New York Jets: The Ugly End To The Rex Ryan Era

Joe Caporoso on the ugly end to the Rex Ryan era

The end of the 2011 season was a disaster for the New York Jets. The end of the 2012 season was a disaster for the New York Jets. In 2014 the end of the season will be a disaster for the New York Jets. Rex Ryan survived the first two but won’t survive the third. The 38-3 no show in Detroit was the final nail in his coffin. This New York Post article launched a predictable end of the season smear campaign, which will accompany the Jets playing out the string.

Rarely is an article so transparently planted by an agent but Jimmy Sexton is doing his job for Rex. He laid the groundwork for a move to television, riled up the conspiracists who believe the Jets “threw” a season just to fire him and conjured up anonymous quotes on how relieved the AFC will be that Rex is gone. This is savvy work. It is smart to make television a likely play since his client is 16-30 in his last 46 games with 12 losses by 20 points or more. More troubling is that he has no track record of developing a quarterback and an admitted limited understanding of offense. A year off could be good for him, it allows more jobs to open up and puts his recent struggles further in the rearview mirror.

Post 2010, the relief from AFC coaches makes sense. Today? Rex has lost three straight games to Doug Marrone by 23, 20 and 35 points, is 1-6 in his last 7 games versus Bill Belichick, has never beaten John Harbaugh and was knocked out of the playoffs by Mike Tomlin. He is .500 against Joe Philbin, owned Marvin Lewis a few years back but lost to him by 40 last season. Rex has a winning record against three current AFC coaches: 1-0 versus Ken Whisenhunt, 3-1 against Lewis, and 1-0 against Chuck Pagano. It is hard to buy the conference is regularly shaking in their boots of a coach who has been .500 or under in four straight seasons.

There is no point to further carry on the Rex debate. His time here is over. He will leave a legacy as a lovable personality and creative defensive schemer who came up with some masterful gameplans. He led two thrilling playoff runs in 2009 and 2010. Unfortunately, both runs fell short and it didn’t fall short in 2010 because of his quarterback, it was on his defense and team showing up unprepared to play. It has been ugly since then. Rex won with a roster mostly built by Mike Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini, supplemented by strong veteran additions. Once the roster began to turn over to a Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan roster, the problems began. Rex deserves credit for leading those talented, veteran laden teams but he needs to be in a specific type of situation to succeed. He needs to be kept out of personnel, away from the offense, have a strong veteran locker room, a dominant offensive line and competent quarterback play.

Moving forward, these leaks won’t stop. They will come from the New York Post, the usual suspects at the Daily News, and a few others. It is Sexton doing his job and part of the New York marketplace. The problem with an article like the linked NYDN piece is that the same writer was running Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan out of town in 2012-2013 and is now painting them as victims. It would still be surprising to see Rex fired in-season but could that be a response to the ongoing leaks or will the Jets management just fire back through the media? We saw glimpses of that when the story leaked about the coaching staff telling Geno Smith directly where to throw during the Buffalo game. Either way, it will be an ugly few weeks.

We also know Smith will start Monday night, which is a move that smells of being imposed by John Idzik. Considering how Vick played and that he is banged up, it is hard to get yourself up in arms about starting a second year quarterback for a 2-9 team. Regardless of how Smith finishes, he cannot and won’t be relied on as a serious candidate to start in 2015 but he will be on the roster, either as camp competition or a backup. Expect the Smith move to foreshadow much more playing time for younger players these final few games.

With Rex all but finished, the next question is if John Idzik will be fired? There is a valid argument to keep him and a valid argument to fire him, particularly if you can get a big name to coach or lead a reconstruction. Many see firing Idzik as a slam dunk, it is not. He misjudged the cornerback market and a had a poor plan B after whiffing on Vontae Davis. There wasn’t enough depth at offensive line or wide receiver for this year’s team, the future looks grim for their 2013 2nd and 3rd round picks and cutting a 2014 4th round pick was a bad look. Beyond that, most of the criticism is hindsight driven, overstated and ignorant of other productive moves.

The overall roster, cap flexibility and draft flexibility has improved since the end of 2012. Both quarterback situations are a trainwreck but the Jets had a ton more money and draft equity invested in the Sanchez – Tebow – McElroy train wreck than the Geno – Vick – Simms trainwreck. Quarterback hasn’t been fixed but who did you want? Should the Jets have drafted EJ Manuel or any other of the 2013 QBs? Should they have taken Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel last year? What available veteran did you want to acquire that would have changed the situation long term? What was the answer besides writing a revisionist history on Sanchez and ignoring his 8 turnovers in 3.5 games in Philadelphia, surrounded by a much better all around team? His wins there wouldn’t be equating to wins here away from Chip Kelly, LeSean McCoy and a dominant special teams unit.

Running back, wide receiver, tight end and defensive line are in better shape long term. The offensive line and linebackers are roughly a push and the secondary is worse. However, cap space is available to fix it and the jury is still out on many of the 2013 and 2014 draft picks, UDFA and waiver wire additions. The team also will have 6-8 picks next season to work with.

Idzik is 10-17 as a GM and has some ugly misses on his resume. There is no reason to be overconfident he will ever be a good GM, which is why for the right hire he can be expendable. Mike Tannenbaum was 12-15 after his first 27 games. John Schnieder was 11-16 after his first 27 games. This doesn’t mean Idzik will have the success that either of them had. It also doesn’t mean if he is brought back next year the team is doomed for multiple more years of failure. It is an open-ended situation and nobody knows as of now if he will be back or not, or if that will be the right decision long term.

Overall, it was the wrong decision to impose a head coach and a Personnel Director (BRADWAY!) on a new GM and the Jets are paying for it. The Head Coach is already on his way out the door and the GM might be joining him.

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the EVP of Content at Whistle Sports