Rex Ryan Poised To Change Defensive Culture As Jets' New Leader

Brian FitzsimmonsContributor IMay 29, 2009

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - MAY 02:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets speaks to the media during minicamp on May 2, 2009 at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Rex Ryan is referred to as the “Mad Scientist” for a reason.


Known for concocting the rabid defensive schemes of the Baltimore Ravens over the previous four years, the New York Jets’ new head coach has brought his lab coat and beakers to football’s most magnified stage with aspirations of winning the same way his father once did.


That will be a tall order, considering Buddy Ryan was an assistant on the Jets’ 1969 championship team.


The younger Ryan replaced the dismissed Eric Mangini in January and wasted no time letting his confidence permeate. Speaking to reporters in his introductory press conference, Ryan stated, “Hey, the Jets are coming, and we're going to give you everything we got. And I think that's going to be more than you can handle."


Make no mistake, Ryan is used to working within the parameters of a winning culture. Baltimore has been one of the most feared defensive clubs in the NFL for the better part of this decade and has never finished lower than sixth in total yards allowed under the 46-year-old’s watch.


Ryan, who had been a part of the Ravens’ organization since 1999, boasts a Super Bowl ring and an attitude that Mangini and the team’s two other coaches this decade never possessed.


On the surface, it appears Ryan’s new players will respond well to their new leader. After all, any gifted defense would love to compete in an artistic, blitz-oriented plan.


Such is why it’s easy to infer the Jets will easily adapt to the new formats as three of their best defenders—Kerry Rhodes, Calvin Pace and David Harris—play the same positions as Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, and inside linebacker Ray Lewis.

Ryan’s complex Cover-2 schemes tend to mirror a blueprint drawn by his father when he was with the Chicago Bears. Expect the Jets to play a version of the "46" defense, which will apply a lot of pressure on the opposing quarterback.


New York finished 23-25 in three seasons under Mangini, who had developed a sour reputation of being too passive on the defensive side of the ball.


Learning Ryan’s free-flowing methods has been a bit of a culture shock for some players—even rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez.


According to the Bergen Record (Hackensack, N.J.), Sanchez admitted last week to being confused by the myriad of shifts and formations shown by the Jets’ defense.


Mangini employed a 3-4 system that emphasized pass coverage, but it never seemed to stymie the opposition when it counted.


Last season, New York allowed 125.2 yards per game, ranking ninth in the league.  Those much-improved efforts, however, were negated by a porous pass rush, which finished near the bottom of the pack by coughing up 234.5 yards per contest.


With that in mind, Ryan’s first mission is clear. Perhaps former Ravens and free-agent signings Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard will help cure those ailments.


Ryan’s free-for-all tactics will also cater to the development of cornerback Darrelle Revis and linebacker Vernon Gholston.


For an opposing team, finding a way to solve Ryan’s various defensive weapons should prove to be daunting task.

Mangini never lived up to his billing as the “Mangenius”, but Ryan has the track record and pieces in place to validate his own nickname in the immediate future.

Just several practices into the preseason, the “Mad Scientist” has already begun to experiment.