Just two years ago the New York Jets 2011 season came to a tumultuous end. Brooding on the sideline was Santonio Holmes, who was banished from the huddle in the fourth quarter by the offensive lineman—the Jets would go on to lose 19-17 to the Dolphins ending their playoff hopes for the season.
Dysfunction was what the Jets were. They had no quarterback, they had no chemistry, they didn’t have each other’s backs, and they had a coach who couldn’t control his players.
Woah, woah, woah, wait a second—couldn’t control his players? This is Rex Ryan who, by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, defined the term “player’s coach”. How could analysts and fans alike misinterpret the team as being led by a man who was so into his ego he would look past the details of teammate interactions? Things happen, coaches overlook things and you learn things on the job. That’s what happened to Rex.
The rocky road season documented so beautifully in “Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football” revealed the ins and outs of an NFL season; the interesting dynamics and work schedules of NFL coaches, but most importantly the complex character of Ryan. There were things we learned about Ryan in those pages that helped illustrate that he was still learning the intricacies of being an NFL head coach, and that he held too much power within the organization on personnel matters, which mitigated the type of talent that could be brought in.
The hiring of John Idzik and the moving on from Mike Tannebaum allowed a different, more professional relationship to develop between general manager and coach, with more defined roles of where the hierarchy of power lied. The effect of this gives more reason to keep Ryan for now, and the future writes Bob Glauber of Newsday:
Ryan has shown himself to be a worthy coach when he has a good team to work with, as the Jets' AFC Championship Game appearances in his first two seasons attest. But the trajectory went down from there, and Ryan's increasing say in personnel matters actually worked to his detriment.
Look no further than his signing off on acquiring Tim Tebow, which turned into a colossal mess last year and took Tannenbaum down with it.
With Idzik in firm control of personnel matters and with Ryan forced to go along with whatever decisions that were made for him, the coach benefited from a strong influx of talent.
Things have changed from that 2011 season, especially in Ryan where he now exudes the qualities that resemble a head coach. The team must project what the coach preaches and the communication between offensive coordinator and head coach has given a strong balance of the things that Ryan wants and what a west coast offense represents. Running the ball effectively and consistently is something that Ryan finds to be extremely important to a football team so the Jets learned to do that toward the back end of the season, running the ball more than they threw it in three of the last four games of the season. That development became possible with the usage of quarterback Geno Smith as a scrambler, utilizing his agility and his quickness to great success with quarterback draws.
The passion, the excitement for the game of football has never wavered from the Jets but we now see a more focused understanding of what that entails. Ryan’s hands on work with the defense has given him a greater investment of the coaching day-to-day aspect along with a focus on how to manage his own time throughout the week. That will play dividends on his future with the club.
That future is muddled in reports of how long Ryan's future will be with the Jets. It has been reported by Kim Jones that Ryan is guaranteed the opportunity to finish out his contract, which ends after the 2014 season, but has not been promised an extension past that. The issue seems to stem in Ryan’s unwillingness to mix up his staff. That mostly is due to the fierce loyalty that Ryan has toward his staff, which counters Idzik’s thought process of not implementing Ryan with anymore power than he already has. Regardless, Ryan see’s it as an opportunity to prove himself for the 2014 season and that success looks bright with loads of draft picks, plenty of cap space, and a young core.
When the whistle blew on Sunday the Jets were able to leave the field with their head held high, and Ryan doused in a Gatorade bath from his players. Those players were the one’s celebrating enthusiastically when owner Woody Johnson announced that Ryan would be returning next season. The Jets 8-8 record mirrored the exact one that they had in 2011, on that same field in Miami but the results and the feeling couldn’t be more different. The Jets now look to the future with a more stable foundation and a more sincere excitement of what is to come. With Ryan strapped in for another year as the head coach Jets fans should rejoice because as John Idzik said, “He’s our coach”.
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