New York Jets: High 'Rex'-Pectations and Bringing Back Brett Favre
Of course if you ask owner Woody Johnson, it might be another season with the same old quarterback.
Of course, place the extra emphasis on the old as in the 39-year-old Brett Favre, whom Johnson has all but professed his endless love for in numerous interviews.
Let's start with the new guy. (We'll get to the Favre edition of Days of our Lives later)
Ryan brings a new brash attitude along with a very engaging personality that recently-booted coach Eric Mangini lacked, and coupled with his successful defensive schemes in Baltimore, Ryan convinced Johnson and GM Mike Tannenbaum he was their guy.
Intent on hiring a first-time head coach, the likes of Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Shanahan and my personal choice, Jon Gruden, weren't given a second thought as Ryan was the last man standing after Steve Spagnuolo was lured from the Giants to St. Louis.
Based on his first meeting with the New York media, Ryan showed the type of openness and honesty that will fill a reporter's notepad, however what remains to be seen is whether or not he can turn the Jets from laughable losers to confident contenders.
Confidence is something Ryan certainly has an abundance of, as was apparent when he stated he intends on meeting President Barack Obama before the new commander in chief's first term is complete.
You can't say Ryan isn't familiar with the fact the Jets haven't played in a Super Bowl since Joe Namath led them to victory back in 1969, as it was Buddy Ryan (his father) who was an assistant coach on that championship team.
What Ryan must know is that the players he is inheriting are a far cry from the talent he was fortunate enough to coach in Baltimore. Looking down his new roster, he's going to hard pressed to see anybody who compares to Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, and Terrell Suggs.
What will help Ryan is the fact that Mangini leaves him with a 3-4 system in place. While the new coach will certainly tinker with the schemes, it makes things easier that the personnel he'll be coaching was put in place to play in a defense Ryan is looking to implement.
While the talent doesn't measure up to what Ryan had in Baltimore, a bigger issue he's going to face is the lack of toughness and fight his new team showed down the stretch. After starting 8-3, the Jets limped to the finish losing 4 of their last 5, and their poor play on defense was as responsible as the poor play of their aging quarterback.
Ryan's defense will be anchored on the concept of being aggressive and making plays as opposed to the far more conservative schemes of Bob Sutton, whose defenses seemed to sit back and wait for something to happen.
The Jets showed no pass rush down the stretch, due in large part to the combination of a worn down Kris Jenkins at nose tackle and a mediocre linebacking core which in turn put too much pressure on the secondary.
Between free agency, potential trades and the draft, Ryan and Tannenbaum will need to figure out a way to cut some payroll (the Jets are estimated to be roughly 10 million dollars over next season's cap). However, Mr. T (Tannenbaum) is usually creative and is known around the league as a cap expert, meaning Jets fan can have some hope that the pair can give Ryan more to work with on the defensive side of the ball.
While Ryan was brought in because of his defensive prowess, the most pressing question on the offensive side of the ball starts with the No. 4.
Bring Back Brett?
"'Twas the best of times 'twas the worst of times."
Charles Dickens' classic The Tale of Two Cities could have been retitled the tale of two seasons for Favre and the Jets in 2008.
Upon his acquisition, Favre was given a key to the city and was lauded as a savior for a franchise that hadn't had his kind of star power at quarterback since Namath.
Through the first 11 games of the season, Favre was everything Jets fans could have asked for, leading them to eight wins including road victories in New England and Tennessee, who was 10-0 at the time.
Unfortunately 'twas the worst of times down the stretch, as Favre, playing with a torn muscle in his arm, was horrendous as the Jets finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs.
The question of whether or not Favre should return next season (he is under contract) will likely be his decision when all is said and done. However, the owner, GM, and even the new head coach have all expressed different levels of interest in bringing Brett back.
I'll bring up the same argument I made a few weeks ago—the reason I would welcome Favre back for one more year is the lack of a suitable alternative.
Assuming Favre can avoid injury, which of course is a big assumption considering his age, the Jets were winning football games when he was healthy, and easily could have won another game or two had Favre not hurt himself.
Ryan should improve the defense; however, improving the offensive is a bigger question which starts with whether or not Favre decides to play one more year.
Forget about the talk that he alienated his teammates, because nobody seemed to have a problem with Favre when the team was winning. Coupled with an improved defense and a system which is run heavy (something else Ryan favors), it would seem to take some of the responsibility off the Hall of Famer's shoulders.
Kellen Clemens, Derek Anderson, and Donovan McNabb are some of the names, none of which are either good enough or reliable enough to give up players, money, or draft picks for.
You can argue that as a new head coach, Ryan would be best off starting fresh with his own quarterback, and while that's a fair argument, Ryan will be given at least a one-season grace period to turn the Jets into a championship contending football team.
Although aging and mistake prone, one more year of Favre would be sort of a no-lose situation for Ryan. The best case scenario would be to have Favre ride off into the sunset with one last hurrah, making Ryan's first season a success. The worst case scenario is Favre doesn't play well, the Jets don't make the playoffs, which while disappointing, wouldn't be as damaging to Ryan's reputation.
In an ideal world, Favre would retire having left the Jets with a young quarterback ready to step in and lead the offense, however that just isn't the case.
I am right there with everyone is saying Favre is old and when push comes to shove probably needed to stay retired last season, however the bottom line is if the Jets want to enter 2009 with a chance to be competitive and earn a postseason birth, I still contend that Favre gives them the best chance to do that.
The decision will ultimately be Favre's to make, and hopefully he does so in a timely manner (although based on his history, don't hold your breathe).
Will they be better?
Tough to say at this point, as the first big question will be who the starting quarterback is.
If it's Brett Favre, and the team makes some necessary changes on defense and can conform to the style of play of their new head coach, there's reason to believe the Jets can fight for a wild-card birth (winning a division will be heavily dependant on whether or not Patriots quarterback Tom Brady returns and how productive he is).
If it's not Favre, then the question marks will be even bigger as it will mean an offense getting used to a fourth starting quarterback in as many years (Chad Pennington and Clemens each started two seasons ago) and how well the new offense would click is as a big uncertainty.
If I were a betting man, I would put my money on Favre deciding to play one final season. Ryan seems to be a coach Favre would enjoy playing for—somebody who is enthusiastic and committed to winning as well as somebody who would respect Favre's experience and make sure the quarterback is placed in a system he could succeed in.
With the Super Bowl approaching, Jets fans will be looking to hold their new head coach to his word that within the next four years, it'll be gang green who is the last standing come February.
Those are some high Rex-pectations, coach.
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