The headlines from New York had been expected for months. “NY Jets fire Rex Ryan” had been widely predicted after multiple losing seasons and the failed experiments with quarterbacks Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith and Michael Vick. The Jets firing GM John Idzik, too? That was a bit of a surprise.
For most of the season, if not dating back to the 2013 NFL season, Jets fans had filled talk radio with chatter about whether the head coach or GM was to blame for the Jets’ woes. Only the most extreme callers and columnists called for both men to go. It turns out the extremists had it right. Jets owner Woody Johnson announced Monday that both men had been let go.
Ryan started his head-coaching career with the New York Jets on a high note, advancing to the AFC Championship Game in his first two seasons. Those were teams Ryan had inherited, while “his” teams in subsequent years struggled, including a 4-12 finish to the 2014 season.
Fingers of blame immediately went to quarterback Geno Smith, who’s been the scapegoat for many of the Jets’ woes for the past two years under Ryan. But that’s overlooking the “butt fumbling” Mark Sanchez and a slew of missteps by the Jets over the past several seasons.
Smith said all the right things in locker-room interviews on Monday, including a seeming openness to coming off the bench if needed next year.
“Whatever it takes, I’m willing,” Smith told reporters after the news of Ryan’s firing was announced. Smith had been asked whether he thought he felt he was an NFL starter, and what he would do to retain that status during the off season.
But while fans will point to Smith as the culprit for Ryan’s and Idzik’s firing, Jets owner Johnson appears to be thinking well beyond the quarterback position.
“I am beginning our search for new football leadership, effective immediately, with guidance and support from respected football experts, including Charley Casserly and Ron Wolf, two Super Bowl winners with decades of valuable experience. We will consider all options to improve the Jets.”
“All options.” As in, “we may do more than hire a new coach and GM.” With Smith and Vick failing to deliver any consistently quality play this season, might the Jets look to move some big assets to advance in the Draft? Jameis Winston could finally deliver some quality QB play, but the lights of New York may be too much of a distraction. Marcus Mariota could show some great locker-room leadership, but how would his laid-back Hawaiian attitude mesh with the New York media?
Smith may be partially to blame, but the QB position isn’t the Jets’ only shortcoming. Their pass defense was 14th in the league, they could use some help on the offensive line, and their total passing yardage was last in the NFL. Some of that lies on the receivers.
Johnson has clearly expressed interest in cleaning house, and that may not just be in the front office.