Bemoaning the plight of his team in a recent staff meeting, Rex Ryan considered the grim circumstances -- the roster, the quarterback situation, the salary cap, etc. -- and remarked that he'd be better off getting fired, according to a team source. The source said Ryan was joking.
The coach of the New York Jets wasn't in a joking mood Friday, expressing outrage at a New York Daily News report that said he may want out if owner Woody Johnson isn't willing to spend money to rebuild the offense.
Ryan hadn't been this fired up since almost coming to blows with Brandon Jacobs after the 2011 Christmas Eve debacle against the New York Giants. Ryan said he was "mad as a hornet," shooting down the report and professing his loyalty to the Jets. The only thing he didn't do was prick his finger and take a blood oath, committing to La Cosa Woody for life.
It's pretty clear what's going on here. Ryan didn't articulate it Friday because he was too busy denying things, but he's frustrated and concerned about his future, and rightly so.
Ryan hasn't received a vote of confidence, publicly or privately, from Johnson, according to sources. Johnson hasn't been seen around the facility as much as usual, fueling speculation within the building. Everyone is in the dark, waiting for Johnson to do something -- or nothing at all.
Ryan's "head is spinning," according to a person who knows him. He faces so much uncertainly, now and in the future.
His offense stinks. He knows it, we all know it. He doesn't have a quarterback for 2013, his coordinator has to go, he needs playmakers and he has only two years left on his contract, which doesn't give him much time to get it fixed -- one year. If he doesn't make the playoffs next year, which would be three straight years out of the tournament, he's a goner.
Let's use a driving analogy: Ryan is driving down a dead-end street, at night, and his headlights are out.
Whether Ryan has the gumption to stage a power play, which the newspaper report suggests is a possibility, remains to be seen. Whether he's willing to take an off-hand joke from a meeting and bring it to Johnson in the form of an ultimatum, well, that too remains to be seen.
Ryan stated emphatically he never would make any demands to Johnson and that he doesn't want to coach another team. Not now, not ever. He said he wants to coach the Jets for 15 years. Of course, this is the same coach who said he'd never bench Mark Sanchez.
It was quite a convincing performance by Ryan, who sounded like the old Rex -- fiery. He also addressed the matter in a team meeting and got so worked up that he cried, according to players.
If Ryan was lying, he missed his true calling -- acting.
Now the question is, what next?
The next move belongs to Johnson, who must take control of his dysfunctional franchise, formulate a vision for the future and make it happen. This sort of thing -- cracks in the organization -- has happened every few years on Johnson's watch. Remember the Herm Edwards escape in '05? Johnson needs to exert more leadership, and that doesn't mean more appearances on political TV shows.
The first order of business is to make a decision on Ryan. From all indications, Johnson wants to retain him. Quietly exploring the general-manager market, the Jets have sent out word they'd like to hire someone willing to keep Ryan as his coach, league sources said. That tells you that Johnson wants Ryan to be part of the future.
Johnson should be all-in with Ryan, or cut bait. If you believe in the man, show your commitment with a one-year contract extension. That would placate Ryan. Sure, it's unusual to reward a coach after a losing season, but we're talking about a franchise that gave Sanchez a three-year extension after a mediocre year. At least Ryan's salary doesn't count toward the cap.
Ryan is 34-29, plus four playoff victories. He deserves another chance. Now it's up to Johnson to clean up the mess.