The Daily News has learned that Ryan, the swashbuckling point man who dominated the headlines for the past four seasons, has intimated to “anyone who will listen” that he would be better off getting fired if Johnson isn’t willing to rectify player personnel and coaching issues on offense, according to sources.
It’s unlikely that Johnson would fire Ryan, who has two years and more than $6 million remaining on his contract. However, sources told The News that Ryan has not been given assurances about his job security three days before the season finale against the Bills on Sunday.
Ryan declined comment about his future when reached by The News. “If Woody’s not willing to do what it takes to fix the team, then (Ryan) knows he’s better off being fired,” a team source said. “If Woody is willing to eat some money and spend to get us out of this mess, then it’s worth staying.”
Ryan’s recommendations to Johnson would almost certainly include replacing first-year offensive coordinator Tony Sparano with a new play-caller. However, it’s unclear whether Johnson is willing to pay off the remaining portion of Sparano’s deal.
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“The million-dollar question is how much dead money is Woody willing to absorb for 2013 with front office, coaches and players?” a league source familiar with the situation said. “If Woody’s not willing to spend, then (Ryan) would want out. He’d be a lame duck. Anybody would want out.”
Sources confirm that Ryan prefers to stay with the Jets if his owner is willing to pour in all the necessary resources to breathe life into one of the most anemic passing offenses in the league. Although Johnson’s bottom-line budget is unknown, sources said that Ryan won’t simply resign if the owner isn’t willing to make sufficient changes.
“He won’t quit,” a team official said.
At that point, one plausible scenario beneficial to Johnson would be to buy Ryan out of his contract with an agreed-upon financial settlement.
Otherwise, Ryan would essentially be coaching for his job next season. Without a significant upgrade in offensive talent, the Jets would be a borderline playoff team at best.
If Ryan were to part ways with the Jets, he would be an attractive candidate for several head coaching jobs expected to be available as early as Monday. He would also be amenable to taking a one-year hiatus and working in television, according to sources.
It would be a stunning end to an entertaining and mildly successful four-year run with the Jets.
With his penchant for brash and daring statements, Ryan quickly transformed the Jets into the most polarizing team in the league. He wasted little time placing a bull’s-eye on the franchise by claiming at his introductory press conference in 2009 that the Jets would be paying a post Super Bowl-victory visit to the White House to meet the President “in the next couple years.”
The Jets dominated the headlines in 2009 and 2010 with their style and substance. Gang Green’s back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances coupled with Ryan’s supreme confidence made the Jets the toast of the town.
But the Jets, who are 14-17 over the past two years, went into a tailspin after their early success.
“I’m always going to keep searching because I’m trying to win,” Ryan said after a 27-17 loss to the Chargers on Sunday ensured his first losing season as a head coach. “Whatever it takes, that’s what I’m here to do. Obviously, it’s been a bad season. There’s no question about that, but I’m going to keep competing. I want to win. I came here to win a championship.”
It may make perfect sense for Ryan to leave if Johnson isn’t willing to take the necessary steps to revamp the offense. The dearth of offensive talent on the roster would likely be too much to overcome next season. Ryan could realistically be fired if the Jets miss the playoffs for a third consecutive year. Moreover, Ryan’s market value could dip. It may behoove him to make a move to greener pastures now. Potential openings include the Eagles, Chargers, Chiefs, Browns and Cardinals.
Ryan has deflected questions about his future in the past couple of weeks, but acknowledged on several occasions that this season has been a disappointment.
“Obviously, if you don’t make the playoffs, you’re not going to win a championship this year, but we’ll see what happens,” Ryan said after losing to the Chargers. “I know one thing: I’m always going to keep believing, I’m going to keep working and I’m going to keep trying to search for answers.”
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