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New York Jets: Lateral Damage

Over the years, the New York Jets have gutted HC Rex Ryan's coaching staff. And most of them were neither fired nor promoted to higher roles in other teams.

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I don't pretend to be an expert on the New York Jets, or football in general, but I do find it curious that so many assistants have moved on from Gang Green laterally during the Rex Ryan era. Not fired. Not promoted. Just spirited away to another team in the same role.

When Rex began his tenure with the Green and White, I was encouraged when he fired DL Coach Kerry Locklin early in the season in 2009. There had been much miscommunication with personnel changes during games, and it showed me that while Rex knew how to have fun, he also held his assistants accountable. And Locklin had been one of his oldest and closest friends. My goodness. Rex really seemed to put winning ahead of personal feelings.

Looking back on it now, my theory is that Rex probably micro managed the situation to the point where the two are not friends anymore. Would he have let the guy go so soon if he had not been capable of doing the job himself? After all, he replaced him with a DB Coach the next year. Rex gave the job to Mark Carrier because he wanted him to know more about defense and advance his career in the NFL. Now, that doesn't seem like putting wins ahead of personal friendships to me.

The current DL Coach is Karl Dunbar. The guy's resume speaks for itself. He built up the Williams Wall with the Minnesota Vikings. Under his tutelage, undrafted Damon Harrison became a starting nose tackle in the NFL and DE Sheldon Richardson became the 2013 Rookie of the Year. And yet we almost lost Coach Karl last year.

A coach whom we actually did lose last year was Special Teams Coordinator Ben Kotwica. He was hired by Washington even though, apparently, the Jets wanted him back. The team had been grooming him for years to take over for Mike Westhoff, and after investing so much in him, they simply let him walk.

Another assistant whom the team had been grooming is Mike Devlin. He was the TE Coach but was also the assistant OL Coach under Bill Callahan. Rex believes in developing and promoting assistants (even those not in his staff to begin with, as evidenced by the Carrier hire mentioned above), and as no other team hired him away, he is still in the staff in the same capacity.

Now, is Devlin a better option that his predecessor Dave DeGuglielmo? I don't know. But Dave's days with Gang Green seemed to be numbered after public comments about those above him forcing him to play Vlad Ducasse. After one year away from the NFL, Guglielmo returned to the same role with the New England Patriots.

His predecessor on the Jets, Bill Callahan, was also the assistant head coach. His unit of LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, LG Alan Faneca, C Nick Mangold, RG Brandon Moore and RT Damien Woody was among the best for years. In addition, OLs Robert Turner and Wayne Hunter were also excellent in backup roles.

I really thought Callahan would be next in line as the Jets offensive coordinator. You know, once Brian Schottenheimer was hired by another team as head coach and everything. But it didn't come to be. Callahan was pursued by the Tennessee Titans to be their OC, but the Jets denied him a chance to interview. Then when the chance came to free himself from Gang Green, Callahan opted not to renew his contract and moved on laterally with the Dallas Cowboys. Okay, well, he was technically the offensive coordinator there as well, but we all assumed that would be in name only, as HC Jason Garrett pretty much called the plays at the time.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones took away the play calling duties from Garrett, and Callahan got to be in charge of the offense in the end. That would not be the first time that a team owner preferred Callahan's offensive mind to the current head coach's. Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis let then HC Jon Gruden go and promoted Callahan to take over. Callahan was Eric Mangini's hire, and I wonder whether Rex was at all threatened by him potentially taking over the head coaching job.

Anyway, someone whom Rex definitely trusted was OC Brian Schottenheimer. Schotty turned down head coaching jobs to help Rex win a Super Bowl with the Jets. This made things complicated when the team no longer wanted his services. And so you end up with a press conference exalting him after a losing season, hoping some team would hire him away as head coach - and soon.

So what does all that pussyfooting get you? Tony Sparano as OC. Or, the Sparano and Todd Haley duo where the former coordinates the run game and the other is in charge of the passing game. Too bad Haley didn't go for it. (*eyeroll)

Schottenheimer moved on laterally as offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams. He stepped down and wasn't fired. So that probably saved the team a couple of cents. Due to misguided loyalty and penny-pinching, we couldn't simply fire a guy outright and do a proper search for his replacement. Did Sparano and Ryan actually get along? Who knows? But Tony Sparano, Jr. still works for the team. It's just another example of Rex's loyalty, and it makes it difficult for me to judge the people in his staff.

Mike Pettine also moved on laterally to be the defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills. There were some reports that he had been the source of leaks to the press. But Rex says they still get along, and it will be good for Pettine to get out of his shadow. And he did, and he became the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. But then Pettine said that Rex gave away playbooks, and then Rex said something back, and then somehow they are friends again.

I just don't know anymore. It just seems like taking a lot of trouble to have assistants not work for you anymore. Instead of just firing them, which is part of the job. And for all the talk about people wanting to run through a brick wall for Rex, these coaches seem all too happy to be doing the same jobs for other people.

Oh, yeah. And one other guy I forgot to mention. Henry Ellard. With him as wide receivers coach, the Jets actually saw production out of Braylon Edwards. But there were some reports that Santonio Holmes did not get along with him, and that could have been part of why he moved on laterally also. Remember Holmes? Tone Time? You know, the guy for whom Rex ran downstairs to Tannenbaum's office to tell him to sign right away? Do you blame me for believing that Rex would value a player's opinion over a coach when he is that enamored by him? And do you blame the guy for leaving the team when after having a guy like Jerricho Cotchery and a reformed Edwards, he is suddenly dealing with Plaxico Burress, Derrick Mason and Holmes?

The craziness does not end there though. There is also Sal Alosi. He was the strength coach who was caught tripping Miami Dolphins CB Nolan Carroll on a special teams play in 2010. Was he instructed by those above him to form a wall on the sidelines during the game? I don't know. He didn't name names. The team fined him but didn't fire him. The league fined the team, but they still didn't fire him. He resigned at the end of the season, and he hasn't been in the NFL since.

Just another example of an assistant who left the team without getting fired or promoted to a higher role in another team. I find it rather interesting. I don't pretend to be an expert, and I don't know how often this happens in the NFL. But it seems to happen fairly often with the Jets.

So what can we conclude from this? I don't know. It's a whole, big convoluted mess. A giant clusterjoke. Demoting a GM and forcing a head coach onto a general manager are probably just symptoms of the same disease. And it's probably not a good idea to have a lame duck head coach for two years straight, or keeping both the GM and head coach still in charge of the team when they both know they will be fired. The New York Jets organization does not seem to know how to terminate assistant personnel expeditiously, nor reward and retain their talented employees.