At the end of 2012 the bottom had fallen out, the team went 6-10, Ryan’s loyalty to his declining players cost him dearly and he stopped being the coach he was in his first two seasons. Gone was the bravado, the belief in himself and his team and in his stead was a humbled shell of himself that was bullied by the media.
There are indications, starting at his end of the year press conference, that Ryan is going back to his roots. He has been more aggressive in his statements and has gone back to coaching and teaching defense. He also learned his lesson at offensive coordinator. This time he hired Marty Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator. As opposed to Sparano’s lack of experience Mornhinweg has been an offensive coordinator for years and has produced a top ten offense in eight out of his last ten seasons. Ryan will let Mornhinweg install and run the West Coast offense. Here is Ryan from his end of the year press conference:
“I’m approaching this day… as if it’s the first day as a head coach…. This is a new chance for me. This is a beginning.” “We’re going to be a dangerous football team…you’re not going to want to play the New York Jets.” “I have a group of core players that I think can be outstanding.” (from Daily News coverage of press conference 1/8/13)
Ryan is going back to his roots and is installing a pressure defense. The previous two seasons the Jets have been less aggressive blitzing and more likely to drop into coverage playing into their strength at the cornerback position. Revis is gone and it is time to adjust. Also gone are Bryan Thomas, Bart Scott and Eric Smith all three of which played poorly and were exposed for their lack of speed. Sione Pouha was released due to a lingering back injury and poor play that resulted from that. Calvin Pace was also released but was brought back to play a situational role. The Jets also lost both of their starting safeties in LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell. Mike Pettine, his longtime defensive coordinator, left for Buffalo and was replaced by defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman.
In their stead the Jets have gone younger and much, much faster. Demario Davis takes Bart Scott’s spot at inside linebacker, Quinton Coples moves to rush backer (a hybrid DE/OLB whose job is to get the quarterback), Sheldon Richardson to play defensive tackle/defensive end, Josh Bush replaces Bell at free safety, Antonio Allen replaces Eric Smith at the hybrid strong safety/linebacker position to stop the run as well as blitz, Antwan Barnes replaces Bryan Thomas and Dawan Landry replaces his brother LaRon at strong safety. Cromartie will slide into Revis’ role of shadowing the opponent’s number one receiver that Cromartie played so well last year and Dee Milliner was drafted in the first round to take that second cornerback role. Most of those players play multiple roles and it is that versatility that will give Rex Ryan the ability to confuse and overwhelm the opposition with pressure or the threat of pressure. Rex Ryan talked about his defensive credentials in a recent interview:
“I’m a hell of a lot better football coach than I’m given credit for,” Ryan told Newsday Thursday following the conclusion of the team’s minicamp.”I don’t care,” he added, smiling. “I don’t need the credit. But I can tell you one thing, when it’s said and done, they’ll look back and say, ‘Oh man, this dude can coach his butt off.’ And you know what? It’s true. And I’ll let the people that know best talk on my behalf about the kind of coach I am. I don’t have to brag, even though statistically, I can brag about anything I’ve ever done defensively.” (from a cbssports.com article on 6/14/13)
This is a make or break year for Rex Ryan and he has taken that challenge and plans to go out as himself. Pressure defense, unabashed confidence and no fear of what anyone else thinks. The parallels to 2009 are there. Coach having to prove himself, rookie quarterback, pressure defense, and lower expectations. If Ryan can have the young players develop and the team stays with him improving as the year goes along then he will keep his job. I say he does it and I can write another chapter of this story next year and for some years to come.