Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Rex Ryan's Future Becomes NY's Latest Bizarre Debate

You gotta give Rex Ryan a lot of credit; he is the gift that keeps on giving, especially if you are in the media, or a fan living in the New York area.

Hours after the Jets defeated the Cleveland Browns, 24-13, amid reports that Ryan had told his players that he expected to be fired, a firestorm of debate erupted amongst Jets fans about whether the embattled coach should stay or go. 

A week ago at this time, most Jets fans wanted Rex out; now it looks like the fans have done a total 180 and want him to return! Check out the Jets twitter feed or Facebook page and it is loaded with fans demanding that Ryan come back. #KeepRex has become the new hot-word on the internet in a matter of hours.  What was once a united front of "Fire Rex and take Sanchez with you," has morphed into a divided Jets nation. A sudden majority want the trash talking coach back. 

Talk radio was abuzz with hosts and callers giving excuses and kudos to Rex Ryan; I even heard someone call in and say he should be considered for ... (wait for it) ... Coach of the Year! Yes, someone actually said that.  The "new" consensus: Rex Ryan is awesome. John Idzik is a jerk. 

Even Ryan's harshest critics, like Manish Mehta and Joe Beningo, are saying that the 2013 Jets were Ryan's best coaching job. 

How did this happen so quickly? How did a victory over the pathetic Browns turn jeers to cheers and tears for Rex Ryan? Where were these people five or six weeks ago? 

Perhaps Ryan knows the answer to that. He has achieved something, whether it be directly or indirectly, and he has made himself into a martyr. When Rex Ryan told his players that the front office had it in for him, the stigma changed. He went from zero to hero. His speech then became something of legend when the team actually won on Sunday. 

A private moment somehow found its way into the notebook of Fox's Jay Glazer and has become the rallying cry for Jets fans. We still don't know who leaked the speech to Glazer, but if it was Ryan, then this has to be Ryan doing what Ryan does best: he makes everything about himself. 

 Ryan drew the battle lines. He wants to get the players and fans behind him against the front office. This is a battle that will only get uglier, unless owner Woody Johnson and Idzik are in on the Ryan bandwagon themselves, and we don't know that yet.

I can't remember for the life of me a head coach on the hot seat becoming this popular at the last minute. Most coaches who are on the hot seat in this town never get a reprieve from the fans. Maybe Mike Woodsen of the Knicks needs to talk to Ryan. 

Then again, it seems that almost anything will please Jets fans, even seven wins in a season that most thought would feature four or five wins. Slight overachievement is not something fans should hang their hats on, but these are the Jets. 46 years and counting, by the way. 

Fact is, outside of the Jets front seven, this is not a great team. At the beginning of the year Ryan called this team the best collection of talent he's ever had. Then two weeks ago, he called the 2013 Jets draft class the best ever. Both statements are laughable, but he said it, and he coached this team. 

The secondary is atrocious, and the defense overall doesn't scare people. They give up big plays and have become very undisciplined; New York is currently 10th in the NFL in penalties, averaging 6.9 a game. The Jets are ranked 24th in pass defense, and 21st in scoring defense. They have forced only 12 turnovers all season. 

The offense -- don't get me started -- ranked 27th. Geno Smith is a rookie, yes. But Ryan has entrusted the offense into the hands of his third co-ordinator in three years and still doesn't put his input into the offense.  

Then there is this. Ryan had the Jets at 5-4 coming off a bye week with a crucial three game stretch ahead of them. He opened that stretch by taking the team to Dave & Buster's bar the night before the game. The Jets lose the next day and would continue to lose three in a row before running into the equally inept Raiders.

Expectations low? Sure, but the Jets had a chance to be that surprise team in 2013 but couldn't pull it off. 

Plus let us not forget how we got to this low season in the first place. Since the back-to-back AFC title game appearances it has been downhill. Ryan and then GM Mike Tannenbaum stripped the team of its core leadership (Allen Fanica, Thomas Jones, Damien Woody) and created a circus atmosphere in town.

Ryan coddled his boy wonder QB, Mark Sanchez, even when it was obvious the guy just didn't have it.

He botched the Tim Tebow experiment to point it became late night fodder.

He stayed loyal to his old Ravens players (Bart Scott, Ed Reed, etc) beyond the point of no return.

There was the middle finger in Miami-gate, foot fetish-gate, the Mark Sanchez tattoo-gate, G-D Snack-gate; all which filled the headlines on a regular basis.
Ryan was John Belushi in Animal House. He was fun initially, annoying by the time the calendar read 2012. That is why 2013 was a make or break year. Unfair as it might seem, Ryan should have been let go with Tannenbaum a year ago. 

Ryan worked hard this year, no doubt. He went all in on this season. He tried to get Dee Milliner to be Dee Milliner, and not the next Darrell Revis. He tried to weather the storm with a rookie QB amid calls for Matt Simms. He lived with the QB competition even though he preferred Mark Sanchez.  But, outside of the Atlanta and New Orleans games, this team was tough to watch. 

The battle lines are now drawn. Who will make the next move? A likely 7-9 finish, the entire history of Ryan's career in New York tells me that change should happen, not because Ryan is a bad guy or a bad coach, but because it might be best for the franchise. The Jets don't want to become the Dallas Cowboys where the headline each year is the coach's job security. 

Nevertheless, my gut tells me that Woody and Co. will give Rex another shot. But if the we are having this conversation again next year, I don't want to hear from the same Jets fans who wanted Rex back in the first place then crying that they want him fired. Be careful what you wish for; you might get it. 

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