Organic Email Chain: Is Rex Ryan really the answer?

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  • By Around The NFL staff
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The Jets let Rex Ryan go on Monday morning and, in the process, freed the best head-coaching candidate on the market now that Jim Harbaugh went back to college. At least that's how a lot of folks see it. But is Ryan truly a difference-making head coach? The Around the NFL crew debates:

From: Orr, Conor
Sent: Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014 11:33 AM
To: Rosenthal, Gregg; Hanzus, Dan
Subject: ORGANIC EMAIL CHAIN

Conor Orr: Our insider Ian Rapoport mentioned that Rex Ryan would be a great fit in Atlanta, and I'll start by saying that this is a phenomenal idea. Back when Rex's brother, Rob, was a hot head coaching name, I thought he'd be the perfect candidate to replace Mike Smith, too. The two aren't interchangeable, but that team needs energy and a supplemental defense more than anything. They already have the pieces in place to pursue Ryan's ideal 3-4 scheme and they have a franchise quarterback that won't need much tinkering. Ryan's problem has always been on the offensive side of the ball. Now, he can focus on motivating and crafting a dominant defense in a weak division.

Gregg Rosenthal: Atlanta would be a great fit for Rex. But it would be a great fit for practically anyone: Top 10 quarterbacks in their prime usually don't need new head coaches. You say that "Ryan's problem" has always been on offense, like that's some minor issue. You win in the NFL with offense and Ryan has shown no particular interest or aptitude in addressing that side of the ball. That's rather limiting. That basically makes him Buddy Ryan, who had diminishing returns as a head coach despite being loved by fans and the media.

Dan Hanzus: Sometimes it feels like Rex's reputation as a one-dimensional coach is less about a blind spot on offense and more about plain bad luck. Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith. Those were the two quarterbacks Ryan was tied to for six seasons in New York. Does he deserve blame for the lack of development of both those passers? Perhaps. Does he deserve blame for thinking to himself, "You know, Tony Sparano is the perfect guy to run my offense!" Of course. But a legitimate franchise quarterback can turn good coaches into great ones (John Fox) and great ones into legends (Bill Belichick).

CO: I completely agree that Ryan takes some blame for hiring Tony Sparano. I also think he was caught up in the hype when he drafted Mark Sanchez. After that, after John Idzik came around, can we be entirely sure what was Ryan's idea and what wasn't? I think he certainly learned his lesson, and if we're talking about coaches like Josh McDaniels, Eric Mangini and Mike Singletary being worthy second-chance candidates, why can't we place Ryan in that same category? Ryan actually made it to within one bad Brian Schottenheimer play call of a Super Bowl. Now, he has a chance to operate in a friendlier market with six year's worth of lessons learned.

GR: Not finishing in the top 20 in passing yards-per-attempt for six straight years goes beyond bad luck. It's bad hiring and a limited view of the NFL that made more sense in the 1980's when Buddy Ryan came up with it. The most damning portrayal came in the book Collision Low Crossers which showed that Rex was not only ignorant about his offense, but he actively disdained it and had little interest in improving that side of the ball.

That doesn't mean Rex couldn't win in the right situation. You can say that about most coaches. It just means he's the AFC's answer to Lovie Smith with less success and more adulation because he's so likable.

Rex comes up with great game plans on defense, but it's not like he's produced great results. The Jets' defense has been average on balance for most of his tenure. The best Rex defense of the last four years finished 19th in points allowed! He's basically Rob Ryan with less hair.

DH: Wow, we've already reached the character assassination portion of the email chain?

GR: You and Conor are both lying liars.

DH: Gregg, if you ever find yourself at a dinner party with Tom Brady and Gisele -- I assume this will happen at some point -- ask Tommy if Rex is "basically Rob Ryan with less hair." Rex never stopped being a gifted defensive coach -- the talent dried up. John Idzik should be fired for what he gave Rex to work with in the secondary this year. Oh wait. Which reminds me: Beyond being tied to bad quarterbacks he's also had to deal with a bumbling front office for years.

I picture Rex speeding away from Florham Park yesterday like Jesse Pinkman in the Breaking Bad finale. Freedom, sweet freedom!

CO: Dan's right. And even with that talent-starved roster, he managed to finish with the No. 6 total defense in the NFL this year. Since 2009, his rankings have been as follows: 1, 3, 5, 8, 11. Plus, what more do you need from a head coach than a guy who is going to manage one side of the ball really well and be a great motivator? How much time do you think Tom Coughlin spent tinkering with the NASCAR defense over the Giants' two Super Bowl runs?

Did John Fox's offensive skills get better or did he go out and sign Peyton Manning? Ryan is a likable coach who can lure free agents and who knows what he's good at, and when he finds the right combination of GM and OC who can orbit that way, he'll be looked at as more than just a defensive coordinator with a better title.

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