Right after Sunday's 20-7 season finale win over the Miami Dolphins, the New York Jets owner Woody Johnson announced that head coach Rex Ryan would return for the 2014 season. All season, and dating back to when New York Jets GM John Idzik was hired early on in 2013, there was speculation that Rex Ryan wouldn't survive 2013 and make it to 2014 as Jets head coach. Many thought that Idzik would want to hire his own guy as coach. Many experts had the Jets pegged as a four or five win team with a depleted offense, rookie quarterback, and a very young defense that had just lost superstar cornerback Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay in a trade in the off-season.
What ended up happening in 2013 surprised everyone as the Jets would win their opening game at home against that Revis led Bucs team, 18-17, when rookie QB Geno Smith led the team down field with under a minute left, while taking a HUGE late hit on a play that earned the Jets an extra 15 yards to set up kicker Nick Folk's game winning field goal with a few seconds left. After that, the Jets would go on a streak of loss, win, loss, win, loss, win, loss, win until their bye week in week 10. The Jets went into their bye week a surprising 5-4 and in the driver's seat of the sixth seed in the AFC playoff race.
Going into the bye week, the Jets landed a huge upset victory at home against the high-powered New Orleans Saints, 26-20. All year-long the Jets' defense looked pretty stout, especially their run defense and pass rush, which they had lacked in recent years and most noticeably in their two years they went to the AFC Title game, which their defense was led by arguably the best secondary in all of the NFL. As the season went on the lack of depth and play-makers on the Jets' offense caught up with them and the Jets fell apart a bit and were eliminated from playoff contention after their week 15 loss at Carolina. After that, the questions arose again on whether Rex Ryan should be brought back in 2014 as head coach.
Missing the playoffs for three straight seasons after making the AFC Championship game for two straight seasons is not good at all. Once they were out of playoff contention this season the Jets would go on to win their final two games, beating the Cleveland Browns in their home finale, 24-13, and beating their division rivals, the Miami Dolphins in the last game of the season, 20-7, also eliminating the Dolphins from playoff contention. It was a huge two victories for the Jets as it really helped Rex Ryan's case to return as head coach in 2014. Then low and behold Jets owner Woody Johnson would announce after the Miami win that Rex Ryan would return in 2014. It was later reported that Woody Johnson told Rex before the Miami game that he would be back for 2014. So even if the Jets had lost to the Dolphins, Rex would have been back anyway. It's the right choice and the best decision for the team.
Not only is Rex Ryan a defensive genius, but he managed to get a well below average offense to play well enough to help the team finish at .500, when no one thought this team would finish with more than five wins. As always Rex got his defense to step up and had his defense without a doubt finish as a top half of the league defense and quite possibly top 10, which is great considering how many young kids are on the defense. He also had Geno Smith look pretty decent at times during the season, most noticeably in games against Cleveland, Oakland, Atlanta, New Orleans, vs New England, vs Buffalo, and @ Miami. Granted all those games happen to be all their wins minus one, but this is a second round rookie quarterback playing on an offense with a revolving door of wide receivers (WR's that were either very young or washed up and injury prone at that), no one noticeable at tight end, and a few running backs who had never started previously in their careers. The only thing consistently good about the offense was the offensive line.
The fact that Rex was able to get this below average team, at least coming into the season, to finish at .500 is kind of remarkable. It also helps that the entire locker room absolutely loves Rex and would run through a wall head first for him. You can tell how much the team loves Rex just by watching their reaction when Woody Johnson announced he'd be returning. There is a GIF all over twitter of the reaction, where Woody announces it and the whole team erupts in happiness and jump all over Rex as if they's just won the Super Bowl. If that doesn't signify how much the team loves Rex, I don't know what does. If Idzik can finally get some play-makers for the offense, most notably a #1 wide receiver and a starting caliber tight end, maybe Rex push this team to the next level and return to the playoffs next season.
The Jets are expected to cut QB Mark Sanchez, WR Santonio Holmes, and CB Antonio Cromartie this off-season, which will save a lot of money and help the Jets create ample cap space to spend and improve this team. The Jets are also expected to have 12 draft picks, according to a report. So with all the ammo they'll have this spring to upgrade the team, it's not at all out of the realm of possibility that the Jets could get into the playoffs next season.
The Jets should be looking towards WR's Mike Evans (Texas A&M), Sammy Watkins (Clemson), and Marqise Lee (USC) in the first round of the NFL draft, possibly along with TE's Austin Stefarian-Jenkins (Washington) and Jace Amaro (Texas Tech), as the Jets hold the 18th overall pick. Put those types of play-makers on the offense, to go with Jeremy Kerley as one of the best young rising wide receivers (albeit in the slot), hopefully an improving Stephen Hill as your #2 WR, a Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell tandem at RB (which helped the Jets finish as the sixth best rushing team in the NFL this season), you should expect to, hope, and think you'd see Geno Smith progress as the starting quarterback of the Jets.
This off-season is crucial for the Jets and can either make or break the franchise. Make this offense a legitimate threat for opposing defenses and you will see Rex Ryan progress with this team and perhaps make another AFC playoff run. If no big play-makers are added and you'll see the Jets remain a .500 team, as I think with the current players that this team can only max out as a .500 team.
No matter what, the Jets made the right decision in bringing back Rex as head coach and should only see the team improve on this surprising 2013 season, next year. If the team does add explosive weapons for the offense and they don't improve on this season, then you can question Rex as coach, but until then, you won't find a better head coach for these Jets.