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Will the Jets Fire Rex Ryan?

On Sunday morning, Jay Glazer reported that the Jets head coach told the team that he believes he will be fired after the season. And a few hours ago, I noted that while the Jets have a 7-8 record, that’s not an accurate reflection of the team’s production this year. So one week from today, will new general manager John Idzik decide to go in a different direction on Black Monday?

After making the AFC Championship Game in both 2009 and 2010, Rex Ryan’s Jets have now failed to make the playoffs in each of the last three years. From 1988 to 2012, 62 head coaches went three straight years without making the playoffs while coaching the same team. As it turns out, the head coach returned in 33 of those cases for the following season, but in each of the last five instances, ownership has chose to fire the head coach. That’s the situation Ryan and Mike Munchak are in, and Jason Garrett would join them in that boat with a loss to Philadelphia next Sunday, too.

On average, the teams that fired the head coach won 4.8 games in Year N, and then won 7.4 games in Year N+1. That includes the three new head coaches in 2013 in Buffalo, Arizona, and San Diego.

SDG2012Norv Turner7-9Mike McCoy7-7
BUF2012Chan Gailey6-10Doug Marrone6-9
ARI2012Ken Whisenhunt5-11Bruce Arians9-5
STL2011Steve Spagnuolo2-14Jeff Fisher7-8-1
TAM2011Raheem Morris4-12Greg Schiano7-9
DEN2008Mike Shanahan8-8Josh McDaniels8-8
DET2008Rod Marinelli0-16Jim Schwartz2-14
CLE2008Romeo Crennel4-12Eric Mangini5-11
ARI2006Dennis Green5-11Ken Whisenhunt8-8
NOR2005Jim Haslett3-13Sean Payton10-6
HOU2005Dom Capers2-14Gary Kubiak6-10
BUF2003Gregg Williams6-10Mike Mularkey9-7
ARI2003Dave McGinnis4-12Dennis Green6-10
JAX2002Tom Coughlin6-10Jack Del Rio5-11
DAL2002Dave Campo5-11Bill Parcells10-6
SDG2001Mike Riley5-11Marty Schottenheimer8-8
CAR2001George Seifert1-15John Fox7-9
NOR1999Mike Ditka3-13Jim Haslett10-6
SEA1998Dennis Erickson8-8Mike Holmgren9-7
CHI1998Dave Wannstedt4-12Dick Jauron6-10
BAL1998Ted Marchibroda6-10Brian Billick8-8
NYG1996Dan Reeves6-10Jim Fassel10-5-1
TAM1995Sam Wyche7-9Tony Dungy6-10
RAM1994Chuck Knox4-12Rich Brooks7-9
SEA1994Tom Flores6-10Dennis Erickson8-8
PHO1993Joe Bugel7-9Buddy Ryan8-8
SEA1991Chuck Knox7-9Tom Flores2-14
GNB1991Lindy Infante4-12Mike Holmgren9-7
SDG1991Dan Henning4-12Bobby Ross11-5

Of the 32 teams to retain the head coach, the average team won 6.9 games in Year N and then 7.3 in Year N+1. Those are full season results — the table below shows the number of wins by that specific coach in Year N+1.

TeamYearCoachRecordYear N+1
JAX2010Jack Del Rio8-83-8-0 (0-0)
HOU2010Gary Kubiak6-1010-6-0 (1-1)
HOU2009Gary Kubiak9-76-10-0 (0-0)
CHI2009Lovie Smith7-911-5-0 (1-1)
HOU2008Gary Kubiak8-89-7-0 (0-0)
BUF2008Dick Jauron7-93-6-0 (0-0)
CIN2008Marvin Lewis4-11-110-6-0 (0-1)
CLE2007Romeo Crennel10-64-12-0 (0-0)
SFO2007Mike Nolan5-112-5-0 (0-0)
TEN2006Jeff Fisher8-810-6-0 (0-1)
NOR2004Jim Haslett8-83-13-0 (0-0)
HOU2004Dom Capers7-92-14-0 (0-0)
NOR2003Jim Haslett8-88-8-0 (0-0)
SEA2002Mike Holmgren7-910-6-0 (0-1)
ATL2001Dan Reeves7-99-6-1 (1-1)
PIT2000Bill Cowher9-713-3-0 (1-1)
CIN1999Bruce Coslet4-120-3-0 (0-0)
TEN1998Jeff Fisher8-813-3-0 (3-1)
WAS1998Norv Turner6-1010-6-0 (1-1)
TEN1997Jeff Fisher8-88-8-0 (0-0)
SEA1997Dennis Erickson8-88-8-0 (0-0)
WAS1997Norv Turner8-7-16-10-0 (0-0)
CHI1997Dave Wannstedt4-124-12-0 (0-0)
WAS1996Norv Turner9-78-7-1 (0-0)
NOR1995Jim Mora7-92-6-0 (0-0)
CIN1995David Shula7-91-6-0 (0-0)
IND1994Ted Marchibroda8-89-7-0 (2-1)
CIN1994David Shula3-137-9-0 (0-0)
TAM1994Sam Wyche6-107-9-0 (0-0)
CLE1993Bill Belichick7-911-5-0 (1-1)
PHO1992Joe Bugel4-127-9-0 (0-0)
GNB1990Lindy Infante6-104-12-0 (0-0)
IND1990Ron Meyer7-90-5-0 (0-0)

I’m a bit surprised that so many head coaches were retained after failing to make the playoffs for three straight years, but I think the recent trend shows that the NFL is more of  a “win now” league than ever before.

More to the point for Ryan, 2013 marks the third straight season the Jets have failed to post a winning record. From 2000 to 2012, only 18 head coaches posted three straight years with a non-winning record for the same team. Eleven of them were fired after year three, and two more (Dick Jauron and Mike Nolan) were fired in midseason in year four. Four other coaches were in the AFC South during the Peyton Manning era, and as I’ve noted before, owners appeared to give those coaches long leashes for failing to push ahead of those Colts teams.

The other coach in this group was Marvin Lewis: keeping him may have been the wise decision, but was probably more a reflection of the Bengals ownership than anything else.

Woody Johnson, of course, is not content with mediocrity… or being out of the spotlight. After the Jets failed to make the playoffs in 2007, the team released Chad Pennington and acquired Brett Favre. After the Jets failed to make the playoffs in 2008, head coach Eric Mangini got the axe. After the Jets failed to make the playoffs in 2011, Brian Schottenheimer was the scape goat. After the Jets failed to make the playoffs in 2012, Woody went up the corporate ladder and canned Mike Tannenbaum. With a first-year quarterback, a first-year offensive coordinator and a first-year general manager, there’s only one move left for Johnson to make.

  • Interesting. If a team misses the playoffs for 3 straight years, and wins an average of 4.8 games in the 3rd season, they are likely to win 7.4 games by changing the coach.

    However, if a team missed the playoffs 3 straight years, and won an average of 6.9 games in the 3rd seasons, they are likely to win 7.3 games by standing pat.

    At first glance I thought, “oh, if you had a really bad season you should fire the coach”. But, unless I’m interpreting the data wrong, what these charts really tell us is that if you’ve missed the playoffs for 3 straight years, you are going to average winning about 7.3 games in the 4th season – regardless of changing coaches.

    Of the 26 firings before last year, I count about 13 where the new coach had a pretty good tenure. But a lot of those came with some convenient personnel upgrades (Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, Calvin Johnson, Shaun Alexander/Matt Hasselbeck and Brett Favre).

    Of the 32 to stand pat, I count: 2 of the Jeff Fisher seasons, Bill Cowher, Mike Holmgren, Marvin Lewis and 2 of the Kubiak seasons as the only ones where the incumbent coach turned things around. Fisher, Cowher and Holmgren went to Super Bowls. Lewis and Kubiak turned their teams into contenders the past few years.

    So although the average wins the following season seems to be somewhat consistent whether you change coaches or not – it looks like a team has a higher chance of becoming a solid franchise by making the change.

    • Chase Stuart

      Thanks, Richie. I think the thing to keep in mind is that the fact that the coaches in Group A averaged fewer wins and got fired is not a coincidence.

      The data is hardly convincing, but I agree that it does tend to lean towards the “fire the coach” side.

      • Richie

        My instinct has usually been that teams should give coaches more of a chance and that firing a coach tends to just reset the whole franchise for another few years. But maybe that’s not really the case.

  • Ajit

    I know I’ve beaten this dead horse a bunch but…do the jets really believe they will find a better coach in the long term with ryan gone? I think Ryan is one of only a handful of coaches that actually improves the quality of a team, if we assume the talent in exogenous(which my draft research has suggested it is). How can people not see the impacts of quality qb play and still put the entirety of the blame on the coach. And no, woody shouldn’t get a pass on this either. He’s a successful businessman and successful business people should know to look within the details than being simple fanboys.

    • Chase Stuart

      Some would argue that the quality of the quarterback play is a reflect of the coaching staff.

      • Ajit

        maybe, though I think its important to stress the right takeway. Does ryan improve the performance of his qbs? Probably not. Does he lower them? That’s much harder to tell, but again, I highly doubt it. Put it this was, was Sanchez likely to succeed somewhere else? But we DO have a pretty good idea that Ryan is elevating his defense.

        • Chase Stuart

          There’s no “probably.”

          Ryan drafted Sanchez and Geno Smith, two highly-touted quarterback prospects. The results have been disastrous. I suspect Mark Sanchez would have done much better if say, Marc Trestman was the head coach.

          No team has had as poor QB play over the last 5 years as the Jets, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

          • BThomas

            There’s a dangerous assumption in your logic there, Mr. Stuart; that being a “highly-touted” quarterback prospect indicates an expectation of professional success. Case in point: few QBs have ever been as hyped as Ryan Leaf was, and even if Jesus himself was Leaf’s head coach/offensive coordinator/position coach he would have still bombed out of the NFL.

            You can put picking Sanchez on Rex’s shoulders, but Geno is pretty obviously Idzik’s guy. Ryan definitely had a hand in screwing up the progression of both players, but you’re going to tell me if he had Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson under center he wouldn’t get any more out of them than he has with our two knuckleheads? I’m not so sure about that.

            As for the comment regarding Sanchez and Trestman, while I hold the latter in very high regard (I’ve been saying to friends all year he is to offense what Rex is to defense), I sincerely doubt he’d have been able to extract much more performance from Sanchez than Ryan did in 2010. Sanchez is a severely flawed player, and there’s only so much you can do to scheme around the kind of shortcomings he’s displayed.

            • Chase Stuart

              There’s no way of knowing how Sanchez would have developed with another coordinator. But Rex has been through three OCs and two QBs with disastrous results for five seasons. He also seems to be content with not having a great offense, and almost seems like his ideal game is one where the Jets win 6-0.

              • Ajit


                I agree with just about everything you say about football…except for this point. I made this argument recently. If leslie frazer had been hired by the colts instead of pagano, is he still out of a job? The same could be said about McCarthy and say Mike Mularkey.

                Unless a team is talent laden, a poor qb will make anyone look terrible. Is RR a qb whisperer? No, but who honestly is? And that was my point. Who realistically would replace Rex and be considered an upgrade?

          • Michael Goetze

            Do you have any proof whatsoever that Ryan was the one making the decision on which QBs to draft? And if you do, could you explain to me what the job of the GM is in the Jets organisation?