Y Jets owner Woody Johnson's support for Rex Ryan only getting stronger Does Ryan need to make the playoffs to stick around for his seventh season? The Jets aren't answering that question, but clearly Ryan has built up some goodwill with his boss.
ATLANTA — Woody Johnson envisions Rex Ryan sticking around the Jets for a long time and says he would never threaten him by insisting he must end his playoff drought to keep his job.
In the Jets owner’s conversation with the Daily News on Tuesday, it was clear that his bond with Ryan has gotten stronger even though the team has missed the playoffs the last three years after getting to the AFC title game in each of Ryan’s first two seasons.
When I asked Johnson if he believes Ryan, who is entering his sixth season, is one of those rare coaches who can make it to 10 seasons with the same team, he answered without hesitation.
“Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “Continuity in coaching is extremely important. I will say the team responds extremely well to Rex. He’s a good leader.”
Johnson, however, didn’t necessarily back up his words with the contract extension he gave Ryan at the end of last season. Ryan’s second contract with the Jets was due to expire after the 2014 season. And with the Jets struggling at 5-7 and rumors circulating that first-year GM John Idzik wanted his own coach, Ryan won three of his last four games.
After the finale in Miami, the Jets announced Ryan would be back. The Jets initially wanted to give him just a one-year extension, but they settled on a multi-year deal in mid-January through at least 2016, but the contract is not fully guaranteed after 2015. It is filled with playoff incentives.
Basically, Ryan is back in the same situation he was in going into the 2013 season — two guaranteed years remaining. Teams historically make decisions with one year left. That means Johnson and Idzik must make another Ryan ruling after this season.
Why didn’t Johnson, who raved about Ryan’s teaching skills, give his coach more security?
“I’m not going to talk about contracts,” Johnson said. “I never talk about contracts.”
Ryan’s deal gives Johnson and Idzik an escape hatch without a heavy financial burden if Ryan makes it four years in a row without a playoff appearance. Clearly, Johnson is comfortable with Ryan and wants him to stick around. But everything in the NFL must be earned. Not many coaches can survive four years in a row without a playoff appearance.
Johnson has a history with Ryan. He doesn’t want to make a change.
“I know him pretty well,” he said.
Ryan is Johnson’s fourth coach since buying the Jets in 2000. Al Groh quit after one season to coach at Virginia, his alma mater. Herm Edwards lasted five seasons before he was fired/traded to the Chiefs. Eric Mangini was fired after three seasons. Idzik is Johnson’s fourth GM, following Bill Parcells, Terry Bradway and Mike Tannenbaum.
It was assumed Idzik would hire his own coach this season after keeping Ryan last season was a condition of his employment when he was hired in January of 2013. But Idzik and Ryan have established a good working relationship. Ryan has toned down his act — no more Super Bowl predictions, unfortunately — and has tried to conform to Idzik’s conservative style.
“I think they respect each other and they trust each other,” Johnson said. “And the results will be forthcoming and I’m encouraged.”
Just nine current head coaches have been with their teams longer than Ryan has been with the Jets. He is the 17th head coach in Jets history and only Weeb Ewbank (11 seasons) and Joe Walto n (seven) have coached the team longer. Walt Michaels also coached six years. Only Groh and Parcells had a better winning percentage.
But does Ryan need to make the playoffs to stick around for his seventh season?
“We’re not making any comments like that,” Johnson said. “We’re going to go like we always do, one game at a time. I’m not going to threaten anybody.”
He wants Ryan to stay a long time. But it’s not guaranteed.