The New York Jets enter the Bye Week at 5-4, a record inconceivable to even the most optimistic of fans before this season. The season has been up and down, something that could be predicted with an inconsistent rookie quarterback, but they have several wins over preseason Super Bowl favorites, such as the Falcons, Patriots, and Saints.
And while we too cannot predict how this consistently random season of win-loss-win-loss-win-loss-win-loss-win will go, we should all know one thing: It’s time to make it official and lock up Rex Ryan long term.
Think about the expectations and where the Jets are. It was a rebuilding season with a new General Manager, who most believed was just waiting out the clock so he can bring in his own head coach. With a defense in flux and a new QB at the helm of a questionable defense, it was almost a sure thing that Ryan was entering his final days as the face of the Gang Green.
Instead, the Jets take a week off knowing if the season ended today, they would be the six seed in the AFC playoff bracket (not the 32nd team of 32 in the NFL, right ESPN?), and primed to possibly complete the journey against an easier second half schedule.
Much of the credit goes to Rex Ryan and his defense. His scheme, finally flush with talent up front, are 8th in sacks with 27. To compare with his previous four years in New York, the full season totals were 30 (2012), 35 (2011), 40 (2010), and 32 (2009) – putting them on the best pace of his run. The Jets are giving up the 7th fewest yards in the league, with opponents only averaging 325.2 per game. They are #1 in the league in rushing yards against.
This is even more impressive knowing that the Jets have gone younger and cheaper this year. Up front, the newest Jets are getting it done. Undrafted Damon “Snacks” Harrison is having the best year of his career as a weekly top performer in advanced metrics. Muhammad Wilkerson will be in the running for defensive player of the year, constantly being a menace in the backfield and currently standing 8th in the league in sacks with 8.0. Sheldon Richardson has been a phenom since Day 1, and is a mid-season favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Calvin Pace, brought back at a discount as regained his rushing skill, adding 5 sacks of his own. Quinton Coples has started to regain his step, now at linebacker, coming off a strong performance swarming Drew Brees. Demario Davis has become the speed backer the Jets have needed for some time, making a terrifying duo with the old standby, David Harris.
Even the secondary, led by the struggling Antonio Cromartie, has kept it together after a disasterous start. Aaron Berry went down, Cro was hurt, Kyle Wilson was falling apart at the seams, and rookie Dee Milliner had done anything but make fans forget Darrelle Revis. But in the last three weeks the Jets have managed four interceptions, Darrin Walls has stepped up as a capable 3rd corner, and Antonio Allen has come out of knowhere to become the one guy on the Jets defense to have success against the NFL’s superstar tight ends, including Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham.
On the offensive end, the Jets have been able to get back to the Ground and Pound, with early success from 3rd string running back Bilal Powell and recently with new acquisition, Chris Ivory, leading the way. They were able to take down Drew Brees and the high octane Saints offense even though Geno Smith only completed 8 passes.
Even the players continue to show that Rex is their leader:
He has even gotten the tight-lipped John Idzik to sing his praises lately:
But the Jets continue to deflect from calling Rex Ryan their guy:
Yes, there is a chance the Jets could crash and burn. Who knows what could happen with a few more injuries, or if everything goes wrong. Maybe you would want to fire Rex.
But this is the wrong idea. Since Rex Ryan has been in New York, he has changed the culture and shown that no matter how the media portrays the Jets, or the national perspective on them, he is going to have them ready and bust his butt to defy expectations and field a winning team. Just like he did with a rookie quarterback in Mark Sanchez, in their debut season of 2009, Rex Ryan is once again smelling the playoffs with a rookie. He has the support of his players and is getting the most out of them in year when most thought they had no chance.
Well, they have, and when you get this type of performance, there should be a reward. You cannot live in fear that everything that looks good will go to the trash. Just look at the lead Ryan has set. He is unafraid to look at a struggling rookie and have faith in his skills. His belief in his players gets rewarded with their faith in him.
And now there is hope for the Jets for the first time since 2011.
So it is time to do for Rex Ryan as he has done for the Jets. Few have ever been so proud to wear the green and white here in New York. The Jets should be just as proud to call Rex Ryan theirs. That should be proven by putting it in contract form immediately and keeping Rex as the leader and face of the Jets.