|New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan listens to a questions during a news conference following an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Jets won 37-24. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)|
Dennis Waszak Jr. The Associated PressWoody Johnson was tired of all the losing, the four straight seasons without going to the playoffs.
So, the New York Jets owner decided to completely clean house.
Johnson fired coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik on Monday, one day after completing one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history.
“We’re in the win business, and we’re not winning,” Johnson said at a jam-packed news conference at the team’s facility. “So, I thought this was something I had to do.”
With the Jets (4-12) sitting home for the post-season for the fourth consecutive year, Johnson chose to start fresh with a new coach and GM — and said the team already contacted the top candidates on his short list. He wouldn’t immediately reveal who they are, but the Jets are scheduled to meet with Seahawks defensive co-ordinator Dan Quinn — a former New York assistant — in Seattle on Saturday for the coaching position.
Johnson made it clear he wants a head coach who is a presence in all three aspects of the team — offence, defence and special teams — which was a frequent criticism of the defensive-minded Ryan. He also indicated that the next general manager should have a strong background in personnel, which was regarded as one of Idzik’s shortcomings.
“It became pretty apparent during the season as we progressed that the team was not getting better,” Johnson said. “It was kind of obvious that we had to make change. It was obvious to me, anyway.”
He met with Ryan and Idzik on Monday morning after “extensive thought and reflection” and informed them they would not be returning.
Ryan was 50-52, including 4-2 in the post-season, in his six seasons with the Jets. His first few years were filled with guarantees, strong statements and two consecutive trips to the AFC title game.
“It was a long run and I think he had a tremendous impact,” Johnson said. “He made the team relevant in some respects.”
But, in the end, there were not enough wins to back up all the big talk.
“Rex was fully prepared,” Johnson said. “He was fine with it.”
Ryan met with his players for a final time and showed them a video of highlights of the team, and then thanked them for their efforts.
“I think everybody had the same emotion,” left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson said. “A feeling of sadness, a feeling of loss.”
Idzik lasted just two seasons after replacing the fired Mike Tannenbaum in 2013. Johnson credited Idzik for helping the Jets get out of a tough salary cap situation, but the former GM was heavily criticized this year for questionable draft and free agency decisions. In a statement issued by the team, Idzik thanked Johnson “for the opportunity to work with so many fine individuals” and wished the Jets well.
“That was a tough decision,” Johnson said. “Only two years, but I had to make it.”
Now, the Jets will be looking for a general manager and coach for the first time since Johnson promoted Tannenbaum and hired Eric Mangini in 2006.
Charley Casserly, a former NFL GM and current NFL Network analyst, and former NFL GM Ron Wolf are being hired by Johnson as consultants. Johnson called them “respected football experts” and they will assist him in making the new hires.
Ryan was retained after last season despite an 8-8 finish, and the fact that he wasn’t Idzik’s hand-picked coach when the GM was hired. It was an unusual union, widely criticized in NFL circles, since a condition set by Johnson during the interview process was that the new GM would have to keep Ryan as his coach.
The outgoing Ryan and tight-lipped Idzik made for an odd couple, but they worked through their personality differences to try to put a winning team on the field. Idzik signed Eric Decker, Michael Vick and Chris Johnson last off-season, but whiffed on a few others in his two seasons such as Mike Goodson and Dimitri Patterson.
His trade of cornerback Darrelle Revis when he was hired, and the team not actively pursuing him last off-season was a point of contention among fans, especially as the Jets struggled mightily in the secondary this season.
Idzik’s draft picks have also been widely criticized since only six of his 19 selections in his two years — Sheldon Richardson, Geno Smith, Oday Aboushi, Calvin Pryor, Jace Amaro and Trevor Reilly — have played regularly this season. Five are no longer even on the team.
The Jets won their season opener against Oakland, but then lost eight straight and Smith was benched after struggling mightily to start his second NFL season. A midseason trade for Percy Harvin came a bit too late as the team dropped out of the playoff picture.
Fans began to grow increasingly frustrated — with a lot of their criticism aimed at Idzik. The general manager’s midseason news conference in which he rambled at times during a 19-minute opening statement did little to win over disgruntled fans.
A few flew banners above the team’s practice facility, urging Johnson to fire the GM. Others started a website and received donations to put up billboards near MetLife Stadium and distribute yellow towels in hopes the Jets would make wholesale changes.
They got their wish.
“I work for the fans, but I don’t listen to the fans,” Johnson insisted.
Ryan helped make the Jets one of the most talked-about teams in the NFL. Now, Johnson will try to make them a winner again — with a new coach and general manager.
“This is very, very critical right now,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to make good decisions.”