MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Rex Ryan entered the season coaching for his job. And the Jets didn't make the playoffs.
But after a year in which they overachieved despite trading away their best player and starting a rookie quarterback, Ryan may have earned himself a shot at returning in 2014.
According to an ESPN report, "signs point" to Ryan coaching the Jets next season -- though "some hurdles remain."
Three Jets officials declined to comment about Ryan's situation and his agent, Jim Sexton, did not return Newsday's calls.
With his current contract set to expire at the end of the 2014 season, Ryan wants an extension. But it's unclear whether owner Woody Johnson and first-year general manager John Idzik will oblige.
They could opt to give him a one-year extension, but that essentially would create the same situation in 2014: Ryan would be coaching for his job again.
And even if the front office were to give Ryan a multiyear extension, the issue of retaining his coaches would remain.
According to an NFC executive, Ryan was upset that several members of his coaching staff weren't granted extensions before the season. As a result, a handful of his coaches, including defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman, assistant head coach / running backs coach Anthony Lynn and defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, are in the final year of their contracts. First-year secondary coach Tim McDonald was given a two-year deal in January.
Special-teams coordinator Ben Kotwica, who interviewed for the Army head-coaching gig last weekend but didn't get it, and wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal also are said to be in the final year of their contracts.
Linebackers coach Brian VanGorder reportedly will interview with Notre Dame on Monday and is expected to be named the team's defensive coordinator.
Support for Ryan continues to build among players, fans and members of the media, but the Jets' front office has remained noticeably quiet. Ryan and Idzik reportedly met at the Jets' facility Friday, but many expect Johnson and Idzik to wait until Monday to announce Ryan's fate.
Ryan's entrance into the head-coaching world was unorthodox but wildly entertaining. Within the first two years of his five-year tenure in Florham Park, N.J., he managed to the team into a legitimate playoff contender.
The culture change was in full swing the moment he uttered the now-famous phrase "I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick's, you know, rings," and Ryan quickly endeared himself to a fan base starving for relevancy.
With his unapologetic and brash self-confidence, he injected life into One Jets Drive and helped guide the team to back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances in his first two seasons.
But Ryan's grandstanding wore thin as the losses began to mount, and now their playoff runs of 2009 and 2010 feel like a lifetime ago. The Jets started descending toward mediocrity in 2011, finishing 8-8, and went 6-10 in 2012. At best, they'll finish at 8-8 this season.
And that downward trend has resulted in as many convincing reasons to fire Ryan as there are to retain him. But one thing is certain: Ryan did it his way.
"I've learned enough and saw guys that were the most effective teachers, coaches, whatever, were guys that were themselves," he said.
The mutual respect and affection that exists between Ryan and his players isn't by accident but rather by design. His players rave about his competitive spirit and praise his passion for the game.
"I think Rex needs to be back," right guard Willie Colon, who was signed as a free agent in the offseason, said after last week's win over Cleveland. "This team's headed in a great direction. He's our general, we love him. We bleed for him and he bleeds for us."
And it's clear Ryan's guys want to continue playing for him and win championships with him.
"We all feel that Rex should be back," cornerback Antonio Cromartie said on a conference call with Miami writers this past week. "We feel he's the man for the job and the man who can get us to that Super Bowl."
With Bob Glauber