Rex Ryan Fired; Jets Fans Are Finally Free

By: Brian Mangan

I do not often opine on the NFL, since it is not my area of expertise, but some things are so glaring that they just need to be said. I’m a Giants fan, but my father is a Jets fan. And for the last six years, I have watched him suffer as Rex Ryan, the magnanimous and charming Jets coach, ran the team into the ground.

I have nothing against Rex personally, but his firing was way, way overdue. Yet for some reason, legions of Jets fans have defended him.  I posted the following tweet this morning:

And even now, to this very moment, people are defending Rex.  The sentiment expressed by Skip Bayless here is acually shared by folks:

Essentially, if Rex Ryan was a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PERSON or if he had an amazingly talented team with talented coordinators, he might be a winning coach.  Sure, so would I.

The truth of the matter is this — Rex Ryan came to the Jets and inherited the league’s #1 defense and #1 rushing attack from his predecessor, Eric Mangini.  There is simply no way that a coach can come in, overhaul a roster, and experience #1 overall-level success without an enormous assist from the structure already in place.

So what happened after Rex came in? Rex’s outsized personality dominated the team, and the ownership, GM, and fans, all accorded Rex enormous leeway to design the team that he wanted. The Jets went ground-and-pound, they went defense-first, they let Rex influence the draft and free agency. Don’t take my word for it, read the New York Post or the New York Times even as recently as 2013. Or an article in 2012 in which Ryan highlighted one pick that wasn’t his.

The guy was a loose cannon, and undisciplined, and the Jets followed his lead into that chasm. He stubbornly stuck with a run first approach which, although romantic, was completely prehistoric in a pass first NFL. He stubbornly continued to mortgage the future, trading away future picks for short-sighted gain like trading up in the draft.

No matter what you think of the above, the proof is in the pudding, as they say. The Jets point differential got worse every single year in the Rex Ryan tenure:

  • 2009: +112
  • 2010: +63
  • 2011: +14
  • 2012: -94
  • 2013: -97
  • 2014: -118

Ryan was supposedly a defensive genius, but the Jets allowed more points in each of his last FOUR seasons than they did in ANY single Mangini season, allowing 363, 375, 387, and getting trounced and allowing 401 this season.

It’s a dark time in Jets history, and it happened during Ryan’s tenure. The last time the Jets missed the playoffs in four consecutive seasons was from 1992 through 1997, when the franchise was run by Coslet, Carroll, and Kotite.  The last time the Jets had a point differential of -90 or worse for three consecutive seasons was from 1975 to 1977.  The last time the Jets had three consecutive seasons where their giveaway/takeaway ratio was 29th or worse in the NFL was never – that’s right, never.

I’m not saying that Rex Ryan is a terrible person or a horrible coach that can never succeed in the NFL.  To the contrary, many coaches learn from their first experience as a head coach and do better the second time around. And indeed, Rex Ryan has a certain quality to him that players seem to love, and he seems to get a lot out of all of his personnel, even the ones with limited talent.

However, this is a man who did nearly everything he could to get fired.  From declaring his team out of the playoffs, to an embarrassing foot fetish episode with his wife, to the Tim Tebow fiasco, to running Mark Sanchez out of town, to making an obscene gesture at Dolphins fans, to admitting he had “lost the pulse” of the team in the wake of Santonio Holmes’s problems, to distracting the team with his brash Super Bowl predictions, the list goes on and on.

I suspect we’ll see Rex Ryan with another head coaching job soon, and I wish him the best. But no amount of likeability should cause Jets fans to lose sight of what happened here. Multiple general managers, multiple coordinators, multiple quarterbacks, and one common denominator – Rex Ryan steered this boat right to the bottom. Don’t forget it.

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Brian Mangan is sorry he had to watch his father suffer through this.

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