MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 01: Head Coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets watches against the Miami Dolphinsat Sun Life Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Rex Ryan's tenure with the Jets resembles the tenures of the last two Super Bowl winning coaches quite a bit. Sean Payton and Mike McCarthy shocked the NFL with quick trips to a conference championship game early in their careers. Like Rex, both have very good minds on one side of the ball. They have been hands on with their offenses and molded them into consistently two of the top units in the league just as Rex Ryan has done with the defense.
Both McCarthy and Payton hit rough patches after the early success, though. While the Packers and Saints were successful offensively, their below average defenses caused both teams to suffer underachieving years.
McCarthy and Payton were offensive oriented guys. They knew they did not have the answers themselves. They knew they had to go out and get strong defensive minds with established track records they could trust with a lot of autonomy. The Saints hired Gregg Williams. The Packers hired Dom Capers. The results speak for themselves. The defenses for the 2009 Saints and the 2010 Packers might not be remembered as legendary units, but they improved enough and made enough plays for these teams' dominant offenses to carry them to championships.
Building a staff is one of the most important things a head coach does. A good head coach surrounds himself with people who compliment his strengths and compensate for his weaknesses. I think Mike Pettine is a good example of a good assistant for Rex. Rex is relatively hands on with the defense even if he has taken a step back since becoming head coach of the Jets. Pettine is comfortable helping Rex to implement his system and does so effectively. At the same time, Pettine provides a good contrast with Rex. He was behind the zone based coverage schemes the team used so effectively in the Playoffs last year, contrasted with Rex's preferred attack style defense. He also provides a level headed foil to Rex's passionate, impulsive side. There were times in those Playoffs where Pettine talked Rex out of blitzing and abandoning the team's plan.
Rex's specialty is not offense. That is no excuse, however, for an offense near the bottom of the league. No matter how much he improves the defense, he is not the coordinator. He is responsible for the entire team. He cannot act shocked when the team throws it 67 times like he did after the Giants game. If he is surprised and angry about something that happpens with his offense, it is clear he cannot trust the guy running his offense with the kind of autonomy required. This, of course, is one of many issues with the aforementioned coordinator.
Unlike Payton and McCarthy, Ryan has decided to not make a change on the other side of the ball. He is not attempting to fix what has not worked. He is not going to turn autonomy over to a seasoned hand. His career is now tied with that of Brian Schottenheimer. It is his choice. If Schottenheimer continues to fail, he deserves to be the one to go down. Perhaps Woody Johnson or Mike Tannenbaum is forcing Schottenheimer down his throat. These two hired Rex for a reason. Woody just a few days ago called Rex a genius. We all know the kind of salesman Rex can be. Surely he could have convinced Johnson that his subordinate was not cutting it and was holding the team back if that was what he believes. Maybe the team is just being nice to Schottenheimer or hoping he gets a head coaching job so the Jets do not have to pay his salary. That would be such a convoluted plan with such meager upside even if everything fell into place that Schottenheimer could have designed it.
As of right now, though, there are no changes. Here is a brief timeline of how next season will play out with Schottenheimer back. In the preseason, Rex will predict a Super Bowl, and we will hear stories about how the Jets plan to give Mark Sanchez more responsibility and ask him to carry more of the load. By midseason with the offense struggling, we will hear stories of Rex Ryan being enraged at the offense's struggles and demanding the team go back to ground and pound. At the end of the year, Rex will be astonished the team did not win it all and predict it next year. It has become the same story.
The Jets offense in the 2012 season is shaping up to be the worst idea for a sequel since Weekend at Bernie's II, and the ending could destroy what looked like a promising coaching era.