If the Jets make the playoffs in 2013, Rex Ryan should be Coach of the Year.
(Assuming that one of the new coaches taking over a bad team doesn’t turn it around, like the Colts this year, but I digress).
Ryan is facing several obstacles in the way of getting the Jets back above .500, and it won’t help that he will be coaching for his job, more so than in any of his seasons leading the Jets. Let’s break down some of the things going against Ryan:
He’s facing lame-duck status
As of this writing, the Jets have still yet to name a general manager, but these situations don’t tend to go well with a returning head coach — just ask Lovie Smith, who couldn’t survive a 10-6 season under new GM Phil Emery. Woody Johnson has put his support behind Ryan after a dismal 2012 season, but his new GM is “stuck” with Ryan. Every general manager wants his own head coach, as seen in Jacksonville, where Mike Mularkey avoided getting fired right after the season, but got the pink slip when the Jaguars hired a new GM, David Caldwell. Ryan will be facing extreme pressure from this situation and working with a brand new GM when it comes to personnel.
The Jets will have a new offense and defense
Similar to the general-manager spot, the offensive and defensive coordinator positions have not been filled — though it has been widely reported that DBs coach Dennis Thurman will be promoted to defensive coordinator. Ryan wants a brand new, attack-style offense, but that’s still a new scheme that needs to be installed, with big quesitons at quarterback and the rest of the skill positions. The defensive transition should be a little easier, especially with it being Ryan’s specialty, but Mike Pettine also brought some of his assistants to Buffalo. Two new coordinators, two different schemes to learn and install in one offseason.
Mark Sanchez is still the Jets’ quarterback … for now
This is a quarterback-driven league, and the Jets are behind the eight ball. Sanchez got benched at the end of 2012, but with $8.25 million heading his way in 2013, is likely to remain with the team, and without a strong quarterback class in this April's draft, could still be in line to start Week One. Sanchez has shown the skills, at times, to be an effective quarterback, but his turnovers have been too much for the Jets to overcome. Ryan can’t have much confidence entering a make-of-break season with Sanchez under center.
The roster could see plenty of turnover
The following starters are entering free agency: OGs Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson, RB Shonn Greene, TE Dustin Keller, DT Mike Devito, LB Bryan Thomas, SS Yeremiah Bell and FS LaRon Landry. In addition, reports indicate that LBs Bart Scott and Calvin Pace could be salary-cap casualties. That’s a lot of production to replace for a team that is reportedly a league-high $19.4 million over the salary cap.
Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes will be back, but this is still a team that went 6-10 in 2012
Considering the quarterback position and the potential for lots of new faces, not to mention the cap problems, the idea of the Jets having the personnel necessary to compete for a playoff berth next year is hard to sell. One cannot understate the impact of having Revis and Holmes back, and possibly getting a Year Two jump from WR Stephen Hill, but the talent on this team did not match its AFC foes in 2012, and losing some veteran starters won’t help that cause.
It is an uphill battle for Ryan. Johnson may have said that Ryan is not facing a lame-duck situation, but they both have to understand nothing is guaranteed for 2014 with a new general manager coming to town.
It’s not a bad idea for the Jets to experience some rebuilding after two disappointing seasons, especially with plenty of players on the wrong side of 30, but rebuilding in 2013 does not help Ryan’s future with the club, unless he can pull a rabbit out of his hat and make the Jets next year’s surprise team.