FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Willie Colon said what Rex Ryan couldn't. And what general manager John Idzik wouldn't.
The Jets' unexpected 5-4 start is proof that Ryan is "worthy of staying," Colon told Newsday.
"I'm for it," the 30-year-old guard said of extending Ryan past the 2014 season, when his coaching contract runs out. "I see it like this: If you feel like the team is going in a positive direction -- which we are, even though we have a lot of football left -- and you see him in your plan, why hold out?
"But if [not], keep it where it's at. But I think the team is on the up and up, the culture's changing, guys are starting to jell with each other more, guys are starting to believe in each other and we're starting to be friendly with each other."
Idzik, speaking to reporters for only the third time since the team announced rookie Geno Smith as the starting quarterback in Week 1, spoke glowingly of his relationship with Ryan.
"I think he's done very well," Idzik said. "He's our leader."
But he stopped short of committing to Ryan past this season. Instead, Idzik is prepared to wait until the end of the season to make the call on Ryan.
The coach didn't seem bothered by Idzik's "live in the moment" mantra. Asked if he deserves to keep his job, Ryan said: "Our job is incomplete. We have a long way to go . . . I've always said it's never about me."
But their success so far is due, in large part, to him. Ryan's renewed commitment to teaching (along with the tutelage of coordinator Dennis Thurman and line coach Karl Dunbar) has generated the NFL's best rushing defense (73.8 yards) and the seventh-best defense overall. With wins over the Patriots, Saints and Falcons, Colon said Ryan has done more than enough to warrant an extension regardless of how the second half of the season plays out.
"I do [believe that]," Colon said. "I think you see it in our defense and how they're playing. I think they go off him and you can just see it in how he believes in us as an offense. I think there's little things that have picked up, and I think it's due to him."
Said tackle Austin Howard: "He's one of those coaches who knows how to have a good time, knows how to take care of his players. But at the same time, knows how to be strict when necessary."
Even quarterbacks coach David Lee seemed in awe of Ryan's innate ability to relate to guys. "Golly, he can talk to a football team," Lee said. "He sure can motivate players."
The feel-good vibes were still being felt Monday in Florham Park, a day after the Jets stunned the Saints, 26-20. But even beating two division leaders in the past three weeks isn't enough to force Idzik to make a rash decision.
The players don't need any more convincing and believe more than ever that they could be on the cusp of a postseason push coming out of the bye week.
"He knows he has a great system, he knows how to coach and I believe now we've got the guys on the team to fulfill some of the things he wanted to create and have for his team," Howard said. "It's a mindset. It's not being cocky, it's not being above anything. It's just a matter of being confident in your team and being confident in yourself."
In some ways, Ryan has changed, Colon said. And for the better.
"I guess he was known as abrasive, brash, kind of like 'put it on me' and talking huge," Colon said. "Now, I think he's realized that his words do affect everything and he's matured in that regard, and his preparation and how he deals with us is huge."