Rex Ryan is the ultimate players' coach.
His guys rave about his leadership, his passion for the game and his ability to motivate. They laud his competitive spirit and credit him as the force behind the "Play Like A Jet'' mantra.
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Bart Scott, his former linebacker with the Ravens and Jets, often said players would run through a brick wall for Ryan. This week, guard Willie Colon vowed to shout on his soapbox that Ryan deserves to stay.
Over the past five seasons, a familiar refrain has been uttered by Jets players: Ryan is their guy.
Well, now they get to prove it.
The Ravens' win over the Lions on Monday night eliminated the Jets (6-8) from playoff contention. So now they have only a handful of things left to play for: pride, respectability and, perhaps, Ryan's job.
John Idzik may have already determined Ryan's fate back in January, when he agreed to keep Ryan as a condition of being named the Jets' general manager. But Idzik won't have total autonomy here. If the GM wants to take the team in a new direction, he'll have to convince owner Woody Johnson, a known Ryan supporter, that it's time to get rid of Ryan before his contract expires after the 2014 season.
But if the Jets can finish 2013 at .500, it could go a long way in bolstering Ryan's case for an extension. Many assumed the Jets, who haven't made the playoffs since 2010, would be one of the NFL's worst teams, but they surprised everyone by starting 5-4.
Last month, Idzik spoke glowingly of his relationship with Ryan, saying, "I think he's done very well. He's our leader.'' But Idzik stopped short of committing to him past this season.
But one thing is certain at One Jets Drive. The players want Rex around.
"I love the guy to death,'' Colon said. "I love his passion. I love his heart. I think if he doesn't come back, it will be a step back for us as a team.''
On Monday afternoon, the Jets were clinging to a sliver of hope. But they also were realistic about their slim odds of reaching the postseason.
Although Nick Mangold went out of his way to avoid discussing Ryan's future, the center maintained the season isn't over in the minds of the players.
"You want to play for guys in this locker room, guys that are coaching you, the fans that are out there believing, your family at home,'' Mangold said. "So there's plenty of things to continue to look for and play for.
"You keep fighting. We go out there as competitors who love this game and go out and give it our best effort.''
Last night, Antonio Cromartie tweeted a similar message to Jets Nation: "We just wanna finish out the season as strong as possible. #Jets.''
During his weekly radio appearance on WFAN, Muhammad Wilkerson also offered support for Ryan, saying: "I love him. I want the guy here. But me and my teammates, we can't make that decision.''
True. But right now, Ryan doesn't need his players to run through brick walls for him. He just needs them to win two more games.