Rex Ryan’s New York Jets have started the year slowly. As they head to Gillette Stadium to take on the New England Patriots, some are asking if Ryan will still be along for the ride next year.
Ryan is facing a lot of scrutiny this season, as his Jets—never far from the spotlight—have started the year at 3-3. But anyone wondering about Ryan’s job security shouldn’t worry. He should have no problem at all making the trip to Gillette Stadium next season.
The problem that most people have with Ryan, whose contract runs through 2014, seems to be the unreasonable expectations that he puts on his club every year.
Before last season, Ryan guaranteed a Super Bowl victory. The Jets went 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs. Before this season, Ryan gushed that the 2012 Jets were the best team he’s ever had. They’ve started the season 3-3.
Ryan’s antics clearly rub some people the wrong way (a bit surprising considering that this guy continues to be the Jets’ most memorable player).
But all of Ryan’s boasting has masked the fact that most of the struggles facing this year’s Jets squad aren’t his fault. New York lost Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes (the team’s best defensive and offensive players, respectively) in back-to-back weeks.
How is any team supposed to survive that?
What if the Green Bay Packers lost Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews to injuries? Would anyone be trying to replace Mike McCarthy when his team missed the playoffs? Of course not. Ryan should get the same treatment.
The Jets have lost a significant amount of talent on both sides of the ball, and no amount of coaching is going to replace that loss. It’s ludicrous to expect Ryan to immediately have this team looking like a Super Bowl contender.
And if you go beyond the past two years and look at Ryan’s time with New York as a whole, you’ll see that he’s given the Jets something that they haven't had for a very long time—relevancy.
Ever since Bill Parcells retired as the Jets head coach following the 1999 season, the Jets have remained in a state of seemingly unshakable mediocrity.
The Jets had three head coaches spanning the years between the Parcells era and the Ryan era—Al Groh (2000), Herman Edwards (2001-2005) and Eric Mangini (2006-2008).
Under these three coaches, the Jets went a combined 71-73. They had only three losing seasons (in 2003, 2005 and 2007) but also never won more than 10 games.
The Jets were firmly entrenched in the dangerous middle ground. For nine years they generally hovered between being good enough to sniff the playoffs, but not so good as to make a serious run at a championship.
To his everlasting credit, Ryan was able to pull them from the ranks of football mediocrity. In Ryan’s first two years at the helm, the Jets won 20 regular-season games and four playoff games, appearing in two consecutive AFC championship games.
To put that in perspective, before Ryan took over, the Jets had just four combined playoff wins dating back to 1986. Ryan’s two AFC championship appearances are also half of the Jets’ four total appearances (though that doesn't include New York's 1968 AFL championship victory).
So why on earth would New York want to get rid of Ryan, a coach who has actually given the Jets a chance to compete for the title? It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
That's especially true considering how often coaches are recycled in the NFL.
Eric Mangini couldn’t cut it in New York, but the Cleveland Browns tabbed him to be their new head coach anyways (spoiler alert: he was eventually fired). The Carolina Panthers parted ways with John Fox when they felt he couldn’t get the job done, and Fox was immediately hired as head coach of the Denver Broncos.
The list goes on and on.
Why would the Jets take a chance on one of these castoff former head coaches or an unproven assistant when they could just stick with Ryan? Not only has Ryan proven that he can win, he’s proven that he can win with this Jets team.
So again, why would the Jets part ways with him? For having one 8-8 season and having a rough, injury-riddled start to another? For being the outspoken, brash coach that he had already proven to be as defensive coordinator of the Ravens? That’s tough to believe.
Just ask NFL.com’s Steve Wyche, who said before the season (per NFL.com’s Kevin Patra):
Now Rex could go into ’13 on the hot seat if they don’t make the playoffs. If this is a 3-13 record, OK, now you are talking about him possibly being on the hot seat. I don’t think right now if they started out slow, I don’t think he’s necessarily going to be on the pressure cooker.
The only thing that Ryan needs to worry about this week is how to beat the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, where his Jets are currently 1-3. But even if they don’t win this week, it’s not the end of the world for Ryan. He’ll be making the same trip next year.