Manish Mehta has had a front-row seat for the entire Rex Ryan Experience in New York.
Mehta, the New York Daily News' Jets beat reporter, has documented Ryan's roller-coaster first four seasons in Gotham, a ride that's included two deep playoff runs followed by a pair of dispiriting stinkers.
Does Ryan have a future with the Jets beyond 2013? Is Rex the same swaggering figure he was in the old days? These were the things Marc Sessler and I wanted to know when we welcomed Mehta onto this week's edition of the ATL Debate Club podcast.
"I think he's the same guy in terms of his internal confidence, his self-confidence, not only in his self and coaching staff but his players," Mehta said. "I just think he's projecting it in a much more subdued matter. And you really have to. I don't think you can write 'soon to be champs' on a van (as Ryan did during training camp in 2010) after you come off consecutive seasons where you haven't made the playoffs."
"I think if you ask him in an honest moment, quietly, 'Do you think this team can make the playoffs?', he would tell you 'Yes' and he would also have a caveat that it would be extremely difficult."
Mehta subscribes to the popular belief that the hiring of general manager John Idzik puts Ryan in a precarious position. Many GMs like to install their own coach. During a time of heavy turnover, Ryan is practically a dinosaur in the organization.
"I do think that Rex Ryan is coaching for his job," Mehta said. "He's signed through 2014 for around $6 (million) or $7 million, I think that's partly why he did not get fired after this past season.
"He did breathe life into this organization, he did change the culture of this organization and I know that (owner) Woody Johnson likes him, but it's going to be awfully tough to keep him on board if they miss the playoffs for the third consecutive year."
To listen to our entire interview with Manish -- and learn about Manish's deep love for Tim McGraw -- click on the media player above.
Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.