ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Now Rex Ryan knows how Tim Tebow felt all season: Ignored, wondering about his job.
Welcome to limbo, Rex.
Ryan has received four chances to turn the New York Jets into the Super Bowl team he promised on his first day as coach -- and later guaranteed -- but he's 0-for-4. He whiffed badly in his fourth at-bat, a disastrous 6-10 season, and now he waits to hear from owner Woody Johnson.
Johnson is giving Ryan the silent treatment. He hasn't been seen recently at the team's facility, according to sources, and he didn't attend Sunday's 28-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. It was a rare no-show that sent a clear message:
The owner has separated himself from the mess that is his football team, a tacit acknowledgement that everybody is on notice. Sometimes nothing speaks louder than silence.
After the game, Ryan said he hasn't received any assurances from Johnson that he'll be back in 2013.
"Nope, sure haven't," said Ryan, sounding a bit annoyed that he's twisting in the wind.
Ryan has no right to be annoyed. Let's face it, he did a poor job this season, mismanaging his quarterbacks and losing his team down the stretch. The Jets finished with three straight losses, falling to three terrible teams -- the Tennessee Titans, San Diego Chargers and Bills. They were outscored in those games, 69-36.
That's brutal. The players say they love Ryan and love playing for him, but they had a strange way of showing it.
"With only six wins, I'm sure there will be Jets fans that wish I wouldn't coach the Jets, but guess what? I know I'm the right man for the job," said Ryan, reiterating his "I-love-the-Jets" rant from Friday.
Barring a crazy, 11th-hour development, Ryan is safe. In fact, he will conduct his usual season-ending news conference at 4:45 p.m. Monday. Maybe his status changes if Johnson hires a new general manager, which appears to be the direction he's headed. It's quite possible Johnson will recommend to a new GM that he retain Ryan. It's not the ideal way to do business, but it's not unprecedented.
Ryan has two years and roughly $6 million remaining on his contract, and it's hard to imagine Johnson eating that much money. The contract probably will save him, just like Mark Sanchez's contract probably will keep him around for another year.
Does Ryan deserve a fifth season? Yes, but it's hard to make an overwhelming case for the man. He made a lot of mistakes, starting with the hiring of offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who will be the former coordinator any day now. The offense was a disaster, as the Jets averaged only 17.5 points per game.
Ryan has to change his offensive approach. He needs to retire the Ground & Pound philosophy and hire a coordinator who knows quarterbacks and who knows how to orchestrate a 21st-century passing attack. The NFL has changed. You can't win consistently by relying on defense and a ball-control offense.
Sunday was so typical. The Jets managed only three lousy field goals against the 32nd-ranked scoring defense in the league, continuing a trend of ineptitude that began ... well, on the first day of training camp. They wouldn't have scored a touchdown against the Bills if the officials had let them play eight quarters, that's how helpless they looked.
If you can't score, you can't win.
"Six wins is not up to anybody's expectations, certainly not mine," said Ryan, whose career record is 34-30.
Ryan still has the support of his players. Antonio Cromartie said, "Hell, yeah, I'd be upset" if Ryan got fired. Braylon Edwards said, "Coach Ryan is the heart of the New York Jets organization. ... I couldn't see this team without Coach Ryan, but it's not my decision. I'm not Woody Johnson."
Johnson hasn't spoken publicly since telling reporters one day at practice, "I didn't sign up for 3-6."
Presumably, he didn't sign up for 6-10, either. This is the first time in his 13-year ownership that he's experienced two straight non-winning seasons. He's not happy, and his silence has created a lot of anxiety throughout the organization.
"I just want to be here," Ryan said. "We'll see. Obviously, Mr. Johnson has the right to do whatever he chooses because he's the owner."
This is a broken football team. Any team that gets blown out by the Bills, who haven't reached the playoffs in 13 years, should be embarrassed. Edwards, who returned to the Jets after a one-year hiatus, said the team still is stuck in its 2009/2010 mentality.
"We need to find a new identity," he said.
Ryan has the leadership skills to lead the organization out of the abyss, but it will take a lot of work and plenty of money to change the roster. There is one positive: The Jets didn't end the season fighting each other, as they did last year in Miami.
There was no shoving in the huddle. This time, they went down together, although there was indignity in the end.
Former Jets wide receiver Brad Smith scored on four-yard run out of the Wildcat, a cruel yet fitting demise for the Jets. With that one play, Smith surpassed Tebow's touchdown for the entire season.
"Pretty ironic, I guess," Smith said.
The way this season went, it couldn't have ended any other way.