This was supposed to be Rex Ryan’s final year, the season that saw the Jets head coach on his way out after so much promise.
The Jets weren’t supposed to be average let alone good, with them broadly predicted in preseason to be the worst team in football. Instead, the Jets are 5-4 after Sunday’s 26-20 win over the NFC South-leading Saints.
And Ryan just might be lining himself up for a contract extension if his locker room gets its wish.
“I do [want him back],” guard Willie Colon told Metro. “When I got here, the team had been through a lot. I think now you’re starting to see guys mingle together, guys coming together. This is a young team and you see them growing up. This team is on the up and up and guys understand what Rex is saying, that we’re only going to do this thing together.”
Colon called Ryan a “mastermind coach” who understands this team inside and out.
The Jets weren’t supposed to be in the playoff conversation at any point this season but they currently hold the final wild-card spot. The backend of the schedule is manageable and could easily net another four or five wins.
At no point, according to the players in this locker room, has Ryan made this season about himself or keeping his job. Instead, he has spoken with his team about defying expectations.
“Our job is incomplete. We have a long way to go. We have seven games left in the regular season,” Ryan said. “I’ve said it isn’t about me, it is about who we play next and getting ready to go.”
At 5-4, the Jets have already won more games than many predicted they would this entire season. Even with the changes to the staff and the upheaval of the roster, general manager John Idzik says Ryan “has held it all together.”
“Rex is a great coach. The business of this game is that you have to perform, you have to have productivity as a player or as a coach in order to keep a job,” guard Austin Howard told Metro. “The way he has coached us with that swagger — with that belief – you have guys in here starting to believe in him. Rex is about the team, he loves this game and he’s passionate. It’s never been about Rex Ryan. It’s always about the team. You look at the walls around here. It says ‘Team’ and Rex understands that; he understands that it is a family.”
For a team that is rebuilding, Ryan remains a head coach that is appealing to players and free agents. With some significant cap space likely to be cleared this offseason, the Jets can potentially make a run at free agents to buoy their youthful core.
Colon, who signed this offseason as a free agent, the talk about Ryan as a player’s coach has certainly been validated.
“He’s exactly what I thought he was — everything advertised,” Colon said. “He’s fiery, emotional, wears his heart on his sleeve. [He] makes you want to play for him.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.