It seems like just yesterday that he was being introduced (in place of Eric Mangini) and immediately guaranteeing a Super Bowl victory and a trip to the White House to meet the newly elected President Barack Obama.
Here we are, three-and-a-half years later, and the Jets don't have Super Bowl rings to flash to their doubters and are nowhere close to Super Bowl contention.
So how did the Jets get here?
One must first look at where they started in the Rex Ryan era. Before the 2009-2010 season, Ryan and GM Mike Tannenbaum decided to draft a quarterback they believed capable of leading the franchise to the promised land. After Brett Favre's one-year cameo in New York, the Jets traded up to pick quarterback Mark Sanchez out of USC.
Sanchez and Ryan then embarked on their journey to bring the Jets a Super Bowl together.
A rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback.
A loud-mouthed, brash leader on the sidelines was paired with the inexperienced (Sanchez started one season at USC), shy and overwhelmed field leader. Some would say in hindsight that this was an experiment doomed to fail from the start.
However, the beginning wasn't so bad.
In fact, its hard to remember exactly when the Jets master plan went awry.
It seems so recent that they were contenders. Ryan, a former defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens, brought over mainstays Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard from the Ravens and immediately bolstered the defense with his creative blitz packages and intense personality. Of course, employing pro-bowlers Shaun Ellis and Darrelle Revis helped as well.
The Jets made it all the way to the AFC championship game before losing to the heavily favored Colts and Peyton Manning in Ryan and Sanchez's first season. The Jets, led by their defense (and Sanchez) beat the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers on the road in the postseason.
Although they failed to achieve Ryan's Super Bowl promise, it was clear that with Sanchez's development, and continued strengthening of the defense, that this team would contend for years to come.
Before the 2010-2011 season, Ryan made more Super Bowl guarantees and proclaimed that this would be the Jets season to hoist the Lombardi trophy. Sanchez made marginal improvements, reducing his interceptions and fumbles while increasing his touchdown passes, but did not improve as much as many had hoped in terms of completion percentage.
Nonetheless, the Jets won two games on the road in the postseason (at the Colts and the Patriots) before losing to the Steelers in the AFC championship game, the second time in two seasons that they fell one game short of the Super Bowl.
Ryan admitted before his third season that he only "thought" the Jets would win in his first two seasons, but he "guaranteed" that the third year would be the year.
Sanchez failed to further develop and the Jets suffered a late-season collapse. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was fired and people began to come out and question Ryan's coaching philosophy with hard evidence that it just wasn't working.
Going into this season, Ryan has somewhat changed his philosophy but to no avail.
The Jets sit at 3-5 and remain the sport's biggest media circus after bringing in Tim Tebow. It would seem as though not only the fans, who voice their despair on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets, but also management is close to fed up with Ryan and his empty Super Bowl promises.
This may be his least talented team in four seasons, but this kind of attention is what he has wanted all along with his brash and confident media conferences. Ryan wants to be the center of attention, and now, whether he likes it or not, he will be.
If the Jets fail to turn their season around and make the playoffs, Rex Ryan will be fired.
Yes, you read right. Rex Ryan will be fired.
The Jets cannot continue to publicly embarrass themselves with a coach who isn't good for much other than setting up blitz packages. After two-and-a-half promising seasons, Ryan seemed destined to bring the Lombardi trophy back to the franchise for the first time since Joe Namath's 1969 squad and earn a place in Jets lore.
Three-and-a-half seasons later and Ryan is on the hot seat. He better figure out how to win sooner rather than later if he wants to keep his job.
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