It's now official. Rex Ryan will be back on the New York Jets' sideline in 2014. After ESPN.com's Rich Cimini reported that he's signed a multi-year contract extension, his stay may well extend for a while longer.
Ryan was staring down the unemployment line just a few weeks ago, but Woody Johnson, John Idzik and the Jets' front office have decided to stick with him for at least a couple of seasons.
While Ryan can sometimes make questionable in-game decisions and attract unwanted press coverage to the team, he is indeed the best man for the job.
Ryan's defensive expertise, relationships with his players and ability to win under the most difficult of situations make him the ideal fit for Gang Green.
On paper, the Jets' defensive unit slipped dramatically in 2014.
The unit ranked among the worst teams in the league against the pass and allowed a hefty 24.2 points per game. In fact, New York ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in total defense.
In Ryan's first four years at the helm, Gang Green's defensive unit ranked among the best in the league, slotting in at first, third, fifth and eighth in total defense, respectively.
However, despite the drop in statistical production, Rex coached the hell out of his defensive unit.
Only four of the 11 starters saw major playing time the year before. The Jets started two rookies, along with three inexperienced youngsters and three veteran castoffs, for the entire season. Antonio Cromartie was abysmal and the pass rush was invisible at times.
Despite the lack of experience and talent, the defense emerged as a solid unit. It was arguably the best run defense in the NFL and the defensive line—comprised of a rookie, an undrafted free agent and a third-year pro—dominated.
The unit single-handedly kept the Jets competitive, and that can be largely accredited to Ryan.
His wacky and uber-effective defensive schemes slowed down opposing offenses, despite the lack of firepower on the defensive side of the ball.
No matter what players are on the field, the Jets defense has always been solid. That kind of consistency and effectiveness is a result of Ryan's genius. Few others coaches are that responsible for their unit's success.
Relationships with Players
Ryan may be a polarizing figure in the media and among fans, but he is beloved by both his locker room and staff.
Every coach and player who has served under Ryan has had nothing but positive feelings towards him.
The former Ravens defensive coordinator has consistently gotten the most out of his roster, and that is directly correlated with his close bonds to his players. Ryan is a fiery and dedicated coach, and his locker room takes up his personality.
Ryan's close relationships with his players are even more important considering the inexperience of much of New York's roster. Young players now feel a distinct connection to Ryan, as he helped them adapt to the NFL and succeed at a professional level.
If he had been fired, their development could have been seriously stunted.
Ryan is so beloved, in fact, that when Woody Johnson announced that Ryan would return as head coach next season, New York's locker room exploded with excitement.
Everybody seems to love Rex.
Success Under Difficult Circumstances
Rex Ryan has the third-highest victory total and the second-highest winning percentage of any head coach in Jets history.
He has the most playoff wins (4) of any head coach in franchise history.
In five seasons under Ryan, Gang Green is 42-38 with two AFC Championship Game appearances and just one losing season.
Ryan has done all this with some of the worst quarterback play in recent memory.
Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith haven't done Ryan any favors, as they have combined for 80 touchdowns, 90 interceptions, a 55 percent completion percentage and just over 15,000 yards in those five seasons.
Ryan's success with such poor quarterbacking is astounding, to say the least. In a league where a quarterback can often single-handedly determine success, Ryan has defied reason.
If Ryan were to receive some decent quarterback play, there is no knowing how far the Jets could go.
Even though the Jets haven't made the postseason in three consecutive seasons and have continually been deficient in talent, they have managed to stay relevant throughout Ryan's tenure.
With the development of Geno Smith and other New York youngsters, Ryan could easily lead this team to glory.
Ryan dreams big. With his return, Jets fans should too.