COMMENTARY | Seven NFL head coaches found themselves in the unemployment line on Black Monday. Rex Ryan was not one of them.
The New York Jets head coach, who delivered big speeches and big wins in his first two seasons at the helm of Gang Green, has lost games, control, and his bravado. Since the 2011 season finale against Miami, which saw wide receiver Santonio Holmes publicly defy the entire team, the Jets have been one tabloid headline after another.
Many thought all of that would add up to Ryan's ouster. It didn't. While Ryan lost Mike Tannenbaum, the GM who hand-picked him, and will presumably ax the downright offensive offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, Rex still stands.
And he should.
Why? There are a couple reasons, actually:
The roster is a minefield. When you couple the talent level of the roster with the salary cap figures, it's a nightmare. Reports are that the Jets are already $20 million over the anticipated 2013 cap. While teams always cut players for cap savings, the Jets can't even do that to help build the roster since it would cost too much to get rid of the pieces you'd really want to get rid of (we're looking at you, Santonio Holmes).
The new GM is going to have to deal with those problems, but it's not just about talent, cap space, or a lack of both. It's also about chemistry. Holmes isn't going anywhere unless the Jets are willing to eat a lot of money -- $7.5 million, to be exact. Players on both sides of the ball don't trust each other (remember cornerback Antonio Cromartie saying he was the best wide receiver on the team? That hasn't been forgotten). Team leader Bart Scott -- one of the few hard-nosed players on this squad -- is one of the few likely cap casualties.
Changing coaching staffs is sometimes a spark to bring a team together, but it wouldn't happen with this Jets team. And Ryan has the personality to deal with this cast of misfits, even if he inexplicably lost his backbone for the last few months.
Two words: Mark Sanchez. I can't imagine a more bonehead move than the decision by Jets brain trust to hand The Sanchise a contract extension last offseason. He was coming off the worst season of his professional career - statistically and mentally. He was openly questioned by his teammates for his leadership abilities. He was given $20.5 million guaranteed just to appease his ego. And he responded with a forgettable season.
We know Tebow won't be back, and we saw that Greg McElroy isn't the answer. They've hitched their wagon to Sanchez for at least one more season, since the remainder of the contract is not guaranteed after 2013. Sure, they can cut him -- for a $17.1 million cap hit (which can be spread over two seasons, but still). But they won't, so any new coach coming in would have to live with The Sanchise for at least one season. And one season of Mark Sanchez might be enough to get even a first-year coach fired.
Finally: Who wants this job? This is the New York Jets. It should be a dream job - big market, big money, big names. But who wants to wade into the literal and figurative swamp that now sits in the Meadowlands and Florham Park? The biggest names -- Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, Chip Kelly, Andy Reid -- wouldn't take this job, even if the lack of a GM would let them shop for the groceries, too. There are too many immediate problems, as we mentioned.
But you know who DOES want this job? Rex Ryan, that's who. He even made an impassioned plea before the season ended not because he was fearful of being let go, but because he really does want this job.
Ryan's got two more years on his contract, but let's be real: He's on a one-year deal. Because if there isn't significant improvement in 2013, Rex will be gone.
James Moffat has 10-plus years of journalism expertise, writing for daily print and online publications.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Rex Ryan
- New York Jets
- Santonio Holmes
- Mark Sanchez