Commentary

No more excuses for Rex Ryan

Ultimately, Jets coach can't keep finding new ways to fail -- and still keep his job

Updated: January 9, 2013, 11:05 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Different year, new mea culpa.

One year after conceding he lost the "pulse" of his team, a fancy way of saying he had no idea the locker room was falling apart, a rested, but not-so-tanned Rex Ryan emerged Tuesday and offered a new alibi:

The New York Jets coach admitted he's had no handle on the offense.

"I've come up short, in my opinion, for four years," he said at The News Conference.

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan
AP Photo/Seth WenigFew NFL head coaches with Rex Ryan's recent resume would get another chance.

Wow, that was stunning. The coach of a 6-10 football team confessed to botching 50 percent of his responsibilities for four years. That's not something you read about every day. How was that received?

He got a pat on the back from his owner.

Actually, Ryan got more than that from Woody Johnson, who also attended TNC. The owner gave him an effusive vote of confidence, confirmed that Ryan is untouchable for at least a year and revealed that Ryan will be involved in the selection of the GM who won't be allowed to fire Ryan.

"I think Rex Ryan is perfect for the New York Jets," Johnson said.

Instead of putting Ryan on notice, Johnson put him on a pedestal.

What next, a Rex tattoo on his right biceps?

Say this for Ryan: He's a survivor. Not many head coaches would get another chance after firing two offensive coordinators in a span of 12 months and turning the quarterback situation into dysfunctional mess.

Clearly, Ryan knows how to push Johnson's buttons. This year, he decided to go with the I-messed-up-the-offense angle, admitting he got caught up in the Ground & Pound mentality to the point where he held back the organization.

Ryan said he wants the offense to play like the defense, meaning he wants it to be aggressive and unpredictable. Meaning he's tired of 3.8 yards and a cloud of dust.

You know what? He's right. The NFL has changed dramatically in recent years, shifting toward spread-the-field passing attacks. Ground & Pound is 1980s football. It worked for the Jets in 2009 and 2010, but it was the perfect storm. The defense was strong enough to complement a fantastic running game.

The personnel have changed. Times have changed.

The question is, what took so long for Ryan to see the light?

He dabbled in some revisionist history, claiming he always wanted an "all-weather" offense but gravitated toward Ground & Pound because it was best for the team. That's true, but he had a chance to make a break from that philosophy after last season.

After pushing Brian Schottenheimer out the door, Ryan hired Tony Sparano -- a meat-and-potatoes coach -- because he wanted to recommit to the running game. Sparano ran, all right. He ran the offense into the ground.

Now, suddenly, Ryan is talking about employing "attacking" schemes, even mentioning the "pistol" formation. Let's not forget, Ryan tried to open up the offense at the start of the 2011 season, thinking the receiving troika of Santonio Holmes-Plaxico Burress-Derrick Mason was good enough to turn Mark Sanchez into more than a game manager.

Oh, boy, was he wrong. The idea was a disaster, prompting Ryan to revert to his Ground & Pound roots after four games.

Give Ryan credit for recognizing, and articulating, his shortcomings. It's an ego profession, and most coaches wouldn't do that. Obviously, Ryan's honesty appeals to Johnson, who praised his coach for fessing up to his weaknesses.

"I don't think I've done a good enough job of getting through to the entire football team," said the defensive-minded Ryan, long criticized for his myopic approach.

Now it's about self-preservation for Ryan, who has run out of mulligans. As promised, he managed to clean up the locker room after last season's turmoil. Now he has to clean up the offense, and that starts with hiring a coordinator who understands the passing game and knows quarterbacks.

Ryan is out of scapegoats. Sparano, Schottenheimer and former GM Mike Tannenbaum are gone. Ryan is the only one left standing. No more excuses.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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