Rex Ryan's tenure as head coach of the New York Jets has certainly been a rollercoaster ride. It seems like ages ago that the embattled coach led the upstart Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship game appearances and possessed one of the most stifling defenses in the NFL.
In fact, that is supposed to be Ryan's greatest quality: his ability to craft a great defensive unit. He delegated the defensive play-calling duties to defensive coordinator Mike Pettine last season, but has said that he will assume those duties once again in 2013, per Pro Football Talk:
“One thing I know for sure about this football team — since I’ve been here and as long as I’ll ever be here — is we will be one of the premier defenses in the league,” Ryan said. “The Jet way is playing great defense.”
Will this have an effect on a defense that ranked 26th against the pass last season? Have Jets fans abandoned their faith in Ryan?
It is a fair question to ask, especially since the defensive mastermind has ruffled more feathers with each passing season.
Remember a simpler time when he was just a coach who wanted nothing more than to topple Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots atop the AFC East? When HBO's Hard Knock's portrayed him as a jovial coach that had the full support of his locker room?
Those times have given way to an increasing scale of turmoil. Ryan is now the butt end of numerous jokes. He has been the subject of a foot fetish scandal, a Mark Sanchez tattoo scandal and an entire Tim Tebow saga that acted more like a circus than a typical free-agent signing.
So, what exactly are Jets fans thinking about their coach?
The almost unilateral support that he once carried in New York has almost undoubtedly diminished, but do fans still have any level of faith in him?
Season ticket holders are growing restless. Per a report from the New York Post, season ticket holder Jon Miller said the following:
"I think they did sell us a whole bill of goods with this stadium and who they were going to put on the field and keeping stars like Darrelle. Now, on top of it, we’re a circus again. We’re the laughingstocks of football all over again.”
The "Darrelle" he is referencing is of course Darrelle Revis, one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL and a player that has been consistently rumored to be on the trading block (via NFL.com).
Revis is one of few legitimate Pro Bowlers left on the Jets' roster and losing him would signal a full shift towards the rebuilding process, not to mention decrease Ryan and GM John Idzik's stock with the Jets' fanbase even further.
But are the Jets rebuilding? Do the fans believe that this team is ready to compete right now? Ryan himself is barely a shell of the man that he was just a few short years ago.
At the NFL combine, he stepped to the podium to speak to the media. It was an exercise he had gone through numerous times before, but instead of predicting Super Bowl victories as he had in years prior, Ryan took a much more subdued tone as he said the following: "I did figure this out: I’m not in the prediction world. I’m usually not real good on my predictions." (h/t ESPN.com)
While Ryan is no longer envisioning Lombardi Trophies (at least not openly to the media), he is getting even less respect from those outside of the Jets organization.
And one thing is for certain, skeptics around the Internet are not being kind to Ryan at the moment.
Let's take a look at some headlines about Ryan that have surfaced in recent weeks:
Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole released a piece with the following title: Darrelle Revis' exit would spell doom for Rex Ryan
ESPN.com's Jason Walker titled a piece: Is Rex Ryan destined to fail?
NFL.com's Kimberly Jones went with the following headline: Rex Ryan facing long odds in must-win year with New York Jets
What all of these headlines signify is that there is little trust in Ryan as he enters his fifth season as the head coach of the Jets. Yes, he has crafted a 38-32 overall record in that time, but he has failed to bring home the Super Bowl that Jets fans so desperately crave.
Ryan has said that he wants to be the Jets head coach for the next 15 years, but he better start producing better results if that has any chance of coming to fruition (via the New York Times).
The entire QB situation is what has perhaps garnered the most attention and yet it is also the most unresolved issue. Mark Sanchez, a QB with a career completion percentage of 55.1 and more interceptions than touchdowns, remains at the helm. He has averaged 6.48 yards per completion over his four years as the Jets starter and yet Ryan remains firm in his belief that he can be the leader New York needs.
Meanwhile, Tebow remains on the roster. The media frenzy surrounding him may have died down somewhat, but the fact remains that he is a polarizing figure to fans. If New York is going to only allow him another eight passing attempts in 2013, then what is the point of leaving him on the roster?
There are just so many questions with the Jets team and few answers. The only true answer for Ryan's woes is to win the big one. Winning cures all problems and a Super Bowl would clearly restore faith in the embattled head coach.
However, New York is a long way from reaching the pinnacle of the sport, let alone competing for even a playoff spot.
As it stands now, fans are fed up with Ryan's antics and inability to produce a consistent winner. 2013 presents an opportunity to cure some of those woes, but Ryan has a long way to go before righting all of his wrongs.