New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan entered the 2013 season on the thinnest of ice, the hottest of seats. Coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons and the prospects not looking good, the general consensus was that this would be Ryan's last season with Gang Green.
However, after guiding the Jets to a surprising 8-8 finish this season, the 51-year-old not only saved his job, but was rewarded with a multi-year contract extension as well.
Well, sort of.
ESPN's Adam Schefter was among the first to break the news:
Jets and head coach Rex Ryan have reached agreement on a multi-year extension, according to team and league sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 16, 2014
However, as Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News pointed out, there's a bit more than meets the eye where Ryan's deal is concerned:
If Rex Ryan delivers (playoffs), he sticks around beyond 2015. If he doesn't, team can terminate/opt out of deal. Smart move by Jets #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) January 16, 2014
As mercilessly as the Jets were mocked for being one of the NFL's most dysfunctional teams two years ago, this incentive-laden deal is another example of the changing culture in the Big Apple.
NFL teams are generally loathe to leave coaches twisting in the wind in contract years. Rather than have the "lame duck" cloud hanging over Ryan and the team all season long, owner Woody Johnson and general manager John Idzik were wise to grant Ryan an extension once they decided to retain him.
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42-38 career record
In many respects, Ryan earned this deal. He possesses the highest career winning percentage of any head coach in Jets history, and his four postseason victories are a team record.
The Jets may not have made the playoffs in 2013, but it still may well have been the best coaching effort of his career. New York is one of the most talent-deficient teams in the NFL offensively, and rookie quarterback Geno Smith had a very uneven first year under center.
However, in the NFL, wins are all that count, and after advancing to the AFC Championship Game in each of Ryan's first two seasons, the Jets have now gone three years in a row without making the playoffs.
Was the Rex Ryan extension a smart move by the New York Jets?
By loading the deal with incentives and including an "out" for the team, the Jets are having their cake and eating it too. If Ryan is able to build on 2013 and get the Jets back into the postseason, then he will be handsomely rewarded.
If he can't, or the Jets backslide, then the team can cut bait without being on the hook for an exorbitant sum of money.
Granted, this extension by no means guarantees that the Jets will soon return to their former role as the primary foil for the New England Patriots in the AFC East.
The offense is in dire need of playmakers, the secondary needs work and the verdict is still very much out on Smith.
This extension could easily be more stay-of-execution than long-term solution. With that said, though, given the way the deal was reportedly constructed, the Jets have done what they can to minimize the risk.
How this will all play out remains to be seen, but it's apparent that these Jets, while the coach and some players are the same, aren't the slapstick squad that was the butt of so many jokes in 2012.
Thank goodness we still have the Cleveland Browns to laugh at.