FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The next 14 days will be the longest of Rex Ryan’s coaching career.
The New York Jets’ coach survived last year’s organizational shakeup, but he may not be so lucky this time. He’s done a respectable job with a thin roster, but will that be enough to convince his bosses he deserves at least another year?
It’s quite possible that owner Woody Johnson and general manager John Idzik already have made a decision. The public, no doubt, will debate the matter for the next two weeks. In the interest of fairness, we present both sides of the Ryan issue.
The case for Ryan:
1. Continuity: The best organizations believe in stability. They don’t panic when things go bad. The Pittsburgh Steelers missed the playoffs from 1998 to 2000 under Bill Cowher, but they stood behind him and he rewarded them with four postseason berths and a Super Bowl title. Ryan won in his first two seasons -- back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship -- so why can’t he do it again?
2. Defensive acumen: Even though the Jets will finish with their lowest ranking of the Ryan era (currently 13th in total defense), they have one of the top defensive minds in the game and will take a step backward if Ryan goes. They have the foundation for a dominant defensive line. Why remove the architect? You can bet Tom Brady will rejoice if Ryan is bounced out of the AFC East.
3. Avoid upheaval on offense: If Ryan is fired, it likely would spell the end for coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, too. That would mean the installation of another system in 2014, the fourth offense in four years. That is no way to build a champion. It would mean starting over for quarterback Geno Smith, slowing his development. Mornhinweg hasn’t had a great year, but he’s working with a half-empty cupboard. Give him some talent and see what he can do.
4. A quarterback mulligan: Ryan played the entire season with a backup quarterback -- a rookie, no less. That they’ve won six games with Smith, whose season has been historically bad from a statistical standpoint, is no small feat. Granted, Ryan played a role in Mark Sanchez’s season-ending shoulder injury, inserting him into the fourth quarter of a preseason game, but one lapse in judgment shouldn’t determine his fate.
5. Good soldier: Ryan has worked under the toughest of circumstances. He was paired with a new GM, knowing he’d be on the hot seat for the entire season. He’s never complained, conforming to Idzik’s buttoned-down philosophy and managing to keep the team competitive.
The case against Ryan:
1. Three strikes: The Jets likely will miss the playoffs for the third consecutive year, and that hasn’t happened since the 1992-1997 drought. A three-year absence from the postseason is an eternity in the NFL, and it’ll be a first under Johnson’s ownership. One year can be considered an aberration. When it gets to three years, it’s a trend, not a blip on the screen.
2. The Idzik Factor: Ryan was forced on Idzik when the GM was hired last January. From all indications, they get along well, but Idzik -- like all CEO types -- deserves the chance to put his stamp on the organization, trying to turn his vision into reality. No one knows what Idzik is thinking, but if he’s like most GMs, he probably went into the season waiting for Ryan to provide an iron-clad reason not to fire him. That hasn’t happened.
3. No offense: The biggest indictment of Ryan has been his inability to build a winning offense. He called himself out after last season, acknowledging the obvious, but the results haven’t changed. They rank 29th in total offense, only a smidge better than last season (30th). He has been saddled with turnover-prone quarterbacks, but it’s a bottom-line business.
4. Regression: The Jets started surprisingly fast -- 5-4 at the bye week -- but they got worse as the season progressed. It should’ve been the other way around. Because of the young roster, they figured to struggle out of the gate, building toward a strong finish. A favorable post-bye schedule made that scenario seem likely, but they’ve gone backward in a few areas, especially on defense.
5. Too inconsistent: It’s hard to believe, but the Jets haven’t won two games in a row. In fact, if you go back 33 games, dating to late in the 2011 season, the Jets have won back-to-back games only once in that span. That goes beyond talent. When there’s an inability to maintain focus and execution, that falls on the coaching. Along the same lines, they lead the league in pre-snap penalties and their performance on the road (1-6) has been abysmal.
There you have it. You make the call.