John Idzik made the toughest decision of his still young career as general manager of the Jets and it was the right one.
Head coach Rex Ryan is back. He was just 8-8 in a season where the Jets missed the playoffs for a third straight year, but Idzik made the right call in retaining his head coach after what might be Ryan’s best coaching job to date.
The details behind the call are well known. Despite being in rebuilding mode after they got younger on both sides of the ball, and with a rookie quarterback, Ryan still managed a better record than the year before. He learned something from the soft-spoken Idzik. Ryan was a bit more measured and contemplative this season.
The decision was made last month, so said owner Woody Johnson, who broke the news succinctly to the media in Miami. But Ryan was told, according to him, “right before the game” he would be back for the final year of his contract.
“I don’t know if that [decision] disappointed anyone or whatever. It was good,” Ryan said. “I love being head coach of the New York Jets, plain and simple. I never wanted to go out this way, another losing season.”
It was a move that was obvious even as the announcement took until the final game of the season to be made known.
Unlike in years past, when the players turned to bickering and became anonymous sources for the media, this group got tighter. There were no leaks and no dissension. He grew enough as a head coach to have a handle on his players.
Credit Idzik in part, but Ryan found the right balance in his fifth season with the Jets. There was still the affable side, the kind that players liked and loved, but he was more restrained and cautious, with an even hand.
It is an amazing accomplishment by Ryan after it all could have easily slipped away. After their Week 10 bye, with his team sitting comfortably at 5-4, it seemed like Jets were primed for the playoffs. A Cinderella season was theirs for the taking.
Instead, they lost three straight games and any realistic shot of the playoffs dropped like Ryan’s weight post-LAP-BAND surgery. But the Jets didn’t fall apart.
They closed out the season with three wins in their last four games and even their loss at the Panthers was hard-fought. As a team, they publicly say they got closer.
Idzik kept his cards close to his chest on this one, perhaps wanting to see how Ryan would respond under pressure. His team responded and rallied behind him, knowing their head coach’s job was on the line.
“We know what everybody thought of us and everything else. But we hit the field hard every day,” Ryan said. “This is a close group.”
It was a tremendous secret even in the Jets locker room as players didn’t know before the game if Ryan was coming back. But Jets ownership broke the news after the win over the Dolphins and the locker room erupted in cheers. Ryan got emotional, a moment he jokingly called “embarrassing.”
With the ability to add weapons this offseason, Ryan returns with the opportunity to take this team back to the postseason. The locker room shouldn’t be the only ones cheering. Jets fans everywhere must surely be joining in with them.
Follow Jets writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.