New York Jets: Woody Johnson

Woody Johnson on the late Ralph Wilson

March, 25, 2014
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- New York Jets owner Woody Johnson spoke to reporters Tuesday about Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, who died at the age of 95:

"It’s the end of a real important era. He was so important in developing football to what it is today -- the NFL. He was the AFL. He was always a guy that was up to the task. He had a great sense of humor, he was a great speaker, Hall of Fame. I heard his Hall-of-Fame speech he gave at 91. It was better than most people could give at 31. Really just an incredible leader. Great vision. And so it’s the end, really, of a major, major part of American football, to lose a guy like Ralph Wilson."

Johnson said Wilson was one of the first owners he met after purchasing the Jets in 2000.

"He described the satisfaction he got out of it, working with the players, the fans and building this league," Johnson said. "It sounded like something that was very interesting."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell broke the news to the owners in a meeting.

"We’re lucky to have had a guy like that, because you had a guy like that at the right place at the right time, who formed this league," Johnson said, adding: "He was always a presence in the room. He always spoke very fluently about the past and what football meant to him, and how we were getting away from it if we were going off course. He'd let us know."

Woody Johnson: 'You can't beat Rex'

January, 27, 2014
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New York Jets owner Woody Johnson is a busy man these days, bouncing around New York and New Jersey in Super Bowl-related events, but he paused for a few moments Monday to answer a couple of questions about his football team -- his first comments since Rex Ryan signed his contract extension.

"Oh, yeah, I mean, you can't beat Rex," Johnson said after a Manhattan news conference conducted by the Super Bowl XLVIII host committee. "Rex is a great coach, as I've said many times. Great D. He's grown in the role immeasurably."

Johnson touched on a couple of other items:

" Training camp: He reiterated what the team announced last week -- it's exploring location options -- but he said "we'll probably be" at SUNY-Cortland again this summer. Contractually, the Jets have an option.

" On hosting the Broncos in Florham Park: Johnson said "it's bittersweet" because he wanted the Jets to be in the Super Bowl, but he said they'd extend a warm welcome to the AFC champions, who will start practicing Monday at the Jets' facility. Asked if it would've been uncomfortable hosting the New England Patriots, Johnson said, "We'd rather not have somebody in our division."

Johnson echoed the sentiment that New York Giants co-owner John Mara had expressed only minutes earlier. Asked how it felt to be hosting the Seattle Seahawks, Mara cracked, "It could've been worse" -- meaning a division opponent such as the Dallas Cowboys.

" No logos: In preparation for the Broncos' arrival, the Jets were required to cover their logos and various team-related placards that appear on the walls in the facility -- mainly around the locker room and the weight room. The idea is to make the Broncos feel like they're practicing at a neutral facility.

" Cold-weather Super Bowl: Naturally, Johnson was excited about hosting the first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl in history. He said the owners "broke the ice barrier" when they awarded the game to the New York/New Jersey region.

"I think it's important to have an outside Super Bowl," Johnson said. "I don't want to use the word 'no-brainer,' but we've had 47 of these indoors and in the South. It's about time we played a Super Bowl in conditions, the way the game is routinely played."

Analysis: A compromise for Rex, Jets

January, 16, 2014
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A few quick thoughts on Rex Ryan's multiyear contract extension with the New York Jets, first reported by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter:

1. Window dressing: There's more to this deal than meets the eye. Because he had one year remaining on his previous deal, Ryan is now under contract for at least three seasons, through 2016. Ah, but this wasn't a typical contract extension. As Schefter reported, the deal is based heavily on incentives for postseason wins. Concrete details have yet to emerge, but it sounds as if Ryan accepted non-guaranteed money on the back end of the deal in exchange for an added year (or years), with a chance to recoup the difference by winning playoff games.

2. So what does it mean? This smacks of a compromise. Initially, the Jets wanted to offer only a one-year extension. Ryan wanted more than a year. This contract is the best of both worlds. It's a one-year extension that looks like a multiyear extension. Here's how: If Ryan wins in the postseason in 2014 and/or 2015, he cashes in for 2016. In essence, he's betting on himself. He can enjoy the benefits of having added security -- or at least the perception of added security -- and the team is protected in the short term. If Ryan doesn't win a playoff game before 2016, the Jets can opt out of the deal. But let's be honest: No contract is fireproof. If he goes 4-12 in 2014, he won't make it to 2015.

3. 'Duck' hunting season is over: Even with all of its complexities, this contract removes the perception that Ryan will be coaching for his job in 2014. That was an ongoing theme throughout this past season, and the constant speculation chafed him at times, according to people close to the coach. The term "lame duck" won't be thrown around anymore. This sends a message to the fan base that the franchise is firmly behind Ryan for the long term -- or, shall we say, the quasi-long term.

4. Who'da thunk it? You have to hand it to Ryan. In the span of a few weeks, he went from the firing line to the cash line at the bank. After a surprising 8-8 season, he absolutely deserved an extension, but he parlayed wins against the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins into a potentially bigger score than your basic one-year extension. Owner Woody Johnson is obviously a huge fan. Not many coaches could turn three straight non-playoff seasons -- heck, three straight non-winning seasons -- into this type of deal. That now-famous postgame celebration in Miami must have made quite an impact on Johnson.

5. The Rex and John Show: General manager John Idzik has been saying that he and Ryan are joined at the hip, and this contract gives the impression they are a true partnership. The Jets like to do things in an unconventional way, and it was certainly unconventional to hire a GM with the mandate that he keep the coach for at least a year. It fueled rampant skepticism, people saying the marriage was doomed to fail, but Idzik and Ryan -- an odd couple in so many ways -- managed to click. By signing off on Ryan's extension (we're assuming Idzik was on board), it means Idzik is willing to tie his future to Ryan.

Report: Ryan to receive one-year extension

December, 30, 2013
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan is returning next season, that much we know. But there's still the matter of his contract.

The coach of the New York Jets has one year remaining on his deal, and the organization is planning to give him a one-year extension, the NFL Network reported Monday.

Nothing has been finalized, according to a source, adding that the two sides haven't gotten around to actually discussing the terms of a new deal.

Obviously, Ryan would prefer a long-term deal -- who wouldn't? -- but he does not have any leverage. Remember, he's not a free agent. There was some talk about the team forcing Ryan to coach the final year of his contract, creating a lame-duck situation. But that would appear extreme, and it makes sense that owner Woody Johnson would offer a one-year extension.

Meanwhile, many of Ryan's assistants are floating in limbo. He has at least seven assistants with expiring contracts, including defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman and special teams coach Ben Kotwica. As of Monday afternoon, many of the assistants still were in the dark about their future, according to a source. Ryan, in an interview with ESPN New York 98.7, said he was still conducting "exit interviews."

Woody Johnson's letter to biz partners, fans

December, 30, 2013
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Below is New York Jets owner Woody Johnson's letter to fans that was sent on Sunday:
Our 2013 season ended earlier [Sunday] with a victory over the Dolphins. It’s no secret that when this season started many people outside the Jets organization had low expectations for our team. But not us – we set out this year, and every year, with the high expectations of winning games and making Jets Nation proud.

I am writing to you, a valued Jets Partner, today to address 2014 and beyond.

Obviously, one of the first steps in moving forward is making a decision about our Head Coach. I hired Rex Ryan in January of 2009 for many reasons, but one of his strengths really stands out. Rex has more passion than anyone I have ever met. Passion for the Jets. Passion for teaching and motivating his players and coaches. Passion for winning. Like any NFL Head Coach, he’s had ups and downs, but Rex has been a tremendous leader of this football team.

That is why, after today’s game, I informed the team of our carefully-considered decision: Rex Ryan will continue as Head Coach of the New York Jets.

We won three of our last four games, but we're obviously not satisfied with our overall up-and-down 2013 performance. There were many moments, including today, when we showed real signs of progress and reasons for optimism, with a young, talented, competitive, and resilient team. But there were also too many games where we couldn’t sustain that progress. The reality is that we’re not yet the complete and consistent team that you demand and deserve.

We're confident that, with the leadership of General Manager John Idzik, working closely with Rex, we will enter 2014 with great opportunities to improve. We have the resources in place to continue to build our team, including more draft picks and roster flexibility than in previous years. In short, we’re on the right path. We are going to continue to move forward together, always looking to be better and stronger, building on our successes and learning from our failures.

We are focused on fielding a consistently competitive team with the sole mission of winning. We have our work cut out for us, but I know that we have the grit and determination to get the job done. We’ll continue to set high expectations and then work hard to exceed them. And I promise you that not one person in this organization will rest until we meet our ultimate goal of fielding a championship team.

Thank you for your intense loyalty and unyielding support for the Jets.

Quick thoughts on the Rex Ryan decision

December, 29, 2013
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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.

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AP Photo/Peter MorganRetaining 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.

Sunday notes: Saving Coach Ryan

December, 29, 2013
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MIAMI -- Wrapping up another New York Jets season:

1. Stay of Rex-ecution?: Although signs point to Rex Ryan's return, as first reported Saturday by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the team has yet to make anything official. Let me say this: It's the right move. Owner Woody Johnson would be making a mistake if he signs off on Ryan's ouster. Most supporters point to his work this season as the biggest reason to keep him, but let's take a step back and look at the wider view. Consider:

a. He's the second-winningest coach in Jets history, trailing only Bill Parcells in winning percentage -- .604 to .519. That doesn't include Ryan's four playoff victories, a franchise record. An organization that has lost Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick should know better than to turn its back on promising coaches.

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AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyMany people with ties to the Jets feel that coach Rex Ryan brought much more than just wins to the franchise. He brought a sense of belief.
b. There are no slam-dunk upgrades among the usual suspects/candidates. Darrell Bevell or Dan Quinn or Ken Whisenhunt won't excite the fan base, and GM John Idzik knows it. That's probably one of the reasons why he's interested in retaining Ryan. Despite three straight non-playoff seasons, he's still good box office.

c. Ryan provides endearing intangibles. To explain them, listen to retired Jets guard Brandon Moore, who played under Herm Edwards, Eric Mangini and Ryan.

"He changed the culture in the building," Moore said of Ryan. "Before he got there, they talked about winning championships, but no one believed it. With Rex, you believe it's possible."

Moore also said, "If they fire Rex, they'll never find anyone who wants to win a championship for that organization as much as Rex does. He truly loves the Jets. You can't put a price on that."

Your move, Woody.

2. Making it hard to say goodbye: If something goes haywire and Ryan ends up getting fired, it would be a fascinating news conference, especially if the Jets beat the Miami Dolphins to finish 8-8. What would Idzik give for a reason, that Ryan did a bad job?

3. Cloud of uncertainty: Ryan and his staff have had to work this season under the toughest of circumstances -- little or no job security. At least seven assistants, an unusually high number, are in the final year of their contract. A situation like that can create a huge distraction, but Ryan & Co. have done an admirable job of focusing on the job at hand.

4. Rex vs. Tom: Ryan's record is 41-38. Tom Coughlin's record over the same span is 42-37. I get it, Coughlin won two championships. I'm just throwing the numbers out there.

5. Pace setter: Strong words the other day from LB Calvin Pace, who was asked about the prospect of having to start over with a new coaching staff. "As a player, it's not ideal. ... It's chaos. Because then you're seeing bodies, people getting cut and what-not." Thing is, to an outsider like Idzik, who has his own ideas, that might be appealing.

6. MartyBall: I think OC Marty Mornhinweg has done a credible job this season, considering the paucity of skill-position talent. But doggone it (one of his pet expressions), how can you not notice how well the Philadelphia Eagles are doing without him? His previous team, with pretty much the same skill-position players as last year, is ranked No. 2 in total offense and No. 2 in scoring under first-year coach Chip Kelly. A year ago, it was 15th and 29th, respectively.

7. What a kick: You can bet PK Robbie Gould's four-year, $15 million contract ($9 million guaranteed) with the Chicago Bears opened some eyes in the Nick Folk camp. Folk, due to become an unrestricted free agent, has produced numbers over the past two seasons eerily similar to those of Gould, now the highest-paid kicker in history.

Field goal percentage in 2012 and 2013: Gould 87.0, Folk 86.7.

Percentage in the 40-49 range: Gould 81.3, Folk 81.0.

Percentage in the 50-plus range: Gould 83.3, Folk 85.7.

Interesting, right? If the Jets think they can re-up with Folk for the usual one-year deal, they will lose him.

8. Nnamdi and the Jets: I guess it's a good for the Jets that CB Nnamdi Asomugha turned down their five-year, $50 million offer in 2011. Asomugha, whose career declined steadily from 2011, announced his retirement this week. Even though he spurned them, he made an impact on the Jets -- in a bad way. His $16 million-a-year contract with his first team, the Oakland Raiders, became the negotiating threshold for Darrelle Revis in talks with the Jets -- a price they considered ridiculous and, obviously, never were willing to meet.

9. Speaking of Revis ...: For all the talk about his surgically repaired knee, he ended up having a very good season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He hasn't missed a game and he's the top-rated corner in the league, based on the statistical metrics used by ProFootballFocus.com. On Friday night, he was named to the Pro Bowl. No one on the Jets made the Pro Bowl. That's a hanging curve if you want to take a shot at the Jets.

10. A full Nelson: As Kristian Dyer of Metro New York pointed out, WR David Nelson actually signed a two-year deal when he arrived early in the season. Most in-season acquisitions sign for one year. This was a nice pickup by the Jets. Nelson has played more snaps (508) than any receiver on the team since his Week 5 arrival. He has 31 receptions, third on the team.

Rex pushes chips to middle of the table

December, 24, 2013
12/24/13
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan raised the stakes for the season finale against the Miami Dolphins, essentially making it a referendum on his job performance.

"I see this team going in the right direction, and I think this is an opportunity to see how accurate that statement is," the embattled New York Jets coach said Tuesday.

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AP Photo/Gail BurtonIn Week 17, will Rex Ryan be coaching his final regular-season game as the leader of the Jets?
It's a risky play by Ryan. If he's truly coaching for his job, he's basically telling his bosses -- owner Woody Johnson and general manager John Idzik -- to place extra weight on an otherwise meaningless game. If the Jets get blown out, what then?

The pro-Ryan platform is built on progress, demonstrating late-season improvement with a young team. Ryan has been hammering that theme for several days, describing the Jets as an "ascending" team.

On Sunday, the Jets (7-8) face the team that crippled their playoff chances in Week 13. It was a complete meltdown, as the Dolphins won, 23-3. Ryan called it the lowpoint of the season. Now his team has a chance to the return the favor, as the Dolphins (8-7) need a win (and help from other teams) to make the playoffs.

"We'll see if we're better, and we'll see how much better we are," Ryan said.

Ryan is trying to convince Woodzik he's still the right man for the job. Naturally, it's possible that Ryan's fate already has been determined. If not, he's making a strong push.

The Jets have exceeded outside expectations and it's possible they could finish in an 8-8 tie for the final wild-card spot -- although we all know they're mathematically eliminated because of various tiebreakers. Anybody who knows anything about football recognizes he's done a nice job with this team, considering he has a turnover-prone rookie at quarterback and a roster in transition.

There are two primary factors working against Ryan: Idzik, hired last January, may want to bring in his own coach. The Jets have missed the playoffs for three straight years, going 21-26 in that span.

"That's a huge thorn in my side and everybody else's," Ryan said of the playoff drought.

Ryan has declined in recent days to discuss his future (excluding, of course, the team meeting that made headlines), but he has managed to state his case without actually saying he's stating his case.

"I understand that (wins and losses) are how we all get evaluated," he said. "I get it, no question about it, but I think there are steps to it that we're attaining. ...This week will be a testament to that. Let's see where we're at."

The Jets downplayed the revenge and spoiler angles, insisting they have other incentives -- trying to finish .500, winning on the road (they're 1-6) and winning two straight for the first time.

"We understand we let this (season) slip away, but that's life," guard Willie Colon said. "We have to clean it up and finish on a strong note."

Looking for signs from Woody Johnson

December, 23, 2013
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When the head coach is dangling in limbo, it's our job as reporters to look for tells, subtle indications that could portend the future. So please forgive me if this comes across as over-analysis:

As they always do after wins, the New York Jets' official web site posted an edited video clip of Rex Ryan's post-game speech to the team. It was a little corny (he told the players to proudly wear Jets gear while Christmas shopping on Monday's day off) and it was funny ("By the way, there was a Dee Milliner sighting"). Mostly, Ryan read off the statistical highlights from the 24-13 win over the Cleveland Browns.

In the background you can see owner Woody Johnson, smiling and clapping at points during the speech. Finally, at the end, Ryan told the players, "Down 10, we showed the character." Johnson responded by nodding his head and saying, "Yeah."

Does it mean anything? Does it show that Johnson still is behind Ryan? Granted, this is reading tea leaves, but you can bet there will be a lot of that over the next six days.

I'm told that Johnson would like to keep Ryan, but that general manager John Idzik is undecided, which I assume means he's looking to make a change. This creates a fascinating dynamic. Obviously, it's Johnson's team, so he can do what he pleases, but he hired Idzik a year ago to run the football operation. It's possible that Johnson will defer to Idzik, but Johnson has been known to take charge in these situations. After the 2008 season, Johnson wanted to fire Eric Mangini, so he overstepped then-GM Mike Tannenbaum (a close friend of Mangini) and made the decision to sack him.

Only two weeks ago, Johnson told ESPN radio he was "pretty happy" with the direction of the franchise. Since that interview, they're 2-1, although the one loss basically eliminated them from contention.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- If Rex Ryan gets fired, it means his only chance of survival was to make the playoffs. It means his new boss, general manager John Idzik, never was interested in grading him on a curve.

Ryan has done enough with the New York Jets to justify a one-year contract extension. Seven wins in a rebuilding year is solid work, deserving of another chance. Clearly, the Jets are still playing hard for Ryan, evidenced by Sunday's 24-13 win over the Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium.

But that's the view from inside the vacuum. Unfortunately for Ryan, the law of the NFL jungle isn't as forgiving. When you've missed the playoffs for three straight years and the new general manager has his first chance to hire his own coach ... well, it usually means you're done.

The word around the organization is that owner Woody Johnson would like to keep Ryan, but Idzik is undecided. After the game, Ryan was aglow, chirping about the team's bright future.

"I told you this team is on the climb, on the rise," he said, stating his case after what may have been his final home game. "It was pretty clear, at least to me, that's what we saw today."

Ryan, who has one year left on his contract, said he hasn't received any word regarding his status, which will likely be revealed the day after the season -- Black Monday.

Sources confirmed that Ryan mentioned his uncertain status Saturday night in the team meeting, as Fox Sports reported, but it wasn't a "Win one for me" motivational tactic. He used it in the context of how everyone in the room faced a cloudy future, how they could be scattered across the league next year and how they should go down fighting for each other.

It would've been a cheap ploy if Ryan had made it all about himself, but he was said to be "pissed" by rumors that the organization could be looking for a replacement.

Ryan wouldn't address the report, and neither did his players, who were told to keep it in-house. Obviously, it's on Ryan's mind. Ditto, the players.

"Rex is The Guy, and he needs to be The Guy," said linebacker Calvin Pace, one of the many players who expressed strong support for the embattled coach. "I think everyone rallies around him."

Guard Willie Colon, one of Ryan's most ardent backers, said, "I think Rex needs to be back. This team is headed in a great direction. He's our general. We love him. We bleed for him and he bleeds for us."

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Ron Antonelli/Getty ImagesRex Ryan high-fived fans after what might have been his final home game with the Jets.
Sunday was the ideal day for the Jets to hammer home the "right direction" narrative, considering the promising performances by quarterback Geno Smith and cornerback Dee Milliner, two of the most important rookies in Idzik's foundation.

Unfortunately for Ryan, he's probably developing this rookie class for the next coach -- unless Idzik pulls a surprise and opts for the status quo. If Ryan gets a pink slip, he can walk away knowing he did a credible job with a roster that included more holes than the FDR Drive.

"If he finishes 8-8, you could make a strong case to keep him," said an AFC personnel director, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "I thought they'd win three or four games."

Pace echoed that sentiment, saying, "To have seven wins after we were predicted to be the worst team in the NFL, it says a lot about our character and the way we rallied around Rex."

But they didn't rally around him last month, when the Jets dropped three straight after the bye week. That, ultimately, could be what dooms him. They went from 5-4 to 6-8, rendering the final two games meaningless.

On Sunday, they rallied from a 10-0 deficit, showing heart. Colon noted that, in several previous games, there wasn't that fight-back mentality. Ryan used a colorful analogy, saying, "It kind of reminds me of that UFC fighter that's turning purple, he's choked out, but he still fought, found a way to get out and win."

It makes for a nice story and it speaks to Ryan's motivational skills (although, if the players were so fired up by his Saturday night speech, why did it take 23 minutes before they woke up?). But if Idzik is thinking the way most GMs do in his situation, he's not giving out medals for trying.

Idzik, joined with Ryan in a shotgun wedding, has spent almost a year evaluating the entire operation. It was a honeymoon year for the first-time GM, who must ask himself if he wants to be joined at the hip with Ryan. Firing Ryan wouldn't be a popular decision in the locker room, but we know Idzik isn't afraid of criticism. He traded Darrelle Revis, didn't he?

When it was over Sunday, Ryan made sure to milk the moment. He joined the players on a victory lap, exchanging high-fives with the fans. They did the same thing at the end of the 2009 season, when they clinched a wild-card berth by routing the Cincinnati Bengals.

"This was our AFC Championship Game," Pace said. "We play our Super Bowl [next week] in Miami."

But that isn't the Super Bowl that Ryan promised when he was hired.

Players support Rex, which means nothing

December, 18, 2013
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Everybody loves Rex.

Day after day, testimonials are delivered from various precincts in the New York Jets' locker room. On Wednesday, they came from Antonio Cromartie, Calvin Pace, Sheldon Richardson and Santonio Holmes, who said he wants to ride off with Rex Ryan into the NFL sunset.

Ryan is a players' coach, a genuinely likeable man, so it's not surprising to hear so many players speak out on his behalf as he awaits his fate. How much will their support help his cause?

Not at all.

This isn't the NBA, folks. This isn't a league where a star player can get a coach hired or fired. In the NFL, the rich men in the owner's box make these decisions. If owner Woody Johnson and general manager John Idzik believe the Jets will be better off in the long run without the popular Ryan, he's a goner.

It's a bottom-line business, and there will be a half-empty MetLife Stadium on Sunday as the Jets face the Cleveland Browns in a meaningless and unattractive game. This makes three straight seasons out of the playoffs, and it's hard to imagine Idzik -- joined with Ryan in a shotgun marriage -- inviting him back. Johnson, easily swayed, probably will side with his GM, forgetting about all those games Ryan won for him in 2009 and 2010.

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Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsDoes Rex Ryan have a future with the Jets beyond the next two games?
The players' opinions don't matter. They only matter when the situation is toxic, like it was in 2000, when a player mutiny pushed Al Groh out the door. This is nothing like that.

If anything, the players like Ryan too much. Remember, this isn't a popularity contest. You think every player in the New England Patriots' locker room adores Bill Belichick? A prominent Jets player once told me he hated playing for Bill Parcells, but he reluctantly admitted that he played his best under Parcells.

"Rex is a keeper," Richardson said. "The guys love him. No matter what people speculate about him -- he might not be liked by other coaches in the league and other people -- but if he's on your side, you most definitely have a fighter."

Cromartie said it would be "a different defense" without Ryan, and Pace echoed that sentiment, saying, "I don't really want to envision that." They're loyal soldiers. They've made a lot of money playing for Ryan. They've won a lot of games, too.

On Wednesday, Ryan appeared uncomfortable answering questions about the future. When asked if quarterback Geno Smith would benefit from another season under offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, Ryan squirmed, saying he doesn't want to look beyond Sunday.

Ryan was all business in the team meeting, according to players. He expressed disappointment at being mathematically eliminated Monday night on Justin Tucker's 61-yard field goal ("A kick in the head," he told reporters), but Ryan quickly shifted back into Rex Mode. He talked about taking it out on the Browns and finishing strong, getting to 8-8. There was no dark cloud.

"If he's been told something or he kind of feels it, he's doing an incredible job of not letting the guys know," receiver David Nelson said. "There was no feeling on anxiety or tension of apprehension from him.

"From what I gather, he's ready to get ready for next year. If there's any kind of situation where he doesn't think he's going to be the man, he doesn't know and we don't know."

Richardson said he'd be "upset" if Ryan is fired, and he can't imagine why Idzik would make that move.

"With him and Idzik, their relationship is top-notch," the rookie defensive lineman said. "They're genuine. They're honest with each other. John is around all the time, so he sees how the team draws to [Ryan] and how much we respect him. I don't see [his ouster] happening."

Ryan has done an admirable job with this team, winning six games with a rebuilt defense and a talent-deprived offense. He hasn't won a championship, but he knows how to win. If it were up to the players, he'd be the landslide choice.

But this isn't a democracy. Only two votes count, and the results will be known in 12 days.

Green Day: Hard to predict Rex's future

December, 11, 2013
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'Tis the season for speculation about Rex Ryan's job.

For the next 19 days, there will be stories on whether he should be fired or retained, folks like me offering opinions and analysis on what the New York Jets could and should do with their head coach. I'm on record as saying he should be brought back next year if they finish 7-9 or better, playing respectable ball over the final three games. If you polled 100 executives from around the league, I bet at least 95 would deem 7-9 a successful coaching job, considering the roster.

Owner Woody Johnson, in a pregame interview Sunday with ESPN New York 98.7 FM, said he was "pretty happy" with the direction of the franchise, sounding very much like a patient boss mindful of the big picture. But Johnson has been known to change his mind. Late in the 2005 season, he told reporters he loved Herm Edwards. A few weeks later, he traded him to Kansas City.

Johnson can be swayed, and the man who could do the swaying is general manager John Idzik -- the wild card in this entire process. No one knows what Idzik is thinking. He's a poker player, rarely revealing much publicly. He's a first-time GM, so there's no track record that we can study as we try to forecast his plan. When he speaks to reporters, which isn't often, he always speaks highly of Ryan. He sounds like he genuinely likes him, but does that mean he wants to remain joined at his hip? Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith probably thought he was well-liked by his new GM, Phil Emery, but he was fired after a 10-6 season in 2012.

There's no way of knowing Idzik's thoughts. Heck, it might not matter if Ryan's performance is hailed a success. Maybe Idzik decided last January, soon after being hired, that he'd fire Ryan after the season, regardless of the outcome. Maybe he's waiting to see how the season plays out before making a decision. Maybe he's already concluded to keep Ryan because he loves his passion and defensive acumen. We probably won't know until Dec. 30, the day after the season.

In the meantime, let the speculation continue.

ICYMI: The Jets worked out several free agents Tuesday, including WR Danny Coale (a former Cowboys draft pick) and QB Nathan Enderle (Arena League, CFL, former Bears draft pick). ... We break down the tape of the Jets' win over the Raiders, highlighting some surprisingly good and bad performances. ... The Jets inched up to No. 21 in the latest ESPN.com Power Rankings. ... A look at the various playoff scenarios.

Reed signing shows Jets not rebuilding

November, 14, 2013
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Six months ago, when his football team resembled a half-completed jigsaw puzzle, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson tossed out the P-word.

"Be patient," he told reporters at an NFL symposium in Philadelphia, sending a message to his fan base.

With a new general manager, a seemingly lame-duck coach and a star-less roster, the Jets were the epitome of a rebuilding team. Nine games into this season, the narrative has changed. So has the message. That became apparent Thursday with the acquisition of Canton-bound safety Ed Reed. Once again, it was a P-word.

[+] EnlargeEd Reed
AP Photo/Tom HauckEd Reed joining the Jets shows that the team is in win-now mode.
Playoffs.

Without uttering a word, the Jets announced themselves as a legitimate contender. You don't sign a 35-year-old safety, whose career is running on fumes, if you're in rebuilding mode. At 5-4, the Jets are in the thick of it. They're going for it, a decision that wasn't lost on the veterans in the locker room.

"All our chips are going to the middle of the table," guard Willie Colon said. "It's either now or never."

This move is akin to trading for a proven closer at the start of a pennant race. Obviously, Reed isn't what he used to be, but his mere presence in the middle of the field is bound to have an impact on how teams attack the Jets' defense. They will think twice before throwing deep.

Nine Pro Bowls, 61 career interceptions and 1,500-plus return yards buys a lot of respect in the NFL. Reed can roam center field, doing his thing and helping the Jets' suspect deep-ball defense. They've allowed seven completions of at least 45 yards, uncharacteristic of a Rex Ryan defense.

"Let 'em throw it there now," boasted Ryan, who reached into his Baltimore Ravens past to help secure his present and future.

There's no downside to signing Reed. The cost was minimal, probably the veteran minimum salary, and he won't affect the salary cap beyond this season. It will mean less playing time for Antonio Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett, the second and third safeties, but we're talking about a couple of unproven players.

Allen, who made one of the biggest plays of the season (a pick-six against Tom Brady), might be a terrific player one day. The Jets don't want to wait for one day. It's a win-now mentality.

"When you're in the situation we're in right now, if you have a chance to add a piece you feel can help you, we'll do that," said defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman, who coached with Ryan in Baltimore when Reed was in his heyday.

Ryan scoffed when it was suggested that Reed's arrival represents a go-for-broke philosophy, but the deed spoke louder than the words. Make no mistake, Ryan was on cloud nine. You half-expected him to roll up his sleeve and reveal a tattoo of Reed.

"We signed a safety today, a guy named Ed Reed," he said at the top of his news conference, trying to play it with a straight face -- but failing.

 

Ryan is on a remarkable run. Less than two weeks after beating his twin brother, New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, he landed one of the greatest players he's ever coached. Clearly, he still has plenty of influence within the organization.

A lot of people figured he'd be a puppet under John Idzik, but the slimmed-down Ryan still carries a lot of weight. Think about it: They signed a couple of his old Ravens in the offseason (safety Dawan Landry and pass-rusher Antwan Barnes) and they used their two first-round picks on defensive players. Either Idzik is afraid to say no to Ryan or he's making a genuine effort to help his coach succeed -- the coach he awkwardly inherited.

Ryan said Idzik was smiling when he walked into his office Tuesday, when word broke that Reed had been released by the Houston Texans. Idzik, expecting Ryan to make a pitch for Reed, already had instructed members of the personnel department to evaluate tape of Reed's seven games this season.

"He had already beat me to the punch," Ryan said of Idzik.

Eventually, Idzik signed off on Reed, but it was Ryan who was the driving force. Yes, he has a blind spot when it comes to his former players, so there’s always a chance that Reed has nothing left. But this move feels right for the Jets.

Reed all about it: The Jets are serious about winning. This season.

Woody Johnson won't admit satisfaction

November, 1, 2013
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PERTH AMBOY, N.J. -- The New York Jets' 4-4 record in the first half might be a surprise to the general public, but Jets owner Woody Johnson won't say he's satisfied with his team's start.

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"Am I satisfied? Well, I always like to win every game," Johnson said at a NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee event at the Puerto Rican Association for Human Development headquarters Friday morning. "I never go into a game thinking I'm going to lose. You're never satisfied, I don't think, as chairman of one of these organizations, unless you have the success on the field."

The Jets were expected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL. They were even picked 32nd in ESPN's preseason rankings. But they've been one of the league's biggest surprises. They won in Atlanta and beat the AFC East leading New England Patriots in overtime.

This weekend, the Jets welcome the NFC South leading Saints before going on their bye week.

"Very good team we're facing," Johnson said. "I think we're a very good team, too. If we're prepared properly, I think we should do pretty well."

The Jets enter Sunday's game off an embarrassing 49-9 road loss to the Bengals, their worst loss since losing 45-3 to the Patriots in 2010.

Johnson said he didn't want to use youth as an excuse, but pointed out the team's young roster and said it takes time to gel. He added that the team is rapidly improving, and he believes the coaching staff is very happy with the team's progress.

One youngster who has shined thus far is defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, who has played as well as any rookie in the NFL. Johnson said it's always surprising when a young player is able to come in and have such an immediate effect. Richardson was drafted 13th in April's draft with the pick received for trading Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay.

"We scouted him and drafted him correctly," Johnson said. "Great player."

Rex says Woody's praise 'pretty cool'

October, 24, 2013
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan would rather not discuss his job status, but he didn't mind hearing positive feedback Thursday from New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, who praised his coach at a Super Bowl event in New York.

"I like the fact that my boss said some nice things about me," Ryan said. "That's pretty cool. As far as anything else, I said it before: It's not about me. ... Right now, it means nothing other than the fact that I'm happy he had some nice comments. As far as my situation, my situation is the Cincinnati Bengals. That's where my attention is."

The Jets are a surprising 4-3 under Ryan, but there's uncertainty about his future because he's working for a new general manager, John Idzik. In addition, Ryan's contract only runs through 2014. Teams usually don't let coaches go into a lame-duck season. Johnson, adhering to the organizational policy, said he'd make an announcement on Ryan's future after the season.

"That's the way it is for anybody," Ryan said. "Nobody talks about contract."

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