Rex Ryan wants a fresh start. But is he going to get it?
At the New York Jets' press conference to wrap up the 2012 season, Ryan was a relieved man. Why? Because he still had his job. Jets owner Woody Johnson sat next to Ryan at the table, but he might as well have been been behind him, propping up the hulking man. That's how much Johnson supported the veteran coach on Jan. 8.
"I'm approaching this day like it's the first day. Period. My first day as a head coach. I have four years of experience, but that's how I'm looking at it," Ryan said during the press conference. "I've been given a great opportunity by Mr. Johnson to move forward. This is a new chance for me. That's how I'm approaching it. It's a beginning. It's certainly not an end."
Johnson backed his coach. Johnson said Ryan is "perfect" for the Jets. Johnson gave his unyielding support for the man who led the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship games in 2009 and 2010.
But how long is that support going to last?
The Jets went 4-12 this season in a division that you must go 12-4 to, hopefully, edge perennial contender New England. The problems this season went top to bottom, left to right, start to finish. Mark Sanchez regressed. The offense sputtered. The defense was ranked 20th in points allowed for the second straight season.
Nothing about it was pretty.
Ryan has a big job in front of him. He needs to fix the offense, which starts with a quarterback who took a huge step backward in 2012. The Jets lacked a lot of offensive firepower because of injuries, but that's not an excuse that flies in New York. Especially for a team that has shown, under the same coach, to beat adversity.
Ryan also needs to corral a corrosive clubhouse. Whether or not Tim Tebow is back, having teammates call each other "terrible" is something that has to be kept out of the media. It does nothing for the success of the team, except put it in that much more of a whirlwind.
To put it simply: Ryan and the Jets have to improve. If they go 4-12 again, there's no doubt the Jets will be looking for a new coach. If the team goes 8-8, it will be a coin flip. If the Jets and Ryan give the Patriots a run for their money, maybe make the playoffs, then Ryan could ease the tension in his shoulders.
The Jets have a lot of problems. If they aren't fixed (quickly), Ryan could be polishing up his resume in about a year.
Here's a look at other coaches who have to improve in 2013 or they could be out of a job:
Jason Garrett (Cowboys)
The pressure is mounting in Dallas.
For years Jason Garrett was groomed to be the next head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Finally, he took over in Week 10 of 2010 and had a bit of success. The Cowboys went 5-3 under Garrett, a huge improvement over the 1-7 mark under Wade Phillips to that point.
But since then Garrett has been average. Completely average.
In two full seasons, the Cowboys are 16-16 under Garrett and haven't made the playoffs. The offense has been average, too, ranking 15th in each of the last two seasons. The defense was ranked 24th in points last season, which just isn't good enough.
The NFC East is stacked. With the New York Giants winning Super Bowls and some guy named RGIII coming into the NFL, there is no margin for error for Garrett and the Cowboys. Oh, and the most exciting coach in college football is now making the NFC East his home. That certainly adds to the fun.
If the Cowboys don't adapt to survive, then Garrett's a goner.
Jim Schwartz (Lions)
In 2011, the Detroit Lions were the feel-good story of the NFL. From perennial cellar dweller to serious contender, the Lions and head coach Jim Schwartz looked like a youthful, talented franchise that would present a challenge for opposing teams for years to come.
So what happened in 2012?
After going 10-6 in 2011 and earning a playoff berth (the Lions lost to the Saints in the Wild Card round), Detroit fell flat on its face this season. The Lions went 4-12, despite having the best wide receiver in football (Calvin Johnson), one of the biggest arms in football (Matthew Stafford) and a talented, yet problematic run-stuffer (Ndamukong Suh).
The Lions started the year 1-3 and then rebounded to get back to .500 at 4-4. Then, it all fell apart. Detroit lost its last eight games to finish last in the NFC North. In its defense, the competition was tough: The North was the only division in football to have at least three teams win 10 or more games.
Schwartz has been the coach of the Lions since 2009, and in every season the team improved. From 2-14 to 6-10 to 10-6, Detroit has been growing since he came to town. But 2012 bucked that trend -- badly.
Schwartz needs to get the offense clicking again, and also fortify the defense. That was the team's biggest problem, as it allowed 437 points this season -- 27th in the NFL.
This season looked like a case of bad luck and not being able to finish what they started (the offense was ranked third in yards but 17th in points). Schwartz could be in trouble if 2013 is more of the same, according to Pride of Detroit.
Mike Munchak (Titans)
Second-year quarterback Jake Locker was handed the keys to the offense of the Tennessee Titans this season. It was the year that Locker was supposed to break out and show why he was worthy of the No. 8 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Instead, Locker and the Titans were stuck in neutral all season.
Locker split time with veteran Matt Hasselbeck. The duo led Tennessee to a 6-10 record. Hasselbeck was a touch better than Locker on the season, but it wasn't enough to make the Titans a playoff contender. It didn't help that Chris Johnson averaged just 77 yards per game and finished with six touchdowns.
It was Mike Munchak's second season leading the Titans. After going 9-7 in 2011, it was certainly a letdown for fans in Tennessee. The biggest problem was the defense. After allowing just 317 points in 2011, the Titans' defense gave up 471 points in 2012 -- the worst mark in football.
Munchak was close to losing his job after this season, but Titans owner Bud Adams kept him around for at least one more year. SB Nation's Music City Miracles said it was the right decision to keep Munchak. His leash is very, very short, though, so nothing but vast improvement is expected by the Titans' front office.
Dennis Allen (Raiders)
If you're a coach in Oakland, you should always be worried. No matter what.
The Raiders haven't won more than eight games in one season since 2002. That was also the last year the Raiders made the playoffs. It's been a while since there's been success on a football field in Oakland (unless we count the Oakland A's, but let's not, for argument's sake).
In Dennis Allen's first season as the head coach, the Raiders went 4-12 this year, their worst mark since 2007. Allen's Raiders were 26th in scoring and 28th in points allowed. It was bottom-of-the-barrel rankings all around for Oakland. However, SB Nation's Silver and Black Pride sees success in the team's future.
Since Jon Gruden's last season as head coach in 2001, the Raiders have had seven head coaches in 11 seasons.
The AFC West is a fairly weak division, so the Raiders don't have to do much work to compete. The Denver Broncos will likely be a top team again in 2013, but after that it's wide open. Perhaps in Allen's second year the Raiders will gel and he'll be safe. If not, Oakland could make a change -- again.