In a now infamous article from late in the 2012 season, Manish Mehta reported that Rex Ryan said he would be better off being fired than returning in 2013 under certain circumstances. The Jets were in a tricky spot after the season. It's never easy when you know the general manager has to go, but it is unclear the head coach does. Mike Tannenbaum sealed his fate with a series of terrible moves that depleted the talent level of the team, capped by Mark Sanchez's extension.
Things seemed less clear for Rex Ryan. There was a compelling case to be made that he deserved to be fired. The Jets were coming off two straight bad seasons. In 2011, he all but admitted he lost control of the locker room. In 2012, his lack of vision of offense and loyalty to trusted veterans cost the Jets. It was a flawed team, though, and it wasn't entirely clear how much was because of coaching and how much of the problem was due simply to the subpar talent the Jets were putting on the field. Woody Johnson decided it was more about the talent and created a bit of an awkward situation with a new general manager inheriting a head coach. It wasn't ideal, but it was conceivable things could work out.
After the Darrelle Revis trade, it is difficult to figure out what the Jets were thinking or whether they were thinking at all. Ryan needs a winning year. He is coming off two straight bad ones. With more fans dissatisfied by the day over the job he is doing and some in the media desperate to get him fired, it is difficult to imagine him surviving a bad 2013. Can any coach in New York survive a three year stretch of getting consistently worse going from championship caliber to one of the worst teams in the league?
The situation the Jets have created has made this seemingly inevitable. Things didn't look bright for the Jets in 2013. They did not have a ton of talent, and the schedule was brutal. You could at least imagine Ryan rallying the troops. Maybe he could work his defensive magic building around the one top end player on the team. They could eek out a bunch of close wins in low scoring games and surprise people.
The Revis trade shows team management has given up on 2013. That's not necessarily the worst thing for the long term health of the franchise. While I find the trade ill advised to say the least, totally blowing things up is at least a better option than keeping Revis and then overpaying for mediocrity in addition to try and make one last run. That's the formula the Jets tried last year.
The big issue here is the Jets knew for months they were trading Revis. Trading Revis leaves the Jets with a roster that no coach could win with. There's so little talent here that five wins is a possibility even if things break perfectly. A really bad season probably costs Ryan his job. What then was the point of bringing him back?
Did Woody Johnson just not want to pay Ryan his salary to not coach the team? With Revis gone, do the Jets view Rex as the star they can market the team around to drum up interest? Are they just looking for a scapegoat after a bad season?
Is it possible that Ryan's job is really not on the line in 2013? That feels unlikely, but what if that's the case? Is the message you want to send that Rex parlayed doing a bad job in 2011 and 2012 into a two year do over?
If the Jets were going to start over, they just should have hired somebody new. Sure, the new guy would have taken his lumps, but he would have a chance to install his program. Everybody would get a year of experience in the new system hoping to make the leap in 2014. The Jets could build their Draft and signings around players who fit the new system instead of another year of getting Rex players.
This organization does a lot that leads to questions about whether there is a core long-term vision or whether things are just being made up as we go along. This would be yet another.