In early 2013, Jets coach Rex Ryan could have been looking for a new job. Instead, he ended up getting a new boss. Upon the arrival of G.M. John Idzik in New York, Ryan assumed the demeanor of a guy who sensed he could be on a short leash.
A year later, Ryan has a new contract but as a practical matter no more security than he had entering his first season with Idzik. But Ryan has gotten sufficiently comfortable in his new situation to get back to being the guy he was during his first four years with the franchise.
In an interview with Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, Ryan reflected on last year’s .500 outcome and aimed higher for 2014.
“I believe we’re better than that,” Ryan said. “I believe we’re a lot better than that. Eight and eight would be a hell of a disappointment for us. I’m just telling you that I believe this team is on the cusp of doing some special things. . . . I’m confident we will be a playoff team.”
Ryan nevertheless seems to be subtly laying the foundation for the eventual effort to persuade Idzik and owner Woody Johnson to bring Ryan back if the team doesn’t get to the playoffs.
“I think it’s a transition year, but we’re going to bring it to another level,” Ryan said. “I know where I want this team to go and that’s where I expect this team to go. So, you know, are we a better team? Dang right. . . . That may be a fact that we’re rebuilding this team, but by no means does that mean that I don’t expect to improve on where we were.”
“Transition year” and “rebuilding.” Buzz words for “I shouldn’t be held accountable for failing to take this bunch of guys to the playoffs.”
Ryan nevertheless is willing to say that he’ll accomplish what many think he needs to accomplish in order to keep his job. And it remains a far cry from Ryan’s former boasts that his team would win the Super Bowl. He now explains that those predictions had more to do with the challenge he faced when taking the job.
“When I came in from Day One, this team was way different back then,” Ryan said. “This team just lost Brett Favre, a Hall of Fame quarterback. This team had that same moniker, ‘Same Old Jets.’ Well, I wanted everyone to know. I wanted to make damn sure they knew that it wasn’t the Same Old Jets and it was never going to be the Same Old Jets as long as I was here. And so I think that’s why I said what I said. I wanted to make sure my team believed that I believed that we were going to win Super Bowls.”
For now, the Jets are much closer to being the Same Old Jets than Super Bowl contenders. But a team can’t become a Super Bowl contender without getting to the playoffs, and Rex has no qualms about proclaiming that the Same Old Jets will end their three-year-old postseason drought.