Rex Ryan can’t be fired, not even with this Jets team’s latest debacle in Monday night’s 38-3 loss to the Bills. Even at 2-9, even with the reality of a fourth straight season without the playoffs setting in, the Jets can’t fire their head coach.
It has less to do with Rex’s consecutive AFC Championship game appearances in his first two seasons with the Jets, an accomplishment that has run its statute of limitations. But the decision to keep the man known simply as ‘Rex’ has everything do with what his boss admitted a month ago.
Going by what Jets general manager John Idzik said in late-October during his mid-year press conference, it is next to impossible to force out his head coach. Though his press conference had been widely panned as a debacle, Idzik’s high praise for Rex might make it nearly impossible to can the man.
Idzik took it upon himself to shoulder the responsibility for the poor season, calling his own performance unsatisfactory. But in that very same press conference, Idzik praised his head coach despite what was – and still is – a horrid record for this Jets team.
“And the last time I checked, all the traits that make Rex Ryan our leader, our head coach, are still intact. He’s an excellent football mind. He’s a teacher. He’s a coach. He’s a motivator. He’s a mentor. He’s able to adapt,” Idzik said. “He sees both short- and long-term vision. He’s a competitor to his soul and he will never quit. It comes as no surprise that our players want to play so hard for Rex Ryan and his staff [which is]no surprise to me. I support Rex. I continue to support Rex and our coaching staff.”
So if Idzik has taken the responsibility for this poor season and then praises his head coach just minutes later, how can Rex be at fault? The answer is that he can’t be. Idzik can’t fire Rex for the team he handed him.
This is a Jets team that, in every locker room following defeat after stinging defeat, the players continue to defend Rex. They talk about their love of the man, his passion for not just the game but for the players themselves.
It is clear that he still has the pulse of the locker room, a locker room that by Idzik’s own admission been pieced together over the past two seasons. It’s a locker room that Idzik has failed to stock with stars.
Rex can only do so much. Monday’s defeat to the Bills was a reminder of just how bad Idzik’s offseason was and was not in any way an indictment on Rex as a head coach.
It was Idzik who rejoiced in the locker room in Week 17 in Miami last year when he announced that Rex would be back. Now it is Idzik who must step up and be a man about this mess. It can’t be Rex who falls on the sword at year’s end. Not now, not after those words a month ago.
Idzik was criticized this offseason for the “glacial” speed to his pursuit of free agents, a fact that stuck out when his team entered Week 1 more than $20 million under the cap. There was surprise by many inside the team’s building that the Jets didn’t land a big name cornerback and over-relied on the ever-injured Dee Milliner to star their secondary. And the less said about the “organizational decision” to start Geno Smith over the established Michael Vick, the better. Those decisions from management cost the Jets wins this year. It can’t cost Rex his job.
Where the general manager goes from here is anyone’s guess, but it has to be back to the drawing board. He already has hailed his head coach and has taken the blame for what will be a fourth straight season without the playoffs. What lies ahead has to be delivering some talent to this team after two straight off-seasons that have seen minimal impact from the draft and the free agent market.
If he can’t do that, then it should be Idzik on the chopping block. Not Rex.
It can’t be Rex this year who pays the price for his general manager’s failings.