MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - A year after Jets owner Woody Johnson told a joyous locker room after a season-ending victory over the Dolphins that Rex Ryan would be back for the 2014 season, the Jets face their longtime AFC East rival again to conclude the season, but under vastly different circumstances. Regardless of the result, Johnson is expected to fire Ryan and second-year general manager John Idzik in the biggest shake-up of Johnson's 15-year run as owner.
Just where Johnson goes from here will rest in large part on former NFL general manager Charley Casserly and perhaps former Packers GM Ron Wolf, who likely will be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month. Johnson is expected to name Casserly as a full-time consultant on Monday, and he could be joined by Wolf.
Although it may seem like an unorthodox move for Johnson to go outside the organization, it's actually part of a growing trend in the NFL for teams and owners to use less traditional resources to make key hires.
Johnson sought the counsel of Jed Hughes from the executive search firm Korn/Ferry during his GM search two years ago, but he now will work directly with Casserly and perhaps Wolf. He also will have at his disposal some of the most prominent former coaches and general managers as part of the process.
Casserly and Wolf are part of the NFL's recently formed Career Development Advisory Panel. Initiated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell before training camp began in 2013, it is a way to help clubs get a better feel for potential coaches and general managers and increase the pool of available candidates.
Casserly and Wolf are on that panel. Joining them are Hall of Fame coach John Madden, former Giants and Browns general manager Ernie Accorsi, former Chiefs president and GM Carl Peterson, former Colts president and GM Bill Polian, and former NFL coaches Tony Dungy and Dennis Green.
"The net effect of this is that we're bringing more robust tools and services to the hiring process," said Robert Gulliver, the NFL's chief human resources officer and head of the committee. "We've offered this as a service to our teams with an opportunity to expand the list of candidates that are being considered for coaches and general manager positions. We pulled together this panel with some of the best football minds to provide some input and perspective about who is ready to step in now."
And if you think Johnson is alone in soliciting the advice of the panel, as well as his hiring of an adviser, consider this: Gulliver said six of the seven teams that hired coaches before this season solicited the input of the panel (he did not identify the team that did not use the committee).
Gulliver has compiled a list of potential coaches and GMs. All panel members contribute their own lists to the NFL office, and Gulliver sorts through them to provide a consensus that is available to all NFL owners.
Casserly's hiring is the continuation of a trend in which several other teams have hired outside help to make key hires. Wolf, for instance, was a consultant for the Chargers when they hired GM Tom Telesco and coach Mike McCoy before the 2013 season. Accorsi was a consultant for the Panthers in 2013 when the team hired former Giants executive Dave Gettleman as GM. The Falcons have hired former Browns and Eagles president Joe Banner for a consulting role, and several former NFL coaches and executives, including Polian and Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, regularly have offered advice to owners, often informally.
Johnson undoubtedly will lean heavily on the advice of Casserly, who is expected to take a leave of absence from his role as NFL analyst for the NFL Network until his work with the Jets is complete. But he and team president Neil Glat also are free to solicit advice from any member of the NFL's advisory panel at any point in the process.
"It is a good way for owners to get a feel for what's out there in terms of coaches and general managers," said one member of the advisory committee, who asked that his name not be used. "We're here to help."
The committee member said he and several others on the panel were consulted by some of the paid consultants used by teams, including Korn/Ferry. Cutting out the middleman thus seemed to make more sense, he said.
Gulliver said his panel also tries to identify up-and-coming coaches and executives who might not be ready to take over as coaches and GMs but are likely candidates in the future.
"In addition to identifying individuals that the panel believes who are ready now, there are also developmental candidates that should be on the radar screen," Gulliver said. "They're not necessarily people that are available today, but that should be on the radar."
Expanding the list of potential candidates also is a way to enhance diversity hiring among coaches and executives, something actively pushed for by Goodell and former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. In 2014, two African-American coaches -- Jim Caldwell of the Lions and Lovie Smith of the Buccaneers -- were hired.
The committee also has begun an annual symposium in partnership with the Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania. Last spring, about 140 NFL assistant coaches and executives attended the event, and several members of the advisory committee made presentations and were available for consultation.
"We've had a lot of success with hiring practices, but we also felt that we could do more in providing services and more input to expand the universe of candidates," Gulliver said. "That's no different than any leading organization that wants to get their arms around top-tier talent."
Casserly, one of the prominent members of the committee, will have a big say in targeting that talent to replace Ryan and Idzik. And although Johnson has final say over both hires, at least he'll make those decisions in consultation with some of the best and brightest minds that have contributed to many successful seasons and Super Bowl titles. Johnson hopes he can translate that brainpower into the right hires for the two most important positions in his organization.
The process begins in earnest on Monday.