The decision to bring back Rex Ryan is the correct one
When Woody Johnson announced last year that he was parting ways with general manager Mike Tannenbaum yet sticking with coach Rex Ryan, it was an admittedly tricky dynamic for whoever would succeed Tannenbaum. After all, recent history suggested it would be a clumsy relationship putting together a new general manager with an incumbent coach.
But Johnson's hiring of John Idzik as GM is proving to be a shrewd move. Idzik's first draft class looks to be a hit, and Ryan managed to put together a .500 season with a team few expected to win more than a handful of games.
It was more than enough evidence for Johnson and Idzik to be convinced that Ryan was their man moving forward.
And that was the right move.
A few minutes after the Jets got to 8-8 with a convincing 20-7 win over the Dolphins, Johnson -- his voice hoarse from an afternoon of cheering for the team he purchased in 2000 -- told reporters that Ryan will be back in 2014.
The owner didn't get into whether Ryan will receive a contract extension or whether he will have to prove himself again next season. But the fact that Ryan will get another chance to build on all the promise his team showed in 2013 is a good thing.
The dial for the Jets is pointed up. There is a strong nucleus of young players -- many of them brought in by Idzik in his first year -- and Ryan is the right man for the job. His players adore him, they play hard for him and they're playing smarter as time goes on.
Molding a winning team is neither an easy nor an instantaneous transformation, and it takes the right people in the positions of power to make it happen.
Ryan has shown himself to be a worthy coach when he has a good team to work with, as the Jets' AFC Championship Game appearances in his first two seasons attest. But the trajectory went down from there, and Ryan's increasing say in personnel matters actually worked to his detriment.
Look no further than his signing off on acquiring Tim Tebow, which turned into a colossal mess last year and took Tannenbaum down with it.
With Idzik in firm control of personnel matters and with Ryan forced to go along with whatever decisions that were made for him, the coach benefited from a strong influx of talent.
Rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was a force from the start, and Geno Smith and Dee Milliner took major strides as the season progressed. Chris Ivory turned into a workhorse running back, and wide receiver David Nelson, an early-season acquisition, paid dividends. Ryan got the most out of all of them.
Combine that with his willingness to dial back the bluster -- Ryan almost never was a distraction, and if he was, it usually was because of what someone was saying about him, not the other way around -- and Ryan showed marked improvement and maturity as a coach.
We've seen plenty of coaches gain too much personnel power as their careers progressed, and many of them drowned in their own decisions. Even Tom Coughlin benefited greatly when he moved to the Giants from Jacksonville, where he was in charge of personnel. He and GM Jerry Reese, who was helped by what Ernie Accorsi left behind, teamed for two Super Bowl championships.
Ryan now is asked for his opinion on personnel issues but he no longer can prod his GM on key personnel moves.
Ryan even got a little boring along the way, using his week-to-week mantra in place of his week-to-week guarantees. By doing so, he took the target off his players and allowed them to compete without the background noise that helped doom his 2011-12 teams.
It remains to be seen whether Ryan will be given a modest contract extension or whether he'll work on the final year of his current deal and go from there. But that will work itself out, just as this year's potentially awkward arrangement played out.
Ryan played the good soldier with his new boss and did a good job coaching the players, especially the new ones who Idzik brought in.
"I always made the assumption we were working together from the beginning,'' Idzik said after Sunday's game. "I know there's speculation, but we always worked together. [Ryan] has been tremendous to work with. He's a leader. He's a motivator. He's a teacher. He's a heck of a coach. He's a great guy to work with.''
It's good news for the Jets that the two will continue to work together. It's the right decision for what lies ahead.