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It appears all but certain that Rex Ryan, the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, will become the head coach of the New York Jets, likely to be officially announced Wednesday. Woody Johnson and Mike Tannenbaum can thank the Pittsburgh Steelers for that, as they eliminated the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game, freeing Ryan from his duties and allowing the Jets to make the announcement now as opposed to in early February. Ryan will likely keep offensive coordinator Brain Schottenheimer around to run the offense.
I’ve been touting Ryan since the season ended and Eric Mangini was canned, and this looks like a great hire. Ryan has tremendous football pedigree. He is the son of Buddy Ryan, the Jets defensive line coach from 1968-1975, including holding the great Baltimore Colts to seven points in Super Bowl III, defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears (including the infamous Bears D that won Super Bowl XX, and where he created the “46” defense) and Houston Oilers and head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals. And his brother, Rob, is currently the defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders, which as all of us Jets fans know, was pretty darn good this season. Rex has been with Baltimore since 1999, rising to defensive coordinator in 2005.
Ryan ran a 3-4 defense in Baltimore, which certainly helped his stock with the Jets since they spent the past offseason retooling their 3-4 personnel, but it’s not the same 3-4 Mangini ran. Ryan’s is much more aggressive in rushing the passer and forcing turnovers. Ryan uses the 3-4 as it was intended, to disguise the blitz and coverage packages so the quarterback doesn’t know which defender will do what from play to play.
Of course, a lot of that has to do with the Ravens players, including greats like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Could Ryan turn Jets linebacker David Harris and safety Kerry Rhodes into New York’s version of Lewis and Reed, tormenting opposing offenses? Can he find the potential in Vernon Gholston that led Mangini to draft him with the sixth pick last year? What will he do with veterans Shaun Ellis, Eric Barton, David Barrett, and others? Could he attract free agents from Baltimore’s defense, such as Lewis, Bart Scott or Terrell Suggs? If anything, the Jets defense will be more aggressive than in years past.
That aggressiveness will also play well with the media. Ryan is much more bombastic and outgoing than Magini (or he had us believe) which should play well with the New York media and fans, who never grew accustomed to his Belichickian abrasiveness and unemotional demeanor (winning helps people forget those traits) and ultimately made it easier to let him go after this year’s collapse. Ryan will have an offseason honeymoon, but like all coaches, how much he is liked in his city will be determined by the wins on the gridiron.
And all of this leads to the 222-pound gorilla in the room, the status of quarterback Brett Favre. Will Favre want to play for a defensive-minded rookie head coach? Does Schottenheimer staying mean Favre is more inclined to come back? Will Ryan have a say in the matter (all indications are that Woody Johnson wants Favre back)? What will Ryan make of Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff, and Erik Ainge? If Ryan is not convinced one of those aforementioned quarterbacks is not the answer, where will he find it? The Jets offseason is just beginning. But with Rex Ryan at the helm, the pastures just got a little greener.

Jason Levy


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