Rex Ryan was seated between Marvin Lewis of the Bengals and the Falcons’ Mike Smith in the front row of the annual, yet ever-changing group picture of coaches taken Monday at the league meetings.
One of the most intriguing questions of the 2013 season: Will Ryan be in the picture as the Jets coach next year?
Ryan, going into his fifth season with the Jets, is in the most tenuous position. Woody Johnson made Ryan’s continued employment a condition in his search for a new general manager. John Idzik had no choice but to retain Ryan, who has two years at a total of $6 million remaining on his contract.
Ultimately, general managers want their own coach, and with Idzik ripping apart the Jets 6-10 roster — seven defensive starters are already gone and Darrelle Revis could be next — to begin a massive rebuilding project, Ryan seems headed to a 4-12 season. And since coaches rarely go into the last year of their contract, Johnson and Idzik will either fire Ryan after this season or, if they want to keep him, give him an extension, even if it’s only for one season.
I asked three current coaches who have been fired as NFL head coaches what they thought of Ryan's situation: Washington’s Mike Shanahan, fired by the Raiders and Broncos; Seattle’s Pete Carroll, fired by Jets and Patriots; and Denver’s John Fox, fired by the Panthers.
“Our profession is pretty tough,” Shanahan said Monday. “It’s what have you done for me lately. Everybody understands that who’s in that situation. If anybody can handle that situation, it’s Rex. He’s had a couple of great years. He’s got to battle though this. I know in his mind-set he knows he will come out on top.”
The perception that may become reality is that Idzik is going to want to attach his fate to a coach that he hired not a coach hired by deposed GM Mike Tannenbaum. Idzik was in Seattle when Carroll arrived in 2010 and they worked three years together.


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