The New York Jets’ relationship with Rex Ryan had its ups and downs to say the very least. There were plenty of laughs, tears, angry tirades, and even a regrettable tattoo.
The relationship started off like any other relationship, filled with smiles and laughs, with the occasional thought of, “could this actually be the one” crossing your mind. Rex Ryan inherited a strong New York defense and he brought over top caliber players of his own from the Baltimore Ravens in LB Bart “CAN’T WAIT” Scott and S Jim Leonard. Scott and Leonard joined a staunch Jets D that included David Harris, Darrelle Revis, Calvin Pace, and Shaun Ellis. Rex was hired as the Jets head coach before the 2009 NFL season after 21 seasons of being a defensive coach dating back to Eastern Kentucky in 1987. He had the intangibles and the track record to fit the bill for creating one of the best defensive teams in recent memory. However, he had one slight obstacle in his way; rookie QB Mark Sanchez.
Having only been a defensive coach his entire life, Rex didn’t have a whole lot of experience when it came to running an offense. He essentially handed the keys to Offensive Coordinator Brian Shottenheimer and told him to make Sanchez not suck (yeah right). So, right off the bat, Rex Ryan was making head coach money while only doing defensive coordinator work. That 2009 New York Jet defense was something else, though. They only allowed 8 passing touchdowns the entire season and allowed less than 100 yards on the ground per game. Darrelle Revis intercepted 6 passes and defended another 31, Calvin Pace and Shaun Ellis combined for 14.5 sacks, while the LB duo of David Harris and Bart Scott racked up 219 tackles together. They were able to carry Mark Sanchez (2,444 yards, 12 TDs, 20 INTs) to a 9-7 record and a birth in the AFC Championship Game. The relationship with Rex was flourishing, and New York was buzzing again about sexy Rexy and the future.
In 2010, the NFL and HBO pegged the New York Jets to be front and center on the show ‘Hard Knocks,’ and we all fell in love with Rex Ryan a little bit more. He has an electric personality and he absolutely ate up the spotlight after a fantastic first year in New York. Some of the speeches he gave were motivating me to run through a brick wall at my house.
Other highlights included Rex going on paragraph-long tangents that had to be censored from start to finish, Darrelle Revis holding out and eventually re-signing with the team, John Conner kicking ass and taking names, and Antonio Cromartie trying to remember the names of all of his kids.
The Jets record improved to 11-5 in 2010, and they made their 2nd consecutive AFC Championship game. They had incredible depth on defense, amassing 40 totals sacks despite having no player tally up more than 6 individually. Mark Sanchez improved slightly (3,291 yards, 17 TDs, 13 INTs), but that can be accredited to these two guys being on top of their game:
However, times were a-changin’. The honeymoon stage of the Rex Ryan era had ended and 2011 came rolling along. The Jets were unable to keep the big names on their roster and lost Pro Bowl G Alan Faneca, 1,000-yard rusher Thomas Jones, Shaun Ellis and Braylon Edwards over the course of one calendar year. Rex’s draft picks were also looking like duds across the board. Kyle Wilson was an atrocity at corner, Joe McKnight (RIP) never panned out to be an NFL caliber RB, and Vladimir Ducasse may have never played a meaningful snap in his career. The
wheels wings were starting to fall off the bus jets piece by piece, and the New York Jets finished the season at a disappointing 8-8.
You know when a relationship is starting to fall apart so the couple does something to ‘spice it up?’ Well, Rex did that tenfold. But, instead of adopting a dog, Rex adopted Timothy Richard Tebow for the 2012 season. This about summarizes how that experiment went:
Not good enough? What about this experiment from the 2013 NFL Draft:
Still not enough? What about bringing this guy in one year after declaring Geno the franchise guy?
Normally, bringing in a 34 year old dual threat QB to help teach a 24 year old (somewhat) dual threat QB would be a great move worth applauding. However, Mike Vick was brought in to replace Geno Smith in a meaningless game towards the end of the season. His mismanagement of the game was front and center and it was clear that Rex Ryan’s coaching capabilities are only on one side of the ball.
Do I think that Rex Ryan could lead a team to another AFC Championship Game or even a Super Bowl? Yes. The Denver Broncos made it evident last year that a team can have a bag of bones at QB and still win a Super Bowl riding the defense and run game. Rex Ryan had Thomas Jones, Shonn Greene, and Danny Woodhead on his 2009 Jets team and replaced Jones with future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson at RB the next season. He had so much talent on those two rosters that he apparently didn’t know what to do with it.
Not only did Rex Ryan not use his phenomenal offense line and running backs to their full potential, he did a horrendous job in developing the two QBs he drafted during his tenure in Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith. Now there obviously are busts in every draft class, but hell, even Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl. Both Sanchez and Smith’s numbers have regressed since they have entered the league, and they are both out of a starting job for the foreseeable future.
Have you ever been in a relationship with somebody who has a family member that seems to always be around? Rex does:
I think that Rob Ryan holds the records for most times being fired as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. Even worse, he has basically become a package deal with his brother Rex.
Now, I don’t think that the New York Jets will inquire about Rex Ryan that much, if at all. They never cease to amaze me though (see Favre, Brett). I think that Todd Bowles has at least another half season in him, as there are a lot of questions about that team that Bowles may potentially have the answers to. Also, only having two years to turn around a franchise is an incredibly short amount of time for both Todd Bowles and Rex Ryan. I don’t believe that Rex’s performance in Buffalo warranted an early ‘Rex-it.’ Rex went 46-50 in 6 years with the Jets and 15-16 in 2 years with the Bills. The Bills were in the playoff hunt until just this past week. They’ve got young studs across the board but have been unlucky with injuries during Rex’s tenure. I think that they’re just adamant about making Anthony Lynn their head coach and couldn’t get the Ryans out the door fast enough.
There will be rumors that Rex will come back to the Jets as a defensive coordinator. I honestly could see it happen, but I’m begging and pleading that it doesn’t. How often does somebody get back together with an ex and it all turns out great in the end? Rarely. It usually leads to more anger and sadness at the end, which is the last thing this New York Jet fan base needs.
Rex Ryan has a strong personality that the New York media ate up, but in reality, he inherited a strong defense upon arrival and parlayed a playoff victory against the New England Patriots into 3 more years in a position that he did not deserve. Once you look past the jokes, impersonations, and headlines, you will finally see a man that has proven himself unworthy of a head coaching position and instead belongs in a commentator’s booth.
So please, New York Jets, don’t get back together with your Rex. As longtime reader Albert Einstein once said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” You’re not crazy, Jets, are you? Are you….