MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- This is our coach.

John Idzik spoke those words amid the raucous locker-room celebration last Dec. 29 at Sun Life Stadium, where the New York Jets announced the return of Rex Ryan after beating the Miami Dolphins.

Ryan was mobbed by the players, who saved the coach's job with a strong finish. It created one of those rare Jet moments -- a happy ending, 8-8 record notwithstanding.

Who knew it would be the last true highlight of the Ryan era?

One year later, the Jets are back in South Florida, but there will be no grand in this finale. Ryan is expected to be fired on Black Monday -- Idzik, too -- a dark cloud that has hovered over the team for two months.

They're still playing hard for Ryan, but there will be no 11th-hour reprieve. The best-case scenario is a going-away win for the beloved coach, whose career record is 45-50.

Kickoff is 1 p.m. ET. The top storylines:

1. The great hope: The Jets (3-12), currently in the No. 4 position, could jump as high as No. 3 or as low as No. 6. There's a big difference between the third pick and the sixth pick. Based on early projections, the draft will include three offensive skill players that stand out among the rest -- quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston and wide receiver Amari Cooper. A top-3 pick would guarantee one of those players -- assuming they turn pro. To move up to third, the Jets have to lose and hope the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12) beat the Houston Texans.

2. Some perspective, please: Win or lose, this already ranks among the worst seasons in Jets history -- and that's saying something. There have been five 4-12 seasons, but only one 3-13 season -- 1995. Rock bottom, of course, was 1-15 in 1996. In terms of point differential, the current mark (minus-131) ranks as the fourth-worst in a 16-game season. A loss drops the Jets to 0-6 in the AFC East; they haven't gone winless since the divisions were realigned in 2002. Yep, the season can't end soon enough.

3. Many farewells: There will be a roster shakeup in the offseason. What, you expected status quo after this kind of the season? There probably will be new talent evaluators in the building, and they will have no loyalty to the holdovers. Several notable veterans are not expected to be back, including a number of free agents -- quarterback Michael Vick, guard Willie Colon, safety Dawan Landry and running back Bilal Powell. Linebacker David Harris, the most important free agent, could follow Ryan to his next team if he lands another coaching job. Possible salary-cap casualties are wide receiver Percy Harvin, running back Chris Johnson and linebacker Calvin Pace.

4. Geno's last hurrah? Geno Smith envisions himself as the starting quarterback for “a long time.” Is that realistic? Probably not, but Smith is under contract for two more years, so he's not going anywhere. Obviously, he will be evaluated by the new regime, which will see a young quarterback who failed to make progress in his second season. Contrary to popular belief, he made subtle improvements, but not enough to eliminate the doubts about his future.

In the previous meeting with the Dolphins, Smith was kept in bubble wrap (only 13 passes) because they didn't trust him against Miami's formidable pass rush. This game will tell us if the coaching staff believes he has done any growing up over the past month. The Jets could be without two of their best players, Harvin (ribs) and center Nick Mangold (ankle). That'll make it tougher for Smith.

Sources: Rex Ryan bracing for ouster

December, 27, 2014
Dec 27
11:37
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After months of speculation, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan is bracing for his ouster on Monday.

Ryan told friends he expects to be fired by owner Woody Johnson, league sources said Saturday. Ryan already has begun removing items from his office, a source confirmed to ESPN.com.

The Jets (3-12) finish their bitterly disappointing season Sunday at the Miami Dolphins. On Monday, Johnson is expected to clean house by firing Ryan and embattled general manager John Idzik.

Neither of the moves will come as a surprise; this will be the Jets' fourth straight season out of the playoffs, and this year they were eliminated earlier than ever -- before Thanksgiving. Ryan's career record is 45-50, plus four playoff wins.

Ryan has remained in good spirits despite the difficult circumstances, saying his only focus is on the final game. But he started cleaning out his office Friday upon hearing that consultant-in-waiting Charley Casserly already has started reaching out to potential head-coaching and general-manager candidates, according to a report by NJ Advance Media.

Casserly doesn't begin working for the Jets until Johnson begins the search for replacements, sources said, so any vetting of potential candidates isn't on behalf of the Jets, technically.

But there's a gray area because, as a member of the NFL career development advisory panel -- comprised of eight former coaches and general managers -- Casserly's job is to help teams identify head-coaching and GM candidates.

Former Green Bay Packers GM Ron Wolf also may join Casserly as a consultant for the Jets.


(Read full post)


You know it's bleak when your team website starts questioning your future.

The New York Jets' official website, which usually puts a positive spin on just about everything, posted a report Friday raising the question of whether embattled general manager John Idzik will be fired in the coming days.

It seems rather obvious, as we've been saying for several days, but it's not every day that a team website jumps on the speculation bandwagon. On Black Monday, owner Woody Johnson is expected to fire Idzik and Rex Ryan.

The report, by team reporter Eric Allen, is a candid evaluation of Idzik's good and bad moves in the past two years. In the end, Allen opines, "Johnson will ultimately decide if Idzik remains the right man to lead a football department in 2015."

Idzik is praised for his two best moves, drafting Sheldon Richardson and trading for Chris Ivory. From there, Allen details some of Idzik's clunkers. A sampling:
  • "The Jets had 12 draft picks in 2014, and just two -- [safety Calvin] Pryor and tight end Jace Amaro -- have prominent roles on the roster. Rookie linebackers I.K. Enemkpali and Trevor Reilly have shown promise, but the 2014 wide receiver draft class may go down as one of the best ever."
  • "Counting on Dee Milliner to step up as the team's No. 1 cornerback, Idzik elected not to spend big money as corners such as Revis and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie were available on the free agency market. Fans clamored for a Revis reunion, but the perennial All-Pro joined the Jets' arch-nemesis instead."
  • While showing interest in DRC, the Jets let Antonio Cromartie walk in free agency and join the Cardinals. ... Milliner tore his Achilles against the Broncos. Free-agent signee Dimitri Patterson never played a regular-season game. And third-round pick Dexter McDougle tore his ACL in camp."
  • "[Geno] Smith, who owns a 10-18 record as an NFL starter, has not produced consistent results and has often been turnover-prone, like his predecessor, Mark Sanchez. ... In a passing league, the Jets finished 31st in passing when Smith was a rookie, and they are now 32nd entering this week's final game against the Dolphins."

There's no breaking news here, and many of the statements are obvious to those who have been reading about the Jets' woes for several months, but you don't expect to see this type of commentary from a public relations-driven organ.

Jets mailbag: Is Scott Pioli the answer?

December, 27, 2014
Dec 27
8:00
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Your questions have been Pro Bowl-caliber for the entire season. Let's talk New York Jets:

@RichCimini: Pioli is a good football man who had the Midas touch during his run with the New England Patriots. You're right, the Matt Cassel trade didn't work out and he apparently had issues with Todd Haley. On the positive side, he drafted some good players for the Kansas City Chiefs, including Justin Houston, Dontari Poe, Eric Berry and Rodney Hudson. Pioli lasted only four years with the Chiefs, but there are some who believe that, much like his mentor, Bill Belichick, he will be better the second time around. The Jets would be crazy to not give Pioli at least an interview.

@RichCimini: That would be typical Jets luck, wouldn't it? Hey, I suppose it's possible, because there's a good chance the Jets will be in the fourth spot, even if they lose Sunday. They need cornerbacks and offensive playmakers. There are no corners worthy of a top-10 pick, according to our friends Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, and the top offensive skill players are Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston and Amari Cooper. Conceivably, they could go in the top three, although we're a long way from being able to make accurate projections. Keep an eye on Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker; his stock is rising.

@RichCimini: This is a fascinating question, and I'm not sure we'll ever get an accurate answer. Assuming that John Idzik is a goner, I do believe that, yes, the public outcry against him was a small factor in Woody Johnson's decision. Let's not forget football is a business, and every team wants to keep its customers happy. Johnson listens to his customers, maybe more than he should, and he knows the fan base is disgruntled. Idzik had a bad year, but a lot of general managers have bad years and survive. What made Idzik different? I think his infamous, mid-season news conference was the beginning of the end. That started the groundswell, and it became impossible for Johnson to ignore. The bottom line is, he's an 11-20 GM and the team is three games worse than the one he inherited.

@RichCimini: Yes, Idzik changed some scouts, but not all. He also retained Terry Bradway, whose title is senior director of college scouting. Bradway has been around since 2001, first as the general manager and subsequently as a "super" scout. Bradway was instrumental in the scouting of Darrelle Revis, but that was 2007. This is hard to believe, but Revis is the last player drafted by the Jets to make the Pro Bowl -- a terrible drought. It's time for fresh blood in the scouting department. Here's what usually happens in situations like this: The new GM will keep the scouting staff together through the draft, simply because the scouts have invested several months in prep. Once the draft is over, the new GM will blow it up and hire his own people. I see that happening with the Jets.

@RichCimini: You're right about that, but they will have more than $40 million in cap room, so they will be able to plug holes through free agency. In terms of trade assets, the Jets don't have many. Obviously, you're not going to trade Muhammad Wilkerson or Sheldon Richardson, so scratch them. Demario Davis is a two-year starter who doesn't make a lot of money, so he'd have value for a 4-3 team looking for a weakside linebacker. Quinton Coples has a guaranteed base salary in 2015 ($1.5 million), but he might appeal to a 4-3 team willing to take a flyer on a defensive end miscast as a linebacker. Bottom line, the Jets don't have many tradeable commodities.

Rex looks back in time, after final practice

December, 26, 2014
Dec 26
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- He stood there on the New York Jets practice field Friday, as he has on so many other days.

Rex Ryan insisted he wasn't thinking that this was it, the last time he'd run a Jets practice, leading up to what presumably will be his final game as the team's coach, Sunday in Miami. But even if Ryan wasn't looking forward, he admitted to looking back.

He thought of one of his first practices after the Jets hired him, an offseason workout in April 2009, when two players participating in different drills ran into each other and nearly knocked each other out.

"I thought I might get fired before the next practice," Ryan said with a grin.

There were better days to come, but perhaps worse days, too, given that the Jets under Ryan are 45-50 and in their fourth straight season finishing out of the playoffs. Ryan insisted that he and his staff have succeeded in giving the Jets "a different identity," but it's a little hard right now to label what that identity is.

But even if the end is near, Ryan still isn't complaining about the ride.

"I've got the greatest job in America," he said. "You're (a) head coach in the National Football League. You get to come to work every day and work with a lot of great people. You get to be a kid.

"I'm not good enough to play in [the NFL], but I'm good enough to coach in it. It's great. There's no better job than this is."

Ryan has maintained his enthusiasm right to the presumed end. He said he has tried to operate with the same blinders he tells his players to use to keep the outside talk from affecting them. He was a little disappointed Friday, but only because he said the day's practice session didn't go well, which he attributed to the number of players missing because of illness or injury, rather than to players seeing the finish line of a 3-12 season.

Ryan's players say he hasn't changed, that he's the same guy now that he always has been.

"I love him," wide receiver Percy Harvin said. "I loved him before I got here, and I love him more now."

But the players know the consequences of all the losing. Ryan knows it, too, even if he'd rather not spend all day, every day talking about it.

Asked if he had any mixed emotions about what was possibly his final practice, Ryan chose humor.

"Every Friday, we have a guest kicker," he said. "I made the first one, and missed the second, so that was the mixed emotions."

It was better than that April practice in 2009, one Ryan remembers now as being his first practice with the Jets, although it was actually his second. It's long enough ago that stories from that day quote Ryan praising quarterback Kellen Clemens (the Jets would draft Mark Sanchez a week later, and Sanchez would start Ryan's first game).

"We're out there, and we only have one field," Ryan said. "As we're going, we've got one-on-one drills going. Not recommended that you run a go route on one side (of the field) and a wheel route against a linebacker on the other."

They did, and wide receiver Wallace Wright and linebacker Kenwin Cummings collided head-on.

"Both of them knocked each other out," Ryan said. "That was kind of a great start."

Nothing like that happened Friday. The Jets have a long injury report this week, but that's mostly due to a virus that seems to be going through the locker room, rather than any on-field collisions. And while Ryan said that the communication wasn't great and that he'd challenged his players to focus, he also admitted that this wasn't that bad.

"I'm not overly concerned," he said.

Ryan doesn't seem overly concerned about anything. Not even about losing the greatest job in America.

Percy Harvin has sore ribs, still intends to play in Jets' season finale

December, 26, 2014
Dec 26
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Wide receiver Percy Harvin, who has played the past two games with a third-degree ankle sprain, intends to play the New York Jets' final game of the season despite a painful rib-cartilage injury.

"It's a little sore, but I think I'm good enough to give it a go," Harvin said Friday, after practicing for the first time this week. "I was able to move around, catch a few balls. I ran a few routes. The biggest thing is pain tolerance. I just feel like I'm good enough to give it a try.

"I'm going in feeling I'm going to play."

Harvin said his ankle has improved to the point where he doesn't consider it an issue.

The Jets officially list Harvin as questionable for the Sunday game in Miami, and coach Rex Ryan said both Harvin and center Nick Mangold will likely be game-time decisions. Ryan said Mangold, who has a high ankle sprain, was very limited in practice on Friday. Mangold still seemed to be moving around gingerly, on the practice field or even just walking across the locker room.

The Jets were missing several other players from practice on Friday, mostly because of illness. Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison and safety Dawan Landry were all listed as questionable for Sunday.

Running back Chris Ivory, who was added to the injury report Wednesday because of a hamstring issue, was able to go through the full practice Friday and is probable to play Sunday against the Dolphins.

Safety Rontez Miles, who needed emergency surgery after he was kicked on the shin in practice last week, was not able to return in time to play the final game. Miles had just been promoted from the practice squad when he got hurt.

"That's tough," Ryan said. "He was full of energy. I don't know if anybody loves to play more than Rontez."

The official injury report:

New York Jets

Out: Miles (shin).

Questionable: Wilkerson (turf toe/illness), Harrison (illness), Landry (illness), Mangold (ankle), Harvin (ribs/ankle), CB Darrin Walls (shoulder), S Jaiquawn Jarrett (shoulder).

Probable: RB Chris Johnson (knee), K Nick Folk (right hip), S Antonio Allen (hand), G Willie Colon (knee), RB Chris Ivory (hamstring).

Miami Dolphins

Out: none.

Questionable: LB Jelani Jenkins (foot), DE Derrick Shelby (ankle), T Dallas Thomas (foot).

Probable: TE Charles Clay (hamstring/knee), CB Cortland Finnegan (ankle/knee), LB Jonathan Freeny (hamstring), S Don Jones (shoulder), LB Koa Misi (hamstring/knee), DT Earl Mitchell (back), DT Jared Odrick (ankle), RB Daniel Thomas (knee), WR Mike Wallace (back).

Prediction: Dolphins will beat Jets

December, 26, 2014
Dec 26
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The New York Jets' last three losses were decided by a combined total of 10 points, so you know the Jets will play hard for Rex Ryan even though there's nothing at stake. Problem is, the Dolphins are a tough matchup because of their ability to rush the passer. If the Jets have to play without their anchor on the offensive line, center Nick Mangold (ankle), the challenge becomes that much tougher.

This really comes down to Geno Smith. Unlike the previous meeting, when the coaches were so afraid of Smith's turnover-prone ways that they practically tied his right arm behind his back, the Jets will have to throw more than 13 times to be competitive. In the end, the Dolphins will win because they have more playmakers. Dolphins 23, Jets 21.

Accountability check: Heading into the final week, my record is 11-4 (sans point spread). The highlights: Nailing the final score on the Jets-Green Bay Packers game (31-24) and coming within one point on the Jets-Tennessee Titans game -- the first 16-11 outcome in NFL history. I picked 16-12. The lowlights: Missing wildly on the two Jets-Buffalo Bills games.

Week 17 Predictions: Jets at Dolphins

December, 26, 2014
Dec 26
10:20
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General manager candidates on the Jets' radar

December, 26, 2014
Dec 26
8:00
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For the second time in two years, the New York Jets are expected to be in the general manager market. Unlike the previous search, which culminated with the hiring of John Idzik, the job will have greater appeal to potential candidates -- assuming the new GM is empowered to hire his own coach.

A list of top candidates:

Chris Ballard, Kansas City Chiefs, director of player personnel -- He'll be a hot commodity. Ballard is bright and personable, with a background in scouting and coaching. He spent 12 years in the Chicago Bears' organization before joining the Chiefs' front office in 2013. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came after him last year, but he withdrew from consideration because he wasn't going to have final say on personnel.

Scott Pioli, Atlanta Falcons, assistant general manager -- He has the most complete resume of anyone on the list. Pioli was Bill Belichick's right-hand man from 2000 to 2008, helping to build three Super Bowl winners. Bill Parcells' son-in-law was a two-time NFL Executive of the Year. He left the nest to become the Chiefs' GM from 2009 to 2012. The team was only 23-41, but he drafted or re-signed nine Pro Bowl players. His football acumen is top notch; his managerial style reportedly chafed people in the Chiefs' organization.

Nick Caserio, New England Patriots, director of player personnel -- He became the new Pioli in Belichick's kingdom, helping restock the Patriots' roster. This is his 14th year with the Patriots, and there are those who believe Cesario wouldn't cross Belichick by jumping to the rival Jets. He interviewed for the Dolphins' general manager job last year.

Brian Gaine, Houston Texans, director of pro personnel -- He interviewed for the Jets' vacancy in 2013. Gaine is a Parcells disciple who played briefly for the Jets and worked his way up as a scout. He has held front-office positions with the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins. Gaine is well-respected in scouting circles, regarded as a rising star.

Ryan Pace, New Orleans Saints, director of player personnel -- He worked his way up from the bottom of the organization. Pace has spent most of his time in pro personnel; he's never been a college area scout. A year ago, the Saints denied a request by the Dolphins to interview Pace for their general manager vacancy.

Tom Gamble, Philadelphia Eagles, vice president player personnel -- Gamble was thought to be the early frontrunner in the Jets' search in 2013, but he didn't knock the interview out of the park. It's hard to quibble with his resume. He has worked under Bill Polian and current San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke.

Duke Tobin, Cincinnati Bengals, director of player personnel -- There's no traditional general manager in Cincinnati, so he works closely with coach Marvin Lewis. The Bengals are notoriously cheap -- see the skeleton scouting staff -- but the roster is filled with talent.

Jerry Angelo, former Chicago Bears general manager -- He has been out of the NFL since being fired by the Bears after the 2011 season, but Angelo is a highly respected football man who built an NFC Championship team in Chicago. He interviewed for the Jets' job in 2013.

Eric DeCosta, Baltimore Ravens, assistant general manager -- It wouldn't be a list of candidates without DeCosta. The Jets sought permission to interview him in 2013, but he declined. He's had many suitors over the years, but he's considered the heir apparent to Ozzie Newsome.

Eliot Wolf, Green Bay Packers, director of pro personnel -- It's just a matter of time before Wolf, only 32, becomes a general manager. You can't beat the DNA; his father is former Packers general manager Ron Wolf, who could serve as a consultant during the Jets' search.
The New York Jets made an addition to their injury report Thursday -- running back Chris Ivory, who apparently injured a hamstring Wednesday.

The Jets didn't practice on Christmas Day, so the practice status is a projection -- and Ivory is listed as limited participation. He didn't appear on Wednesday's injury report.

Ivory is the Jets' leading rusher (792 yards) and he also has scored a team-high six touchdowns.

The major injury questions are center Nick Mangold (high-ankle sprain) and wide receiver Percy Harvin (ribs, ankle). Neither one has practiced this week.

The injury report:

New York Jets

Did not practice: Harvin (ankle, ribs), Mangold (ankle, finger), S Rontez Miles (shin).

Limited practice: Ivory, DE Muhammad WilkersonG Willie Colon (knee), S Jaiquawn Jarrett (shoulder), CB Darrin Walls (shoulder).

Full practice: S Antonio Allen (hand), K Nick Folk (right hip), RB Chris Johnson (knee).

Miami Dolphins

Did not practice: DE Derrick Shelby (ankle).

Limited practice: TE Charles Clay (hamstring, knee), LB Jelani Jenkins (foot), DT Earl Mitchell (back), DT Jared Odrick (ankle), G Dallas Thomas (foot), RB Daniel Thomas (knee).

Full practice: WR Mike Wallace (back), CB Cortland Finnegan (ankle), LB Jonathan Freeny (hamstring), LB Koa Misi (hamstring, knee), S Don Jones (shoulder).

Willie Colon's goal: Go the distance

December, 25, 2014
Dec 25
12:00
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Willie Colon is Rocky Balboa and the 2014 season is the first "Rocky" movie, a 15-round endurance test. Colon's goal is to go the distance, to be standing when it's over around 4 p.m. Sunday at Sun Life Stadium in Miami.

If it sounds like a modest goal, you don't know Colon's background. He hasn't played a full season since 2009. The New York Jets right guard came agonizingly close last season, making it to the fourth quarter of the final game, which happened to be at Sun Life. But, with five minutes to play, he tore a biceps tendon.

"You want to finish on your feet," Colon said this week. "That's something I wear on my shoulders. No matter how the fight goes, just finishing on your feet, that's become a goal of mine.

"Last year was such a heartbreak because there were only a few minutes left and I blew out my biceps. I thought about it every time I trained. Everything I put into this year, that's one of my main goals -- finish. I haven't done that in a long time. It would mean a lot."

From a team perspective, the Jets (3-12) have been a major disappointment, but there are little success stories within the big story -- and Colon is one of those.

Colon, 31, is a tough dude who made it out of the South Bronx and played his college ball locally at Hofstra. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers and won a Super Bowl, but the story turned hard-luck.

He ruptured an Achilles' tendon in June, 2010, and missed the entire season.

He tore a triceps in Week 1 of the 2011 season, and he was done for that year.

He missed five games in 2012 with a knee issue, leading to his release from the Steelers.

It looked good last season, but the Miami Dolphins called a safety blitz with five minutes left in the finale and Colon extended his left arm, hoping to slow him down.

"[The biceps tendon] was jumping around in my arm," he said. "I tried to play through it. I played three more plays after the injury, but when I looked down, my arm was just flapping around."

Colon underwent surgery after the season. Two months into his rehab, he hurt his knee while training and required arthroscopic surgery. Suddenly, he was rehabbing two body parts.

"It's been a turbulent year," he said. "I put so much into the offseason, put so much into the entire year, emotionally and personally. To go the distance, it would be a blessing."

Jets vs. Dolphins preview

December, 25, 2014
Dec 25
8:00
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When: 1 p.m. ET Sunday. Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida. TV: CBS

The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins will be in the same situation Sunday, playing a meaningless football game to end the season. Once the game ends, the franchises will head in different directions.

The Dolphins (8-7) will pack up and start thinking about next season under Joe Philbin, who will return for his fourth season despite a record of 23-24 and no playoff appearances. The Jets (3-12) face an uncertain offseason, as coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik are likely to be fired on Black Monday.

It's a grim backdrop for an AFC East rivalry that used to matter. ESPN.com Jets reporter Rich Cimini and Dolphins reporter James Walker discuss the matchup and the stories swirling around the teams.

Cimini: So, James, why is Dolphins owner Stephen Ross keeping Philbin? Is he content with mediocrity?

Walker: The feedback has been mixed in South Florida on this decision, Rich. I thought Ross would wait until the final game to see if Philbin can complete his first winning season. But Ross, in fact, said he made the decision before last week’s win against the Minnesota Vikings. It wasn’t a huge surprise, because Ross has always been a huge supporter of Philbin. Ross backed Philbin through last season’s bullying scandal, and you can add this non-playoff season to the list. Ross also wants to give continuity a try after the firings of former coach Tony Sparano and former general manager Jeff Ireland didn’t result in playoff appearances. Philbin is in the last year of his contract in 2015. So if things don’t work out, there can be a clean break from both sides.

Most likely, this is Ryan’s final game with the Jets. How do you expect the team to respond?

Cimini: I expect the Jets to play spirited football. I'm not sure if that will translate into winning football -- they're 3-12 for a reason -- but they always play hard for Ryan. I've been around losing teams that don't give a damn about the coach, but that isn't the case with the Jets. There is a genuine affinity for Ryan. We saw that a year ago, when the Jets -- with nothing at stake -- saved his job with a convincing win against the Dolphins in the final game. This time, there won't be an 11th-hour reprieve.

So, James, it appears that Miami QB Ryan Tannehill has made nice strides this season. Was offensive coordinator Bill Lazor the missing piece?

Walker: Lazor, in some ways, has been Miami’s MVP this season. His system works. Miami’s points per game have gone up from 19.8 to 24.3 with pretty much the same skill players. Lazor also pushed Tannehill to set career highs in touchdowns (26) and passer rating (93.2). Last week’s performance (396 yards, four touchdowns) was as good as I’ve seen Tannehill play in three seasons. He has certainly solidified his case to be Miami’s starting quarterback next season, and I expect the Dolphins to at least pick up his fifth-year option for 2016. Lazor is direct and a clear communicator, and that is what the players needed. I expect Miami’s offense to be pretty good next season with another offseason of drafting and signing players who better fit Lazor's scheme.

Jets QB Geno Smith has a knack for strange quotes. Does he overrate his performances? What is his future in New York?

Cimini: You're right, James, he tends to put his foot in his mouth, but this isn't an easy market for a quarterback. Every word is dissected by the media. Say the wrong thing, and you end up on the back pages of the tabloids. Smith is learning, on and off the field. Contrary to one of his recent quotes, he hasn't shown flashes of being a Pro Bowl quarterback, but he has displayed signs of being a competent quarterback. He has improved slightly from his rookie year in completion percentage, touchdown percentage, interception percentage and passer rating, but he is 2-10 as the starter and the offense has regressed. His future hinges on the next coach and system. He will be on the team in 2015, but he won't be handed anything.

Speaking of 2015, what are some key decisions facing the Dolphins in the offseason?

Walker: This team has pretty good talent, and there aren’t quarterback questions going into next season. So I don’t think a major overhaul is needed. However, there will be tough decisions looming with pending free agents and high-priced veterans. For example, starting tight end Charles Clay and defensive tackle Jared Odrick are both key free agents. Miami also must decide what to do with expensive contracts for 2015 such as receiver Brian Hartline, cornerback Cortland Finnegan and linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe. The Dolphins were built to win this season, and it didn’t pan out. Their salary-cap situation isn’t the best for 2015, and I think Miami will lose some veteran depth. The key will be replacing that depth with quality draft picks and young players already on the roster who are coming of age.

If you had to pick the biggest reason the Jets are 3-12, what would it be?

Cimini: Their young players didn't grow up -- or they got injured. The Jets were counting on strong seasons from Smith, cornerback Dee Milliner, guard Brian Winters and their top picks in 2014, namely Calvin Pryor and tight end Jace Amaro. Milliner and Winters got hurt, Smith hasn't improved as much as expected, and the rookies were underwhelming. General manager John Idzik took a conservative approach in free agency, thinking the aforementioned players would develop quickly -- and it backfired. They simply didn't have enough depth on the roster to overcome the lack of contributions. That is the danger of building through the draft: The draft picks have to ... you know, pan out.

video
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Rich Cimini discusses if Geno Smith can be a part of the Jets' future and the teams' needs headed into the draft.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets center Nick Mangold (high ankle sprain) remained in a walking boot Wednesday, but he's still holding out hope he can play in the season finale Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

"Hope so," said Mangold, who was talking gingerly around the locker room.

Neither Mangold nor wide receiver Percy Harvin (ribs) practiced Wednesday. The Jets are off Thursday, Christmas Day. Friday is the final practice of the season. Rex Ryan didn't rule out Harvin or Mangold.

"This time of year, most guys are mailing it in," Ryan said. "These guys are doing just the opposite."

The official injury report:

New York Jets

Did not practice: Harvin (ankle, ribs), Mangold (ankle, finger), S Rontez Miles (shin), DE Muhammad Wilkerson (toe, illness).

Limited practice: G Willie Colon (knee), S Jaiquawn Jarrett (shoulder), CB Darrin Walls (shoulder).

Full practice: S Antonio Allen (hand), K Nick Folk (right hip), RB Chris Johnson (knee).

Miami Dolphins

Did not practice: DE Derrick Shelby (ankle).

Limited practice: TE Charles Clay (hamstring, knee), LB Jelani Jenkins (foot), S Don Jones (shoulder), DT Earl Mitchell (back), DT Jared Odrick (ankle), G Dallas Thomas (foot), RB Daniel Thomas (knee), WR Mike Wallace (back).

Full practice: CB Cortland Finnegan (ankle), LB Jonathan Freeny (hamstring), LB Koa Misi (hamstring, knee).

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