Jets owner says coach Rex Ryan will return

Published:

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) -- Rex Ryan is staying put as coach of the New York Jets.

Owner Woody Johnson announced after the team's 20-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday that Ryan, who has one year remaining on his contract, will return next season. The decision ended several weeks of speculation surrounding the fate of the popular coach.

It was not immediately clear if Ryan will coach through his existing deal or be given a contract extension. Neither Johnson nor general manager John Idzik would discuss details related to Ryan's contract.

Ryan's job status was uncertain heading into the regular-season finale at Miami since the Jets have gone three straight years without a playoff appearance. It was also speculated Idzik could want to hire his own coach heading into his second season on the job.

It was an unusual setup, with Johnson choosing last January to retain Ryan despite firing general manager Mike Tannenbaum. Johnson hired Idzik to replace Tannenbaum, with the condition that Ryan remain as coach.

Neither Johnson nor Idzik previously commented on the situation, and Ryan said he hadn't heard what his fate would be.

Ryan appeared loose after his final regular-season practice Friday -- looking like anything but someone on the verge of losing his job. Then his team beat its division rival Sunday.

The Jets opened 5-4 and as one of the NFL's most surprising teams led by rookie quarterback Geno Smith heading into their bye week. But they set an NFL record by alternating wins and losses through their first 10 games. A three-game skid sent New York from controlling its playoff fate to barely in the postseason picture.

After the Jets were eliminated a few weeks ago, there were serious questions whether Ryan would be retained.

Ryan received overwhelming support from fans, players and ex-players taking to social media to state their case why he should stay. Ryan received a Gatorade bath on the sideline after the win Sunday.

One fan started an online petition urging Johnson to save Ryan's job, and it received nearly 500 signatures. Many reporters and columnists were also in favor of Ryan getting another chance, in light of the coach far exceeding the grim expectations outside the organization heading into training camp, and managing a break-even record despite injuries to key players throughout the year.

Despite their personalities being opposites -- Ryan sometimes brash and humorous, Idzik low-key and buttoned up -- a somewhat toned-down Ryan described his relationship with Idzik as "great" several times. The GM also was complimentary of Ryan in his few meetings with the media throughout the season.

Ryan and Idzik will now look forward to building next season's team with plenty of issues to consider, starting with quarterback. The Jets must determine whether Smith can be their quarterback of the future, and whether they'll draft another player to compete with him or sign a proven veteran.

New York will likely part with quarterback Mark Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Holmes to save money on the salary cap, and there are several potential key free agents, including right tackle Austin Howard, right guard Willie Colon and kicker Nick Folk.

Expectations were extremely low for this year's team. One major factor was the trade of the Jets' best player -- Darrelle Revis -- to Tampa Bay, a big blow to Ryan's defense. There was also a dearth of game-changing talent on offense, and an underwhelming yet closely contested quarterback competition between Sanchez and Smith, a second-round draft pick. That was settled only when Sanchez was lost for the year with a shoulder injury in the third preseason game.

New offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was forced to try to develop Smith on the fly. After a solid first few games, Smith became a turnover machine before bouncing back in his last four outings of the season, in which the Jets went 3-1 to finish .500.

___

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org