Whether the changes in the front office are for better or worse remain to be seen (so far, so good), but the changes in Ryan's demeanor with the media went hand-in-hand with a visible change in his waistline.
Some people liked Rex more when he had bold swagger, but that seems to have taken a backseat. Rest assured, though, Rex has not lost his nerve, and it's a good thing, because he could be coaching for his job in 2013.
The potential for Rex to hit lame-duck status doesn't seem to be bothering him any.
"I'm not afraid of my situation," Ryan told reporters on Tuesday morning at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix (via Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post). "I'm looking forward to my situation. You're making the assumption that I'm just a short-term guy. I don't see it that way."
The Jets were wise to hang onto Rex, who is still one of the more brilliant defensive minds in the NFL.
For the past four years, the Jets have ranked in the top 10 in total defense, total pass defense and first downs allowed. Even advanced metrics show their sound performance against the pass, having ranked in the top 10 in Football Outsiders' defense-adjusted value on average each of the past four years.
That performance was despite an injury-riddled, aging defensive roster that featured an average age of 29.5 years old, with five of 11 starters over the age of 32.
They've stayed one of the best statistical units not because of top-end athleticism or talent, but because of Rex Ryan's aggressive attack. According to ProFootballFocus.com, the Jets blitzed on 39.1 percent of opponent's dropbacks in 2012. The league average was 31.5 percent. Their blitz percentage put them in the top 10 of the most blitz-happy teams in the NFL in 2012.
He already said he's going to take back the play-calling responsibilities on defense now that defensive coordinator Mike Pettine left for the Bills.
The last thing that the Jets need is for Rex to tuck tail now.
The league knows I can coach. I never said [this season] was going to be easy, but I'm excited about the challenges. You're going to have a lot of turnover, but rebuilding? Each year in the NFL, you feel your team has a shot.
Every team is always rebuilding—at least the good ones—and with the Jets, they're rebuilding while also reloading.
With several one-year deals for talented free agents with injury concerns, the Jets have taken a low-risk, high-reward approach to this offseason. Considering their salary cap constraints, the Jets handled free agency the only way that they could: on the cheap.
That being said, this year's group already looks better—and younger—than last year's.
Moving on to Quinton Coples from Mike DeVito is a switch that the Jets hope will help their pass rush. The same goes for signing former Chargers defensive tackle Antonio Garay, who is a bit better of a pass-rusher than DeVito. He ranked first in pass-rushing productivity at defensive tackle in 2009 and second in 2010.
Moving on from Calvin Pace to Antwan Barnes should also help the pass rush, as Barnes has made his living hunting quarterbacks for the Chargers. In 2011, he was the second-most productive pass-rusher on a per-snap basis, with 29 pressures, five hits and 11 contributed sacks total, according to ProFootballFocus (subscription required). He shouldn't take long to gel with the rest of the defense, as he has a few years worth of experience under Rex when the two were together with the Ravens.
With a lot of turnover on defense, Rex will be asked to take a group of new faces and make them work as a unit.
We all know, however, that the biggest questions for the Jets are on offense.
Finding a quarterback would be the proverbial "golden ticket" for the Jets. Is Mark Sanchez the answer? What about David Garrard? Tim Tebow, Greg McElroy and Matt Simms get a mention as well. The Jets have also shown an interest in Kevin Kolb, probably due to the ties between Kolb and Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg from when the two were with the Eagles.
Sanchez would be the safe choice to start. He has NFL experience and is versed in the West Coast offense, having run it at USC. He may very well be the team's best option to start, but Rex can't be afraid to admit otherwise. Garrard hasn't played meaningful football in over two years, but he was on his way to being the Dolphins' starting quarterback in 2012 before he hurt his knee and went on injured reserve.
Think back to the Jets' all-or-nothing strategy against the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football in Week 6. It was one roll of the dice after another throughout the contest. The risks were calculated, and the Jets kept it competitive with a one-loss Texans team.
This is a dire situation, and it's going to take some risks for the Jets to be competitive in 2013. This is another opportunity for Rex to show that he's one of the most fearless coaches in the NFL.