I’m not breaking any news here when I say 2014 is a make-or-break season for Rex Ryan and his future with the New York Jets.
Even with a pretty solid track record these days, the NFL is still a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. And lately, Rex hasn’t gotten to the playoffs. But that’s also why Rex was able to save his job in the last four games of 2013, and why his job status will be determined in the first four games next season.
It’s known as the hot seat, and no coach wants to hear that anywhere near the same sentence as his own name. It means he just haven’t gotten his job done. But, it also means there’s time to save your job. It’s far better than finding yourself tagged with the dreaded lame-duck label. That’s now where Rex Ryan finds himself.
With a strong start, Rex ensures he’ll be around to finish the season. But that’s the only thing of which he’s assured. With an undefeated first quarter of the season, there’s no doubt he’ll have the team at least heading in the right direction. Again, a 3-1 start also almost ensures Rex will be around come winter. But anything less than that, and that hot seat can seem Australian Open scalding. So hot, it’s melting water bottles.
A 2-2 start means inconsistency; it means uncertainty week to week and it means management is starting to look for a new man, a new direction and new ways to pull the plug.
This, of course, means anything less will probably spell the end of the Ryan era of the Jets. With an a full offseason to digest, fans will expect a better Geno Smith, a better offense overall, and a continued growth from a very capable defense.
With all this being said, it’s January. The 2013 season, while over for the Jets, is not over for everybody. Come Feb. 3, the most important Jets offseason of the last six years will begin. There are pieces that needed to be added, decisions that need to be made (I’m talking about Santonio Holmes’s, Antonio Cromartie’s and Mark Sanchez’s respective contract situations) before a whiff of free agency and draft buzz begins.
Once those issues get settled, eyes will turn to the first four games on the schedule, which the league has yet to release. But what we do know is the Jets will face the Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins twice. They’ll also play games against a strong AFC West, which sent three teams to this year’s postseason (Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers Chargers; the Raiders are, well, the Raiders), and against the NFC North, which was thought to be one of the strongest division in the league before injuries (Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears) and ineptitude (Detroit Lions) saw only one team finish above .500. Expect that to change with a healthy Aaron Rodgers, a healthy and more experienced Jay Cutler and a new regime in the Motor City.
Putting all that together, it could certainly be tough sledding again for the Jets. But, then again, they’ve put themselves in that situation.
Rex knows the marathon season of 2014 will have to start out at a dead sprint if he wants to see the finish line.
Brian Pepoon is a full-time producer at WBIR in Knoxville, TN and a life-long football fan. He is an analyst for cover32 Jets and believes what someone lacks in skill and natural talent can be made up for in hard work, preparation and the fear of being bested. Follow him on Twitter at @iamBrianPepoon.