NY Jets: Longing for the days when Rex Ryan led the franchise

NY Jets (Photo by Al Pereira/New York Jets/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Al Pereira/New York Jets/Getty Images) /

The NY Jets haven’t been a contender since Rex Ryan led the franchise nearly a decade ago.

The NY Jets in 2020 lack direction and identity. It’s been a decade since the Jets have been relevant. It feels like forever since the team has been a genuine contender.

There was a time, not too long ago, where the Jets franchise and its fanbase had pride, purpose, and leadership.

For all of his warts as head coach, and he had plenty of them, Rex Ryan was a true leader for his players and the fans.

Ryan raised the expectation level, set the bar exceedingly high, and almost achieved the impossible. Looking back on Rex Ryan’s six years as the face and voice of the Jets franchise is a bitter-sweet memory.

Flashback to January 22,  2009, on the day that Rex Ryan took over the oval office of the franchise, he instantly proclaimed that the Jets would be at the White House in a couple of years celebrating a championship.

It was one of many grand guarantees that Ryan would make during his time with New York.

Ultimately, Rex Ryan wanted to do what his legendary father Buddy Ryan achieved with Gang Green in Super Bowl III. Rex wanted to win a championship with the Jets.

Ryan was home, where he belonged, coaching the team his father had. He was proud of it, and in turn, Jets fans adopted the same bravado as their leader.

In Rex’s last game coaching the Jets against Miami, Ryan started off the game by running a play call from Super Bowl III on offense. He knew that he had fallen short and would never get to finish the job, but Ryan honored the franchise he loved on his last day with them.

Under Rex Ryan, from 2009-2014, the Jets peaked immediately and then faded over time. However, the first two years of Ryan’s reign was as exciting of a period for Jets fans, as one can recall. It’s been a long time since the franchise has had games or seasons of importance.

In year one, the team rode a rookie quarterback in Mark Sanchez to an improbable playoff berth. Then two road playoff wins before losing the AFC Championship to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.

Year two saw a playoff-bound Jets team win 11 games, but the franchise suffered a late-season 45-3 prime-time drubbing by the 14-2 New England Patriots. The demoralizing loss would have buried most teams.

Instead, Rex Ryan infamously buried the ball after the game.

In the playoffs, the Jets would rise from the ashes and exact revenge from the year prior and beat Peyton Manning in Indy.

A week later, in arguably the second most significant victory in franchise history, with an assist from the late Dennis Byrd who riled up the team beforehand with an inspirational speech, the Jets beat Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots 28-21 on their home field.

The infamous ‘Can’t-Wait’ game.

Against all the odds, Rex Ryan and the Jets had slain their biggest enemy. The type of glory and moment that had eluded the franchise forever had come together on one day as an ultimate sign of redemption.

Unfortunately, a week later, the Jets lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-19 in the AFC Championship Game. New York had gotten so close to a Super Bowl two years in a row but fallen short.

In the aftermath, little did Jets fans know that their team would be absent from the playoff stage for years to come and counting.

Rex Ryan and the NY Jets would never reach the same heights again.

Rex Ryan’s Jets failed to deliver on his guarantees, and the franchise struggled for the next four years. As a result, the tide and media turned on Rex and the organization.

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Eventually, the bluster of Ryan’s lofty proclamations lost their luster, and Rex eventually lost his way and job. But during Ryan’s tenure, he might not have produced an overall winning record (46-50, 4-2 in the playoffs), but the team mattered when he was here.

The franchise was full of life and promise. Never a dull moment.

The Jets of today have no heart and no life in them. Adam Gase is not and will never be an inspirational figure. In his defense, he wasn’t hired to be the type of coach that Rex Ryan was.

Gase was hired to bring intelligence and creativity to the Jets offense, but to this point, the Jets offense under his tutelage has been offensive to watch.

Rex Ryan might not have delivered his ultimate promise, but his prowess on defense was proven by beating two of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time when it mattered most in the playoffs. Ryan’s defenses were top-tier for the Jets.

In contrast, Adam Gase has not delivered on ownership’s misguided notion that he is some offensive genius who can mold quarterbacks and coordinate high-scoring offenses.

Adam Gase has mismanaged the unit he’s entrusted with, and he has mismanaged leading his players and the entire team.

As misguided at times and outlandish as he was, Rex Ryan gave his players and Jets fans hope and faith — something that the fanbase of Gang Green has none of for Adam Gase.

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They say you can’t go home again, and you certainly can’t go back in time to that fateful day of January 16, 2011, when the Jets had conquered the world with a championship in their sights, but I sure do miss Rex Ryan.