It's been a difficult season for the New York Jets, and with whispers that Rex Ryan's job security is in jeopardy, the head coach and the players have responded.
According to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, Ryan reportedly told his players Dec. 21 in their team meeting that he believed he would be fired at the end of the season, asking his team to finish the season strong.
Whether the report was true or not, the Jets were able to come away with a 24-13 win over the Cleveland Browns thanks to a solid overall game from the entire team. Geno Smith arguably had his best game of the career, throwing for 214 yards and two touchdowns, adding another 48 yards and a score on the ground.
After the game, both players and coaches, including Ryan, would not comment on the rumors that Ryan was gone, according to ESPN's Rich Cimini. According to the report, Ryan had this to say about the situation after the game:
Whether the report is accurate or not, I'm going to tell you this: Those things will stay in-house.
I know I have a contract for next year. What I do know, guys, is that I'm coaching this team. I've said this all season long: My job is to focus on the present and what's right now.
A number of players continued to voice their support for the head coach. Cimini provided quotes from several key names in the locker room following the game, including defensive veteran Calvin Pace:
"I guarantee you, everybody loves playing for Rex," linebacker Calvin Pace said. "It's a blast coming to work every day. He motivates everybody and believes in everybody."
Cimini continued to provide quotes from two standouts on the offensive side of the ball from the team's victory against the Browns.
Wide receiver David Nelson, a former Buffalo Bill, said he enjoys playing for Ryan. He didn't like him as an opponent.
From the outside looking in, to be blunt and honest with you, [I thought he was] arrogant and cocky. He's coming out and making those bold statements and brash comments. As an opposing player, you look at those and you think he's supposed to be politically correct. Now, getting to know him, he's honest. He's sincere. He truly believes in his players.
Guard Willie Colon, who has said on multiple occasions that the organization would take a step back if Ryan was fired, reiterated his belief in the coach. He admitted the speculation has been a distraction.
"Personally, it's hard to say it's not distracting at times because I love the guy so much," Colon said. "But, at the same time, it's a business."
At 7-8, the Jets have already been eliminated from the playoffs, but this season has exceeded the expectations of many. After going 6-10 last season, many expected the team to take another step back, but Ryan and company have the opportunity to win eight games despite a serious lack of talent offensively.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen believes Ryan did a good job coaching this season, as do many others.
Cimini provided an opinion from a rival AFC team discussing Ryan's coaching future with the Jets:
"If he finishes 8-8, you could make a strong case to keep him," said an AFC personnel director, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "I thought they'd win three or four games."
Others believe that while Ryan shouldn't be a head coach in the NFL, he would make a great defensive coordinator if he took a position like the one he had with the Baltimore Ravens. While his defense struggled at times, the Jets still ranked third against the run this year, allowing just 88 rushing yards per game.
Ryan's future as a head coach doesn't look bright with the recent news, but with how much his players support him, he should have no problem finding a new home if he is fired at the end of the season, even if it isn't as a head coach.