So what do you do when you spend $140 million on free agents and proceed to miss the playoffs? For the New York Jets, the answer to that question was apparently to get a new head coach.
Enter Rex Ryan. Somewhat heavyset, overly bombastic, and intensely candid, Ryan, son of legendary coach Buddy Ryan, will replace the departed Eric Mangini and is sure to put an immediate and lasting imprint on a defense which finished in the middle of the pack in nearly every major defensive category in 2008.
Ryan, 46, fresh off a four-year stint as the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, will bring his aggressive, blitzing style to a Jets defense that appeared almost afraid to blitz under Mangini.
The man whose Ravens’ players once dubbed “The Mad Scientist” for the way he would retreat into back rooms and cook up an array of designer blitzes, Ryan is poised to turn the Jets into one of the NFL’s premier defenses.
In his four years as a coordinator in Baltimore, Ryan’s defenses ranked fifth, first, sixth, and second in the NFL in Total Defense.
Since 1999, Ryan’s first year as a defensive line coach with the Ravens, the team has ranked below sixth in the NFL only once.
Ryan’s defense, an updated version of the “46” defense that his father made famous en route to a Super Bowl title with the Chicago Bears in the mid-1980’s, is based on a foundation of speed, aggression, and all-out assault and pressure on the quarterback.
Entering his first year as a head coach on any level, Ryan wasted little time in remaking the Jets defense in his image, importing linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard from a Ravens unit that gave up only 244 points a season ago.
Ryan has also stated that he will personally be calling the defensive plays from the sidelines much like his days in Baltimore, while new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, another Ravens import, will sit in the coaches’ box.
On paper, it appears Ryan’s schemes fit the Jets perfectly. Former first-round pick Darrelle Revis is quickly becoming one of the better cover corners in the NFL, a necessity in Ryan’s system.
Linebacker Calvin Pace and tackle Kris Jenkins, both part of the free-agent splurge a year ago, who underachieved under Mangini, stand to benefit with the more aggressive defensive philosophy.
Even New York’s 2008 first-round pick Vernon Gholston, coming off of a train-wreck of a rookie campaign, may see his talents as a speed rusher utilized more effectively under Ryan’s blitzing scheme than in Mangini’s zone defenses.
Regardless of the result, one thing is for sure, Ryan has already changed the attitude of Gang Green. His is a style that players love to play and fans love to watch. Its often been said that Ryan’s players in Baltimore would run through a brick wall if he asked them to.
Come January, let’s check to see if there are any holes in the walls of East Rutherford.