I'm 46 years old. In over 3 decades of watching my beloved Jets there's been one, and one only consistency. That wouldn't be the "circus" thing, which to a large degree is an overblown fairy tale (many NFL teams are circuses, the most in fact), it wouldn't be the losing in the past (we've had winning stretches that led nowhere). No. The one consistency I've marked down about my Jets is: dumb managerial and owner decisions. Let me emphasize that: DUMB. If I were asked then what has it been in the past that has kept us from becoming a stable contender, hell, what has kept us from winning another SuperBowl? My answer to that would be that we've been dumb at the decision making. But something miraculous happened 2 days ago. Something truly outside the known Jets world. The Jets made an incredibly intelligent decision. The Jets showed high IQ at the department where it matters, in the decision making and the planning. The Jets decided to keep coach Rex Ryan. I applaud enthusiastically this decision by the Jets as I, and many thousands of other Jets' fans, happen to think that this decision is among the top-3 intelligent decisions we've made in our history as a team.
The easy thing in the Ryan case would be what the extreme minority of the Jets' fanbase and a few Ryan-hating media pundits wanted: to fire him. That would have been the easy, the not-intelligent way out. That would have been what certain teams did on Black Monday by scapegoating their coach and not addressing the CONTEXT of their failure instead of singling out a guy to take the fall. Firing Rex would've been "logical" as mainstream stale thought goes, but while "logical" it would be 100% irrational, it would be non-sensical. It would also have been what the jets have done in the past. Some "clueless" guy like Carroll (who was also supposedly a "loser" if I remember correctly the Jets lore from that time) is kicking serious ass out in Seattle these days. Yup. The past has a wonderfully sneaky way of coming back and make you look like a fool. Especially if you have been a fool.
There has been no coach in the history of the Jets to cause as much polarization as Ryan has. It comes with the territory. It comes with the fiery Irish personality that he is, it comes with his flair, his bravado, and an attitude that could be 100% New Yorkish. It's so easy to love Rex, because as a personality, as the face of the team, he rocks. Oh, did that word startle you a bit? Yes, the man rocks as a personality. That type of a person will not "produce" people who simply "don't like" him, it will produce downright haters.
There also has not been another coach in Jets history who's face and public persona was not more connected with that of the Jets. Rex Ryan is the first coach in Jets history to totally, and fully, incorporate the spirit and the soul of this team in himself as the head coach. Rex Ryan right now is the New York Jets. And a that's a good thing. A coach's personality (says an old NFL adage) is reflected by the team. A coach's personality is the team, and that goes with any team. Belichick is firstly and foremostly the Patriots right now. Bill Walsh was the 49ers. Andy Reid was the Eagles. I could go on. Ryan is the first coach we ever had who truly represents this team, a coach who, we have felt as a fanbase (the crushingly overwhelming majority of it), represents what the Jets should be about: tough, full of attitude, ferocious loyalty, with a winner's mindset, with drive, and with the fame of not giving up. Ryan is all that and it does get reflected on the team. The fans recognize that. I recognize that as well, this is the first Jets coach I've ever been a personal fan of in over 30 years of watching and waiting.
Expectations and tears
Problem is that Rex's haters come in powerful places. The consensus on the media (NY media not excluded) is that Ryan is a "flawed" coach, some go as far as to call him someone who isn't a HC at all, someone who is over-loyal to his players if not downright soft, someone who is clueless about offense, someone who wouldn't know clock-management even if he were Swiss. And on it goes. To all the above, or so goes the hater narrative, comes the fact that 3 seasons without playoffs should get you fired anywhere and especially in NY. Woody seemed to disagree. Idzik seems to disagree too if I were to judge from his reaction on the now viral video. Or from his now public position that he and Ryan are "joined at the hip". The fans disagree too. There were no playoff expectations this year. Or the year before for that matter. The Rex "issues" have been discussed at extreme depth here on GGN. As that happened a lot of myths were disposed of : that Rex drafts defense (one of the most persistent and hilarious of the myths), that it's actually a rarity for a HC to be strong on one side of the ball. A certain Sean Payton hired a certain Rob Ryan because the defense wasn't his strong card (that would be Payton's). In fact the Saints defense has sucked hard before the other Ryan arrived. Guess what? A good HC is not one who masters both sides of the ball. That's ludicrous. A good HC is one that delegates work in areas he's not strong at to people who are strong at it. That's true of any good HC. That's not to say Rex does not have his problems. He does as any HC does, absolutely any. But when you put everything on the scale, the positives easily outweigh the negatives, it's not even a discussion.
There were no playoff expectations this year, or last year, because the Jets were plagued by horrible managing and the consequently weak roster and lack of talent. The expectations were that we should throw a party if we exceeded 4 wins all year. Well, we got 8. That provides for an 100% wrong prediction by the experts for those that love selective stats. Ryan has done the following while in NY: with reasonable talent (nothing great considering both sides of the ball) he took us to 2 AFC championship games. With Mark Buttfumble Sanchez as the QB, a QB that most Jets fans now recognize as one of the very worst we ever had at the position (and who knows about horrible QBs if not the Jets?).
Ryan took a team that was supposed to suck beyond belief this year and kept it in playoff-contention till mid December. Ryan did not miss any playoffs. Get this right. Ryan made the playoffs a conversation in NY this year despite the fact that there was not supposed to be any such conversation to begin with. A team where a rookie QB threw to 18 different receivers throughout the season. A team where Revis (probably the best CB of all time) was lost, Cro had a totally unpredictable bad year, and rookie Milliner went through the horrors of learning one of the most crucial positions in modern football. Ryan took this team that's embarrassingly low on offensive talent and put it into the playoff conversation. You gotta be kidding me.
What Idzik and Woody both certainly recognize, is that Rex Ryan is part of the solution. Which is a mild assessment if you ask me. Ryan is not only a part of the solution, he's a great HC. When you got one of those you better not be dumb enough to let them go. They are not easy to find. The one thing you know with Ryan is that he will always field a defense that will kick your ass. He will always find a way so that the Jets defense is always taken very seriously. In retrospect, what he did this year was masterful. He fielded one of the most ferocious front-7s in the league, and he stuck with a rookie CB who was woefully struggling, getting paid in the end for his conviction as Milliner's rise in the last 3 games showed.
While the Jets are still dealing with the ugly aftermath of Tanny's managing, Ryan has kept the ship afloat. No, he couldn't do any miracles, no coach does miracles. You are the coach that your roster allows you to be. That's not the only part that makes a good HC, but the roster is of paramount importance obviously. Rex has outperformed in the majority of his time in NY with the rosters he's led. Imagine what he can possibly do with a sane roster, with a good roster that has power on both sides of the ball. We're talking constantly in the playoffs, we're talking of making the SB a realistic perspective and not some pipe dream lost in false expectations.
The coming of Idzik (whose moves I've appreciated very much up to now) and of Morhinweg, means that the Jets have for the first time in very many years all the correct people in the critical positions of coaching and management. Woody fixed the mistake of Tanny and Rex fixed his mistake with Sparano. Mistakes happen, you recognize them and you fix them, that's what smart people do. In a sense, this is potentially the Jets perfect storm. It's the first time that I personally, as a long time fan, am happy with the GM, happy with the HC, happy with the OC. I never thought there would come a day I would say that about the Jets. I'm also happy and highly anticipating the offseason. Again that's a first. Usually I'd be looking at the offseason with a hope for miracles. I'm not hoping for any miracles now. I trust that these people will get it right. I'm easily confident about them.
I left the tears for last. Ryan's tears. I left them for last because I want to make extra mention of that incredible moment in the Jets locker room. The reason that video has gone viral is because of the authenticity in it. There's not one gram of fakeness in it, there's nothing made up, no lip services, no promo-behavior, nothing. It's all real.
You have a moment of deadening silence as Woody comes in and everybody knows that he's about to announce the score. As he finishes his sentence the locker room erupts in joy. It's a declaration of loyalty and of unity. That's what it is. And as Idzik later presents the game ball to Rex and Rex loses it and lets the tears flow, you could see clearly: these were green tears. These were the tears of a man who's not only the HC but also loves the team. We never had that. These tears had balls. These tears were not from a weak man, they were from a tough as nails man, a man who's confident enough of himself not to be afraid to let tears flow infront of the men he works with because he knows he has their respect. The man was not afraid to cry because why should he? We all identified with him crying (well almost all) because we understood and felt the moment. When you combine that with the fact that Ryan is a hell of a coach you know we have something special. The season was "only" 8-8, but in the IQ department we did really well this year.
Thanks Woody and Idzik for being smart in this case.
Proud to be a Jets fan.