For the second straight season, the New York Jets find themselves out of the NFL postseason, and with two games remaining, the 6-8 Jets are one loss away from their first losing season under head coach Rex Ryan.
While Ryan is certainly culpable for some of the Jets’ ills, he’s far from the biggest problem.
Many within the organization will be held accountable for the Jets’ disappointing 2011 and 2012 seasons, but you can bet your bottom dollar that no head coaching change is on the horizon. Nor should there be.
However, it’s obvious that something has to change for the Jets to get back to where they want to be, and beyond
Former NFL defensive lineman Trevor Pryce, who played four of his 14 NFL seasons under Ryan, wrote an incredibly poignant and insightful op-ed for the New York Times this week about his former coach.
Pryce wrote that, while Ryan is “a brilliant strategist” whose “knowledge of football … is unmatched,” being a great NFL head coach means that coaches cannot afford to be a true player’s coach anymore, like Ryan is.
Being a head coach these days has very little to do with X’s and O’s and more to do with your personality. And the two personality traits that are stopping [Ryan] from being a great head coach are the same two that make him a great human being: He is loyal to the point of defiance, and he cares enormously about the people around him.
Pryce pointed to New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and his ruthless style of coaching that’s made him one of the best in the league. He had no qualms trading away a franchise player like Richard Seymour, for one.
Compare that to the Jets’ head coach, who couldn’t pull the trigger on benching his former franchise quarterback, Mark Sanchez, until the decision was practically made for him, and the Jets were already eliminated.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, Rex Ryan’s loyalty to his players is what makes him so beloved around the league, but is also his biggest flaw as a head coach.
Trevor Pryce, who has an unmatched insight when it comes to the behind the scenes workings of Ryan’s coaching style, wrote that Ryan needs to stop being Mr. Nice Guy and start being as cold and calculated as his peers.
Being a [head] coach is the ultimate study in “him or me” politics. You have to be willing to sacrifice just about anyone in your organization for the greater good. To a coach, the “greater good” often means protecting your own job security first. And that is the last thing Ryan wants to do. …
The day is going to come when his player and coaching decisions will be made with the same cutthroat efficiency that you find in places like New England, Baltimore and Philadelphia. Ryan will realize he has no choice but to develop that same poisonous “him or me” attitude that permeates almost every other head coach in the N.F.L. And on that day the Jets will gain one of the better head coaches in the league. At the same time they will lose one of its better human beings.
The truth is that for Ryan to take the next step towards being a complete head coach, he will need to adapt and evolve his coaching style so that he doesn’t get so caught up in the emotional bonds he forms with his players.
If Ryan and the Jets could’ve been more pragmatic with Mark Sanchez, they might not be in this mess right now.
It’s not going to be easy, but I truly believe that Rex Ryan is capable of such a transition. He is an incredibly gifted football mind, and while he has a unique personality, nothing is going to stop him from bettering himself as a coach.
The Jets need to make changes, but they don’t need to reinvent the wheel. They’re not so far removed from reaching back-to-back AFC Championship games, and they’re not dramatically far off from reaching that level again.