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How Rex Ryan Can Ensure He Keeps His Job for 2014 and Beyond

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How Rex Ryan Can Ensure He Keeps His Job for 2014 and Beyond
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Rex Ryan is a brilliant football mind, but that doesn't mean his job is safe as head coach of the New York Jets.

There are very few NFL coaches who have year-in, year-out job security. Everyone else is coaching for their job just about every year to varying degrees depending on how their team has performed in recent years.

For Rex, the recent performances have not been great, and his seat as the Jets head coach is getting hotter. That being said, there are a few things he can do to turn the dial down a few notches.

Those things, however, may be easier said than done.

 

Fix the Quarterback Situation

If a coach is on the hot seat, it's usually in part because his quarterback isn't playing well. If that's the case, Mark Sanchez struck a book of matches and threw it onto Rex's chair.

Sanchez has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL by most measures, and his play directly led to losses on several occasions last year. Most tragically, his worst game came in a do-or-die contest against the Titans on Monday Night Football, in which Sanchez's four-interception meltdown and game-ending botched shotgun snap were all nationally televised.

He has turned the ball over 52 times in the past two seasons (36 interceptions, 16 fumbles lost), more than any other player in the NFL. At an average of 1.6 turnovers per game, his game against the Titans was worse than we're used to seeing from Sanchez, but not by much. 

After two years of turnover-happy football, the Jets decided it was time to try another approach and drafted the free-falling West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith in the second round after scouts had him pegged as the top quarterback prospect in this year's class.

There are positives and negatives to either Sanchez or Smith as the starter, but new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast offense could be just the trick for helping get the offense back on the right track. Mornhinweg had success with the Eagles for some time before quarterback Michael Vick had his own two-year turnover siesta (33 turnovers in 23 games). 

Either way, Rex won't have to worry as much about the offense now that Mornhinweg essentially has autonomy over that unit.

 

Play Balanced on Defense

The Jets' pass defense remained one of the best in the league in 2012 despite losing cornerback Darrelle Revis and a lack of a true outside pass rush. Outside linebackers Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas combined for just 5.5 sacks last year. If Quinton Coples makes the transition to outside linebacker and if Antwan Barnes can stay healthy, they should be improved at the position.

Their run defense, on the other hand, took a nose dive. The Jets gave up 4.3 yards per carry, which ranked 21st in the NFL. It was the first year under Rex Ryan in which the Jets' defense ranked outside the top half of the league in rushing yards and in yards per attempt.

They gave up over 100 yards in 11 games, including seven losses, and over 120 yards in nine games, including six losses. 

The Jets allowed the longest run of the season on a 94-yard blast by Titans running back Chris Johnson.

It all resulted from poor gap discipline.

Linebackers David Harris and Bart Scott were well out of position to defend the run while defensive tackle Sione Po'uha was blocked to the ground and Johnson was able to run the full 94 yards virtually untouched.

There was really no rhyme or reason for the Jets' struggles to stop the run, besides age and a lack of discipline, but their frequent blitzing may have opened them up to longer runs at the second level if there were no defenders in place to make the stop.

Under Ryan, the Jets have created pressure by blitzing. In 2012, the Jets defense blitzed 39.1 percent of the time compared to the league average of 31.5 percent.

If the Jets' pass rush off the edges gets better, they may not have to dial up as many blitzes, leaving them less vulnerable against the run.

 

Get the Jets Back in the Playoffs

Ultimately, the Jets can make improvements on the field, but the best way for Ryan to keep his job is to get his team back where it hasn't been for two years: the playoffs.

It seems like only yesterday that Ryan was riding high off the success of going to two consecutive AFC Championship Games, but now that things have unraveled quickly, he is in a dire situation.

Will the Jets make the playoffs in 2013?

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The Patriots seem like a lock to win the AFC East, so if the Jets are going to make it to the playoffs this season, they have some stiff competition for one of those two Wild Card spots. The Colts, Bengals, Ravens, Steelers and Dolphins are among the popular choices to make a push for the Wild Card. 

If the Jets exceed expectations and one or more of those teams fail to live up to the hype, the Jets could find themselves sneaking into the postseason, and that would likely be all Rex needs to keep his job in 2014.

 

Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all stats obtained from the Sports Reference network, and all quotes obtained firsthand or via team press releases.

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