FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – It was an anticlimactic finish for a man who breathed new life into a team that lacked not just direction but hope.
Rex Ryan was fired on Monday after a 4-12 record and a fourth straight year without the playoffs, a decision that owner Woody Johnson clearly didn't want to make. It was a tough call for the Jets owner, who two years earlier had hired general manager John Idzik with the mandate that Ryan remain as coach. Now head coach and general manager are gone, part of a house cleaning that likely will continue over the coming months.
The decision to can Ryan was clearly coming, with Metro reporting on Friday that the Jets owner was ready to make the decision to terminate the head coach after six years with the team.
“Well, it's been telegraphed; I guess you guys have been writing about it for awhile so it wasn't a total shock,” Johnson said on Monday. “Rex understands; he comes from a football family. He understands the dynamics of the – not the business – but the activity we're in. So he was fully prepared. He was fine with it.”
Ryan is 46-50 in the regular season as head coach during his tenure with the Jets, along with a 4-2 record in the playoffs. All those postseason appearances came in his first two years with the Jets.
To his credit, Johnson praised Ryan's tenure with the organization, taking over a Jets team that disappointed in 2008 with a veteran roster that finished to finish short of the playoffs. The Jets owner said that Ryan “made the team relevant in some respects.”
While he will forever be remembered for leading the Jets to consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances during his first two seasons as head coach, his legacy will forever be mixed. He failed to develop first round pick Mark Sanchez into a franchise quarterback and the same can certainly be said of current starting quarterback Geno Smith. His offensive units were never great, something that is a severe detriment in a league that is geared towards scoring points.
And despite all the bravado of those early years, he never returned to the playoffs after the 2010 season let alone bring that often promised Super Bowl appearance. His teams always played hard but seemed to fall short and often struggled with inconsistent performances as well as penalties.
Rewind to the final game of the regular season last year when the Jets celebrated an improbable 8-8 season with a Gatorade bath for their then head coach following a win in Miami. That game earned a contract extension in what was arguably his best coaching job to date. This time, despite another win at the Dolphins,the flight back from Florida was a glum one for Ryan, a man who passionately cared about the team and the franchise.
Even with the record a disappointing 4-12, Ryan never lost his locker room.
“Obviously you go through a situation like this for the past couple of years not being in the playoffs, you kind of saw the writing on the wall,” center Nick Mangold said.
“It is disappointing. Rex and I have been together for six years. That is the longest I have ever been with a head coach, beginning playing peewee in the third grade till now. He is a great guy. He is very passionate about what he does. I know he will land on his feet somewhere.”