|Rex Ryan high-fives fans after beating the Browns. (AP photo)|
But the Jets turned the game, and perhaps the entire direction of the franchise, around completely after taking over possession trailing by 10 points with just under seven minutes to go in the second quarter. The Jets offense, led by Geno Smith and Chris Ivory, would go on to score 10 points in the final 6:47 of the quarter and 24 points overall in the final 37 minutes of the game. The defense, which played with fire and emotion the whole way, allowed the Browns to score just three points the rest of the way.
It added up to a 24-13 victory over the Browns and, more importantly, made the decision of whether or not to fire Ryan after the season an extremely difficult one. The Jets players proved on the field if they had a choice in the matter, Ryan would be their head coach next season and beyond.
Whether or not that happens is up to general manager John Idzik and owner Woody Johnson, though. That decision might have already been made by the Jets hierarchy before this game against Cleveland, but what the victory did do Sunday was make Idzik and Johnson think twice if they were going to fire Ryan.
On the surface, it makes sense for Idzik to fire Ryan and pick a new head coach for next season. Idzik inherited Ryan as the team's coach this year, his first as general manager, and we all know those brought into an organization from the outside want to choose the coach they will be working with. Idzik was stuck with Ryan this year because Johnson told him he was.
So it wouldn't be a surprise to anyone if Ryan was fired after the season.
Doing that, however, would be the biggest mistake Idzik could make and will soon get him a one-way ticket out of town as well, even if it's two or three years down the line. The Jets need stability and Ryan brings that, as next season would be his sixth with the team. It would be one thing if the players had quit on him, but that is clearly not the case, proven on the field Sunday afternoon.
Ryan has missed the playoffs three straight seasons, which is terrible, but the last two seasons have had as much to do with a lack of talent on offense than any coaching decisions made. Ryan went to back-to-back AFC championship games in his first two seasons, so he has proven he can win in this league. He just needs the players to do it. He needs playmakers on offense and a stable quarterback would be nice too.
Idzik's time will be better spent this offseason rebuilding an offense completely void of playmakers and allowing Ryan to continue to build the best defense in the NFL, which is very close to do it already, and be the leader of the team. The offense needs a ton of help, starting with the decision of whether or not to keep Smith or get another quarterback through the draft, free agency or trade.
If the Jets had lost this game to Cleveland, no one could have complained if the Jets fired Ryan. Not even his biggest supporters could argue against it if the Jets ended the season with another three-game losing streak. But the Jets not only won, they were impressive and impassioned on both sides of the ball.
Ryan has said this team is on the rise, and he was certain of that in his post game press conference, where he refused, much like his players, to divulge what he said to the team before the game about his job status. The Jets, with some tweaks on offense, can be a playoff team next season, there's no doubt about that.
It would be a huge mistake to get rid of Ryan, but that decision is with Idzik now. There's been countless examples of new coaches failing in their new jobs, leaving the franchise worse off three years down the line even when coming in with big expectations. Ryan's a proven commodity, as everyone knows what they are getting. He's a motivator and a coach loved by his players.
The Jets can win a Super Bowl with Ryan. He needs another chance.