Why Rex Ryan Should Go Regardless of the Next 7 Games


I often get asked about Rex Ryan and John Idzik and thoughts on the future of both, which I’ve discussed in detail here before. But I wanted to expand some thoughts on Ryan in light of his recent comments which essentially said to judge him on his next 7 games.

If the Jets need these 7 games to make a decision, one way or the other, the organization is lost. Ryan has been the head coach of the Jets since 2009. He has coached 89 games. To think that these 7 games should mean anything is absurd and to turn it into meaning something is ridiculous.

Ryan’s coaching career can basically be broken down into two periods- with Revis and without Revis. By no means do I think that Revis was the catalyst for success and failure its just that Revis’ season ending injury in 2012 coincided with the changing of the Jets roster construction.

Rex took on a talented team with a mix of veteran players and younger talent when he became coach of the Jets in 2009. That team began changing in 2011 but by 2012 it was clear that the roster was turning over. Revis landed on IR, players like Bart Scott were on their last legs, and countless others had been released. Though the team did its best to try to piece things together it was clear that they were at a cross roads between rebuilding or doing things with their contracts to try to return to prominence via free agency.

When Mike Tannenbaum was fired and the Jets avoided free agency in 2013 it was clear that the rebuilding approach would win out. Ryan was selected to lead the rebuilding effort by owner Woody Johnson despite the hiring of Idzik as general manager. To say the last two years have been a disaster is probably the understatement of the year.

Ryan is given a number of excuses for failures of the team over the last three years. The most prominent excuse deals with the quarterback position. Certainly Ryan’s quarterbacks have not been a positive for him or the organization. But we also should not forget that Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow were both first round draft picks while Geno Smith was a second round pick. The head coach has to take some responsibility in the failures of his quarterbacks and offense, which is now on it’s third offensive coordinator.

The QB excuse has more or less never saved a head coach through multiple draft picks. 9 times out of 10 the coach gets the ax along with the QB. They don’t get the benefit of the doubt. The last time I can recall someone getting as much leeway as Ryan with bad quarterback situations was Brian Billick of the Baltimore Ravens. Billick wasted years of a good defense by attempting to develop Kyle Boller before finally getting his veteran QB in Steve McNair. Billick was eventually fired.

Ryan will also get an excuse for the lack of draft picks.   Former GM Mike Tannenbaum was known as “Trader Mike” and he did give a number of picks away. But were those picks high projection picks?  Not really.

We all know that most drafts produce little in the way of true talent the deeper and deeper we get into the draft. While it’s nice to have a shot at those players many don’t even make the roster for more than a handful of games each season. Since 2010 Ryan has had six first round draft picks, four second round draft picks, and four third round draft picks in five seasons. Those are the selections that usually make the most impact and he is not really lacking by any means in that regard. He’s had one additional first rounder and one less in the other two rounds than an average football team.

That’s not terrible and while many of the picks have flopped for a variety of reasons some of that has to get pinned on the coach for the development of talent. He’s gotten very good production out of Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson and very questionable results from pretty much everyone else.

When these are the results you have to question the front office but also the guy who is coaching the players. This is basically years of disappointment across two general managers. There is almost no logical reason to blame the failure solely on the strategy of the GM. I mean if we are blaming Ryan’s failures on a lack of draft picks how can you logically blame his failures on an excessive amount of draft picks in 2013 and 2014?

The are clear red flags with Ryan that have existed for years and these next 7 games will do little to change those things.

One of the marks of a good head coach is the ability to win within the division. Rex himself seem to like to put a great deal of stock in his tough games with the Patriots in recent years, but the fact is he is just 3-8 against them in the regular season. Granted New England is an exceptional football team so it’s hard to expect a great record against them, but he’s also just 4-6 against Miami, which is the worst performance within the division against the Dolphins. Overall Ryan is 14-18 against the AFC East, which is tied with Miami and 3.5 games better than Buffalo over that same stretch. Since 2012 the Jets are tied with Miami for the worst divisional record at just 5-9. That doesn’t cut it.

One of the things that has certainly saved Ryan’s job is the goodwill he bought by winning those road playoff games and cementing the fact that he can win big games against quality opponents. We didn’t apply that logic to Sanchez, who was the quarterback of those games, but it gets applied to Ryan. The problem is in the regular season that ability has not really translated to wins.

The Jets have been a bottom feeder under Ryan, specifically in the post-Revis era. When we look at 6 years worth of data we can get a pretty good idea of who Rex does and does not beat. I wanted to break the Jets opponents up into 4 tiers. An elite team I would define as a team that wins more than 11 games (Super Bowl favorites). A high level team is a team that wins between 9 and 11 games (basically a playoff quality team). Mid tier teams range between 6 and 8 wins while low quality teams are those at 5 wins or less (top drafting teams). Here are Ryan’s results vs those teams season by season:


You won’t find a bad team that Ryan can’t beat but you won’t find many good teams he can beat either. What’s an alarming trend is that Rex’s record against the mid tier teams has fallen from 13-9 to 5-11 since the move to a “rebuilding” phase. Outside of those first two seasons he has really done nothing against better quality teams- he’s 1-11 since 2011 against elite teams and 2-7 against high level teams. That’s Herman Edwardsesque with records heavily reliant on a schedule.


Perhaps more alarming  is the amount of blowout losses that the Jets have experienced under Ryan. In 2009 and 2010, 8 of Ryan’s 12 losses were by a touchdown or less. Only 3 losses in that period were by more at least 14 points and just once were they completely wiped out (the 42 point massacre in 2010 at the hands of the Patriots). When the Jets won they often won handily. It was a very strong effort.

Since 2011 ended the Jets have been a disaster. A majority of their wins are by less than a touchdown. Nearly 58% of the Jets losses have been by at least 14 points.  38% of losses are by more than 20 points. It’s brutal. Here is how the wins and losses broke down in those three year periods:

SeasonsLT 3 WinsLT 8 wins10+ wins14+ wins17+ wins20+ wins30+ wins
SeasonsLT 3 LossLT 8 Loss10+ Loss14+ Loss17+ Loss20+ Loss30+ Loss

These are non-competitive games that the Jets are playing in. That’s an embarrassment. It’s a lack of talent, preparation, and adjustments in a game.   Have you ever heard the coach say anything is wrong after these games?  Not really.  Just that he’ll get things fixed and they are trying hard. If this is trying hard I’d hate to see what not trying is like.

There is no way to spin these numbers as being good. I wanted to compare the performance in losses to that of the Raiders and Jaguars over the same 2.5 year period. Those two teams were essentially considered the bottom of the barrel of the NFL over the post-Revis timeframe. They have both gone through coaching changes and front office changes.

Margin of LossRaidersJaguarsJets

What separates the Jets and these other teams is the fact that the Jets have won some close games in the last few years while the Raider and Jaguars do not. Other than that the Jets are at the same percentage or worse than both teams. On a percentage basis the Jets are less competitive than Oakland. In terms of total number of blowouts they are pretty much worse off than the Raiders once you get beyond the 10 point loss margin. The Jets have 5 losses at home by 20 or more points over the last three years. That’s brutal.

Give Rex all the credit you want for beating some bad teams in 2013 to get to 8 wins, but there is almost nothing to indicate that he’s putting forward these valiant efforts when they lose. They basically roll over and play dead.

It’s been an awful three year stretch for Ryan. If you take out the two playoff runs at the start of his career it would be a no brainer that he would have been run out of town long ago with no defense from anyone. But Ryan has appeal to everyone from the brash attitude and early success and it blinds us all to the fact that he is not going to fit as a head coach of the Jets moving forward.

Whether or not we agree with the path Idzik has chosen or the job he has done, the fact is he has taken the Jets deep down the path or rebuilding. There is no quick fix for this mess through free agency because there is no real talent base that you can build around the way the Jets did when they used their resources in 2008-2010 to build those playoff teams.

I may not trust Idzik to make a draft pick but I also can’t trust Ryan to coach a team of young men learning how to exist in the NFL. If Idzik’s goal was to see how Ryan could do without decent veterans on his team these last two years, well mission accomplished. It’s awful play, bad losses, non-competitive games, and a lot of meaningless football. Its about as bad as things get in the NFL.

The Jets can’t make this about 7 games. Look at the way the team has fallen apart the last few years and realize that Ryan is not the coach who is going to be part of the solution here. Maybe there is a place where he can be part of the solution where the situation resembles the Jets of 2009, but the 2015 Jets won’t look anything like that and will never get back to that level if Ryan is responsible for the development of the team.