New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan outperformed expectations in 2013, and owner Woody Johnson rewarded him with a contract extension after the season. In an interview with NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Johnson heaped praise on Ryan's growth as a teacher and a quick rapport with new general manager John Idzik:
"I think it just means basic continuity and somebody we all have faith in, including (general manager) John Idzik, who got to know him," Johnson said in an exclusive interview. "He didn't know him well. He knew him by reputation. But now John's had a year to work with him. John knows he's a good coach, a great teacher. We feel like he made a very good decision."
After a tumultuous 2012, Ryan was on the hot seat this year. The Jets were starting a rookie quarterback and expected to be one of the worst teams in the league. Instead, they finished 8-8 and nearly made the playoffs despite Geno Smith's rookie struggles. The improvement was largely thanks to a stifling defense led by rookie Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson.
After the season, Ryan got a new contract that extended his guaranteed years to the 2015 season.
Idzik just finished his first year as general manager. There were questions about whether he would retain Ryan, since new GMs generally want their own coaches to work with. But Johnson says they had a growing relationship throughout the season, and Ryan's growth as a coach was a large part of the team's success.
"I saw it developing through the year and I also have seen the last five years, I've seen Rex. He's getting better every year; he's learning the job," Johnson said. "And that's what happens to everybody; it's not as visible. But you don't just drop into the head coaching position and all of the sudden, they're a great head coach. It takes a while."
The Jets still have plenty of flaws on the roster, the biggest one being an anemic offense, and there are still doubts that Smith can be a franchise quarterback. Still, Ryan remains a brilliant defensive mind, and his unit has enough young pieces to build around. With the Mark Sanchez era all but over, things might actually be looking up in New York.