After missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year, Jets owner Woody Johnson fired coach Rex Ryan, along with the team’s GM, John Idzik on Monday morning. Ryan joins Atlanta’s Mike Smith, San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh, and likely several other NFL head coaches before the day ends on the unemployment line.
Ryan, a top-shelf defensive mind, was dragged down by a moribund offense his entire tenure with the Jets.
But it wasn’t just offensive ineptitude that hurt Ryan’s cause, but overall team inconsistency.
The Jets ended this season with an impressive 37-24 win over Miami on Sunday, but clearly Johnson already had his mind made up.
“Let’s get over the euphoria of this game,” said former Jets linebacker Chad Cascadden on the team’s television postgame show. “This team is badly coached.”
After coaching the Jets to the AFC Championship game in each of his first two years, with a strong base left by the previous coach, the program went steadily downhill.
And one reason for that was the make-up of Ryan’s coaching staff. There were some quality coaches on the staff, such as defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, but there was also too much cronyism, too many of Ryan’s friends.
Exacerbating the problem was that Ryan is a non-confrontational person, somewhat passive-aggressive, not a guy given to getting into a coach’s or player’s face and telling him to step up his game.
As former Jets defensive lineman Trevor Pryce put it, Ryan is “loyal to the point of defiance.”
Perhaps he wants to be liked too much. Former Jets linebacker Bart Scott nicknamed him “Uncle Rex.”
So this approach seemed to lead to Ryan not holding his coaches accountable enough.
Former Jets cornerback Josh Thomas, now with the Lions, recently claimed he wasn’t coached properly during his stint with the Jets, from October 13 to December 16.
“I feel like I wasn’t given the attention necessary as far as being engaged from the coach-to-player standpoint and knowing the things I need to work on,” Thomas said. “It became where I was there as a player and wanting and desiring some feedback that wasn’t given. So sometimes I may have been standing there with a [deer-in-the-headlight] look in my eyes trying to figure out what I needed to do.
“I just want to be great,” he continued. “I want to get better every day. I look forward to enhancing something about my game every day, and [the Jets] were just more independent there.”
This was a major problem. Obviously Ryan can’t be in every positional meeting room, but he had to demand more from his staff.
Ryan needs to learn from his first head coaching experience, like Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll did, and make some changes to his modus operandi.
If he lands in another spot such as Atlanta, he must hire the best coaching staff humanly possible, and forget about helping out friends.
Also, he needs to bench players faster when they aren’t playing well, and stop thinking his strong belief in someone will magically make them play better.
“[Ryan] seemed to think he could overcome the randomness with conviction, as though wanting something badly enough could will it into being,” wrote author Nick Dawidoff, who was embedded with the Jets in 2011.
“Sometimes with Rex it’s blind love,” longtime Ryan friend Sam Pittman told Dawidoff. “But that is who he is. Part of it makes him great, part of it gives him flaws.”
No question the man is a top-shelf defensive coach and a good motivator. If he learns from his mistakes in New York, he could reemerge as a very good head coach.
So where do the Jets go from here?
It’s possible they will hire a new general manager first, so he can be involved in picking the new coach.
The Jets new coach needs to be a strong leader with vision who will command respect and hold everyone accountable.
In other words, somebody not like John Boehner.
Perhaps that could come from the college ranks with a coach such as Baylor’s Art Briles, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, or TCU’s Gary Patterson.
Or maybe a former NFL head coach such as Mike Shanahan or Gary Kubiak.
Former NFL GM’s Charley Casserly and Ron Wolf have been hired as consultants to help Johnson with his search.
But the Jets clearly needed to move on from Ryan at this point, after four straight disappointing season, capped by a 4-12 record this year.
And Ryan needs to tweak his approach if he wants to have more success the next time around.
Dan Leberfeld, the editor of Jets Confidential, writes for Breitbart Sports.