Rex Ryan drama another chapter in wild Jets-Dolphins saga

Rex Ryan looks on from the sideline during Rex Ryan looks on from the sideline during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. (Oct. 27, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty

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Bob Glauber Newsday columnist Bob Glauber

Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets and ...

There may not be the drama of a playoff berth hanging in the balance for both teams, with only the Dolphins having that luxury heading into Sunday's regular-season finale against the Jets.

And yes, it's another case of looking ahead to next season while pondering the what-ifs of this one.

But it's Jets-Dolphins, and even with only pride on the line for the Jets along with lingering questions about Rex Ryan's future, history suggests this again will turn into a memorable chapter of a rivalry filled with so many salient moments.

If this is Ryan's last game on the Jets' sideline, how fitting that the backdrop comes against the Dolphins, a team with more lasting imprints -- good ones and cataclysmically bad ones -- on the Jets than any other in the NFL.

But who knows? Perhaps he will come back for at least one more try after a season that included more than its share of highlights mixed in with enough disappointments for the Jets to be on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned.

An ESPN report on Saturday suggested the signs are pointing toward Ryan being brought back next year, although there is nothing definitive from the team. In fact, there is nothing at all from the team as far as Ryan's future is concerned.

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If the Jets do bring Ryan back, it's the right thing. As we said in this space Friday, he has the team pointed in the right direction, and the fact that the Jets stayed in postseason contention as long as they did, with a rookie quarterback, is an indication that Ryan is part of the solution.

And if the news indeed is promising for Ryan, at least he'll have that as a nice send-off after a Jets-Dolphins game -- win or lose. Which is better than it could have been, particularly when it comes to this rivalry.

So much history between these two teams, much of it not very good to the Jets and whichever coach happened to be on their sideline. Throughout the storied history of this matchup come so many torturous memories, some of which Ryan himself has experienced.

Remember two years ago? The Jets, who at 8-5 looked poised to go to the playoffs for a third straight year, had fallen to 8-7 after losses to the Eagles and Giants. There still was a chance for a postseason berth with a road win over the Dolphins in the regular-season finale, but the Jets lost, 19-17, to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs.

Near the end of the game, wide receiver Santonio Holmes got into a shouting match in the huddle with offensive tackle Wayne Hunter, and Holmes, a team captain that season, was benched when the Jets needed him most.

It was one of the low moments of the franchise, and the Jets haven't fully recovered. They went 6-10 in 2012, the Jets hired John Idzik to replace Mike Tannenbaum, and now the coach awaits definitive word from the new GM and owner Woody Johnson, who brought Ryan back this season but hasn't made any definitive statements about next year.

Ryan's future has been the subject of continued speculation, and we won't know for sure until Monday at the earliest whether he'll be back next season. Perhaps Johnson and Idzik will look elsewhere for a new coach and thus continue a trend in which GMs have moved on from the coach inherited in their first year on the job.

So as Ryan waits, he tries to get through a regular-season finale that has no bearing on the Jets' playoff hopes but means everything to Miami. If the Dolphins beat the Jets, they get in if the Ravens lose to the Bengals or the Chargers beat the Chiefs.

Though it may be tempting to use the revenge factor against a divisional opponent as motivation for Sunday's game, Ryan isn't taking it.

"If you're not in it,'' he said, "it really doesn't matter."

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Instead, he's using the game as a measuring stick for his own team. And winning back-to-back games for the first time this year.

"We're playing to see how we stack up," he said. "To talk about 'we're improved,' we need to see that. Let's see where we're at. It's not so much about knocking somebody out of the playoffs. The fact that you're not in it is painful enough. You're not going to derive pleasure from knocking someone out. We'll get pleasure from winning."

If the Jets win, they will finish at .500 in a season that began with zero expectations of success -- at least from outside their locker room. A loss would be one more depressing chapter in a rivalry that has featured more than its share of heartbreak for the team in green and white.

Young or old, you know what we're talking about.