Rex Ryan is very popular with his players even if management is not sure it wants to keep him on. Credit: Getty Images
Rex Ryan may have saved his best coaching job for what could be his final year in New York.
The Jets weren’t supposed to be playing meaningful football in December, something that might be as much of a shock to the team as it is to fans and media who already had written the obituary for their head coach in August.
“I know I’m a good football coach. I believe in this team, I believe in this organization,” Ryan said. “I’m determined to bring a winner to this team, there’s no question about it. I know and I believe I’m the right guy for it.”
A win on Sunday would give the now 6-8 Jets a better record than last year and might just keep Ryan around for one more season, even if he won't admit to it. He wouldn't weigh in on the impact of a Jets win.
“I'm not sure how it does,” Ryan said. “The only thing I know I can do is do the best job I possibly and keep my focus on the job at hand. And not worry about other things.”
The odds were stacked against Ryan almost from the start.
Immediately after last year, the Jets fired general manager Mike Tannenbaum, the man who hired Ryan in 2009 and gave him a contract extension. A rebuilding of the team followed with a drastic overhaul of the roster and a youth movement that would likely doom most head coaches.
He lost major parts of his vaunted defense and starting quarterback Mark Sanchez went down with a season-ending shoulder injury in August. The Jets offense under Geno Smith is No. 30 in the league and ball security has been an issue, with their turnover margin of minus-19 the worst in the NFL.
The Jets can still make the playoffs with two games left to play, despite the possibility being small.
Ryan has become more toned down this year, more like buttoned-up general manager John Idzik, who holds his fate in his hands. Even on the hot seat, Ryan sang the praises of the man who has the power to ax him.
“It's been tremendous; we both want the same thing, we both want to win. And I think that you know, that's been from the day I met him. It's clear that's what John wants to do,” Ryan said. “Obviously he wants to build a team that's a perennial winner. There's no question about that, I understand that. There's no doubt. As you say, we haven't had a winning record or something like that. Hopefully over the next two weeks we can have a couple more wins. Again I've had a great relationship with him. That hasn't changed one bit.”
Veteran right guard Willie Colon said he's noticed the locker room has gotten tighter as the season has progressed, a span includes just one win in the last five games.
“I will stand on a soap box and say it: Rex is my coach,” Colon said. “He’s one of the main reasons I came here [and] I love the guy to death. I love his passion, I love his heart. I think if he doesn’t come back it will be a step back for us.”
His firing might hurt the team long term. Ryan is a player-friendly head coach and during an offseason where the Jets will have plenty of space under the salary cap, playing under him might be attractive for the type of veteran playmakers the Jets need to lure in to be playoff bound again.