Monday, December 29, 2014

NY Jets: Rex Ryan Era Finally Comes to an End

An arduous, strange and at times interesting era has finally, at long last, come to an end. Rex Ryan and John Idik have both been fired by the New York Jets.

It is about time.

Woody Johnson needed to clean house after an embarrassing 4-12 season, and is off to the right start by canning two guys who didn't work well together, and two guys who were big parts of a sad sacked era in Jets history.

As for Idzik, nobody has to debate it, he had to go. This was a guy who was really bad at being the GM of this franchise. His inability to spend money wisely on the salary cap, including leaving $20 million unspent was inexcusable. The Jets needed help in the secondary and Idzik never addressed those issues. He sent Darrelle Revis packing, not just once, but twice. He decided not to re-sign Antonio Cromartie, and passed on several qualified free agents, including Cromartie's cousin, Domique-Rodgers.

Not to mention Idzik's drafts were poor (i.e. Geno Smith, Dee Milliner, Jalen Saunders, should I go on), and there was a sense that he was undermining the coach in order to get the guys he really wanted to coach the team. Whether there is any validity to that is unknown. But what can be said is Idzik hurt the Jets chances by not making moves to help this team win. There was not enough talent on this club the past two years and that falls at Idzik's doorstep.

Obviously Johnson made a mistake keeping Ryan and forcing him on Idzik. It was like mixing oil and water. Instead they were locked hip to hip on Black Monday.

In short Idzik was not a football guy. He was a salary cap guru from Seattle, and the Jets hired him because most personnel guys ran for the hills when Johnson told them that Ryan was to be the HC of the NYJ. Idzik played the company line badly. His press conferences were marred with awkward references to how great everyone was in the front office, with a hint that he didn't care what anyone thought. Thanks to the constant calls from Jets fans to fire Idzik, Johnson had no choice but to listen.

As for Rex Ryan he deserved to get fired. I know that there are a lot of Jets fans who want to paint Ryan as a victim, but let's be honest we have been witnesses to the decline of Ryan's era for far too long. It was time to move on.

He came into town on a whirlwind of brash talk and fire. He was upbeat and different compared to the button-downed, tight-lipped ways of Eric Mangini. Ryan's ways were a welcomed change, because the Jets had been virtually ignored for years in the eyes of local and national media.  

There was fun early on with Ryan's bold talk and statements about Super Bowls, Bill Belichick's rings and flipping the bird to Dolphins fans taking headlines. And the team found a way, even with a little luck, to win games and appear in two AFC title games.  His 28-21 victory over the Patriots in the 2010 Divisional Playoffs might have been his biggest and most satisfying win of his tenure. Like Jimmy Johnson once said about his old Cowboys' teams from the 1990s, the Jets under Ryan were talking the talk and walking the walk.

That being said there were plenty of ugly moments during Ryan's tenure. For one he never developed a quarterback for this franchise, failing twice with Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith.  Some have come to Ryan's defense that the quarterbacks undermined him, but here are the cold hard facts: Sanchez was Ryan's boy all the way. Ryan wanted him. Ryan drafted him, and when Sanchez struggled it was Ryan who refused to bench him.

Ryan was so loyal to Mark Sanchez it became a joke. Ever see Ryan's Sanchez tattoo?

Later on in 2013, when John Idzik tried to push for Geno Smith to be the starter, Ryan inserted Sanchez into the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game, as a shot at Idzik and his Geno plans, and Sanchez tore his shoulder.  As for Geno Smith, it was Rex Ryan who refused to bench him when the quarterback couldn't make heads or tails of a defense. Ryan told the media on a consistent basis that it was his call, not Idzik's, to play Geno Smith. If that was true than Ryan has to be blamed for not taking more interest in his development and/or benching him sooner to save his own hide this season.

And speaking of Ryan's ineffective development of quarterbacks and offense, 2012 took the cake. In fact it was Ryan's Waterloo. The season was marred by the Tim Tebow vs. Mark Sanchez disaster that Ryan heavily contributed to by refusing to bench an inept Sanchez, because that was his guy.  Ryan didn't want to go to Tebow or even Greg McElory (not that either was any better) but, by not making a move he exacerbated a bad situation into a comic strip.

The buttfumble game on Thanksgiving was the final straw. Fireman Ed gave up on J-E-T-S chants, and a lot of Jets fans threw in the towel on rooting for the franchise, many still have not come back.

Ryan should have been fired, he wasn't. Mike Tannenbaum was.

It didn't help Ryan's cause that he never established an effective offensive coordinator to help him. The Jets went through three different coordinators during his time. And in each case, whether it be Bryan Schottenheimer, Tony Sparano, or Marty Mornhinweg, he let them run the offense into the ground. While Mornhinweg was Idzik's choice, Ryan had final say on Schottenheimer and Sparano, both of which were failures. It is the job of the head coach to have a say on how all operations of the team are working. Ryan never allowed himself to have a say on the offense. During the Rex Ryan era, the Jets offense was ranked as follows 20th, 11th, 25th, 30th, 25th and 22nd.

In addition, Ryan's propensity to write blank checks for his team with one bold statement after another came back to bite him on many occasions. The biggest blank check came in 2011 after his public trashing of the New York Giants. From the time he arrived, Ryan set his sights on the Giants as a team he wanted to bait and destroy on a weekly basis, even if they weren't on the schedule. He said the Jets were a better team, and MetLife stadium was JetLife Stadium. The Giants shut up Rex for good on Christmas Eve when the defeated Ryan's Jets and knocked them out of the playoffs.  The Giants went on to win the Super Bowl. After the season, Ryan admitted he didn't have the pulse of his team.

The last two seasons have been tough to watch. While Idzik certainly should be blamed for not giving Ryan enough talent to work with, his tenure should have never gone this long. Woody Johnson said Ryan had to make the playoffs in 2013 or else. He didn't, but Ryan rallied his troops and the fans before they closed out the season with wins against Cleveland and Miami. The two victories were enough to keep Rex in town for another season.

Now it is over ... finally, thankfully.

Rex Ryan is a good man, he meant well, and his players liked him. Ryan will likely land on his feet elsewhere as a defensive coordinator, and maybe one day as a head coach. That being said, it was time to move on.  The Rex Ryan era, while a strange, interesting trip shredded the rubber on the tires a long time ago.

Bring on the new general manager and head coach of the Jets, and hopefully a better era.

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