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Sunday, December 29, 2013
Quick thoughts on the Rex Ryan decision

By Rich Cimini
ESPN.com

A few thoughts on the New York Jets' decision to retain coach Rex Ryan:

1. Surprise, surprise: Many people across the league thought Ryan was a goner, but he received an 11th-hour reprieve and will coach the team in 2014. This was an unconventional-but-smart move by owner Woody Johnson and general manager John Idzik. They looked past the record (8-8) and three straight non-playoff seasons, recognizing that Ryan did a solid job this year with a roster devoid of stars. Unlike the previous two seasons, the Jets finished on an upswing.

Rex Ryan
Retaining Rex Ryan gives the Jets some much-needed continuity next season.
2. Level of commitment: It'll be interesting to see how, or if, they address Ryan's contract. He has one year remaining on the deal they reworked in 2010. Not extending that contract would create a bad, lame-duck situation and the ultimate playoffs-or-bust scenario. Even if they gave him a one-year extension, it would be a repeat of the 2013 storyline, meaning his job security would be a season-long issue. "Another year on death row," said a longtime GM, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "It extended his stay on death row."

3. Diminished GM? We'll never get the whole story, but you have to wonder if Idzik was truly on board with this decision. This isn't to suggest that he and Ryan don't get along -- there have been no indications of that -- but it's commonplace for a new GM to replace an inherited coach as soon as the opportunity arises. GMs are like CEOs of large corporations: They feel more comfortable when surrounded by their own hires. If Idzik was overruled by Johnson, he can't feel too good about his power within the organization. On the other hand, maybe Idzik recognized Ryan's value and decided to give it another year.

4. The O'Brien factor: Let's face it, it wasn't an attractive pool of potential replacements. That, no doubt, was a factor in retaining Ryan. Could it be a coincidence that word of Ryan's return leaked on the same day that Penn State coach Bill O'Brien reportedly was engaged in serious discussions with the Houston Texans?

5. Continuity is good: Ryan's return is good for the defense, obviously, because he's one of the best defensive minds in the game. They're building a potentially dominant front seven, and it would've been a mistake to start over with a new voice and a new system. His return also means offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is likely to be back, and that will help with the development of quarterback Geno Smith, who showed improvement late in the season. After going through three coordinators in three years, this offense needs stability, not another reboot.

6. But, wait, what about the rest? At least seven members of Ryan's staff have expiring contracts, and one of them already is gone -- linebackers coach Brian VanGorder, who will be named the Notre Dame defensive coordinator. If Ryan didn't receive a contract extension, how in the world can he convince his staff to stay on? The Jets' situation would offer no security. He'd have to rebuild his staff for the second straight year.

7. Springboard into the offseason: Ryan is beloved by his players, and news of his return surely will send a charge through the team. There had been so much speculation over the past few months that some players thought it was a foregone conclusion that he'd be fired. This creates a delicate situation for Ryan, who must guard against complacency in the locker room. The players got their wish, and the natural tendency is to slack off. That can't happen.

8. Let Idzik do his job: We all know how much Ryan craves defense, but it's time for him to back off and let Idzik and the personnel department use their money and resources to address the many holes on offense. They have needs at quarterback, wide receiver and tight end. The defense has to move to the back burner.