex has been the best coach we’ve had in a long, long time, like ever. parcells, to me, after the giants couldn’t stay in one place long enough to be considered great. he always was looking for his next thing. i, too, hope rex is here for another ten years. and if he is i believe we’ll end our superbowl drought.

  • Ajfromnj

    So Rex beat pats 3 times. Nice try hiding the number of games he took… 9? What’s so great about it.

  • http://PeoplezPerspective.com Andy Singleton

    I haved loved Rex being the coach of Gang Green, but does the new regime curtail his effectiveness? Please read my latest article: NY Jets: Drawing Lines In The Sand http://wp.me/p38eso-1X
    Add me on twitter @PeoplezPen if you like. Thanks!

  • David

    I like Rex, but at the end of the day, wins and losses are what matters. Let’s be realistic, if the Jets miss the playoffs this year, that will be 3 years in a row that a Rex Ryan-led team has failed to make the playoffs. It is things like that, that get coaches fired today.

    And with all due respect to Rex, in terms of record, is he really that much different than Herman Edwards and Eric Mangini? I mean after all, Herm won a division title with the Jets and quite honestly, when Chad Pennington was healthy for a full season, the Jets were in the playoffs.

    And with Eric Mangini, his only bad year was when half the team seemed to get hurt and he finished 4-12. If not for a collapse after an 8-3 start, who is to say Eric Mangini may still not be around? After all he won 10 games and made the playoffs his first season and was well on his way his 3rd year.

    The only thing that makes Rex different is the Jets managed to get to the AFC Title game his first two years (mostly with Mangini’s players I might add). Outside of that, he really hasn’t been any different than Herm or Eric!

  • Dalbin

    Thank you everyone for responding to my article. The feedback is appreciated. Just a few points I wanted to reply to: Rex, and the Jets, beat the Pats 3 times in the first 5 games they played. He’s 0-4 the last two seasons, but it didn’t take him 9 games to beat them 3 times. Second, wins and losses are what matter, and whether its by a game or 30, Rex is one of 3 Jets coaches ever to have a .500 record or better (Parcells and Ewbank). Mangini didn’t select the players, Tannenbaum did, and none of Mangini’s teams were as successful as Rex’s. Rex is, also, the Jets all-time winningest head coach in the playoffs, as he’s 4-2. He’s done all of this with subpar QB play, no real pass rush, and mediocre Safety play. Rex has done a solid job through his 4 years. Even last year, at 6-7, the Jets still had a shot to get into the playoffs, which is impressive considering the team lost their best WR and DB, and had arguably the worst QB play in the league.

  • Eddie

    I totally agree. Rex is by far the best coach we ever had. And just to add one more point. In today’s NFL. It’s unheard of to go to 2 championship games in a row without a dominant QB. Take Tom Brady away from the Patriots or Drew Breez from the Saints and lets see Belechik and Peyton win consistently. Even last year the team outperformed its talent. Sign Rex up fo the next 10 years.

  • Eddie

    I totally agree. Rex is by far the best coach we ever had. And just to add one more point. In today’s NFL. It’s unheard of to go to 2 championship games in a row without a dominant QB. Take Tom Brady away from the Patriots or Drew Breez from the Saints and lets see Belechik and Peyton win consistently. Even last year the team outperformed its talent. Sign Him up.