Beneath all of the talk and bravado, being a football coach is in Rex Ryan's blood. Ryan is a master motivator that gets the most out of his players and refuses to allow his players let them quit, no matter how bleak the situation may seem.
Rex, however, should not touch personnel decisions with a 40-foot pole.
Even though Mike Tannenbaum has final say on the roster, Rex has had considerable say in all major roster moves. His input was instrumental in several roster decisions that have led to their current 4-7 record.
It is hardly a secret that Mike Tannenbaum is not a traditional tape-crunching GM that knows the game inside and out. "Mr. T" is a salary cap guru that makes decisions based on what his scouts and coaches tell him to do.
As a result, the two head coaches who worked with Tannenbaum, Mangini and Ryan, have been instrumental in the personnel decisions that were made during their respective tenures as coach. When you compare the moves made in the two regimes, the roster has depleted considerably under Ryan's watch.
When Mangini was fired after the 2008 season, he left behind a talented team that squandered an 8-3 record because Brett Favre's injury held them back. Rex, being a superior talent-maximizer to his predecessor, rode his team to two straight AFC Championship appearances.
He turned good players like Darrelle Revis and David Harris into All-Pros. He utilized his offensive line to ride a rookie quarterback to the brink of a Super Bowl. When given adequate talent, Ryan can make it work.
Now, many of those players who were brought in during the Mangini Era are either old, on other teams, or out of the league.
Calvin Pace is invisible as a pass-rusher. Damien Woody now works for ESPN and Kris Jenkins yells his mouth off on SNY. Jerricho Cotchery is a Steeler, Kerry Rhodes is a Cardinal, Leon Washington has found a home in Seattle and Thomas Jones is out of the league.
Players moving on to other endeavors is a part of the NFL. How teams react to these changes determines who has lasting success.
Rex Ryan loves to pump up his players, but he does it to a fault. Too often does he overrate the talent on his own team, and it hurts him on Sundays.
Last year, he thought Eric Smith would be a solid starter at safety. According to ProFootballFocus, he was the 80th best safety in the NFL.
He also believed that Wayne Hunter would be a reliable right tackle after two solid playoff games in 2010, ignoring the other poor games he had prior. Wayne Hunter has simply embarrassed himself as a starting tackle for the Jets, to the point where the Jets had to trade him to St. Louis. It took a four-sack debacle in a preseason game against the Giants to finally bench him.
After the 2009 season, he forced the release of Kerry Rhodes because he wasn't "physical" enough. Since then, the Jets have struggled mightily to cover tight ends.
He has been touting Shonn Greene as a foundation back for over three years. Shonn Greene currently ranks 56th on PFF's running back rankings. Yet, he continues to stick with the runner because he likes his attitude as a runner, throwing away the fact that he cannot make defenders miss.
In 2011, he thought the Jets were capable of being a pass-first team with Mark Sanchez at the helm. Halfway through the season, he realized his mistake and tried to change offensive philosophies midseason. Not only did he overrate Mark Sanchez's ability as a passer, but he overrated the ability of an aging receiving corps and overlooked the right tackle position.
Rex Ryan is a good coach, but he is simply not an effective personnel evaluator. He lets emotion get in the way of making a accurate assessment of what his players are capable of.
Variation of Draft Success
It is unfair to credit either coach entirely with the Jets' draft picks during their tenure, but there is a definite difference in draft day success between the two coaches.
Mangini was around for several picks that are now the foundation of the franchise. The "core four", David Harris, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis, were all selected in the Mangini era. They did whiff on Vernon Gholston in 2008, but they did nab Dustin Keller later in the round.
Rex Ryan has only found success drafting defensive lineman, which is a position he used to coach in Baltimore. Quinton Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson ooze potential, but just about everything else about Rex's drafts have been a failure. Most notably, the selection of Mark Sanchez, a move Rex Ryan was instrumental in, was perhaps the biggest mistake of his tenure.
Kyle Wilson, who Rex envisioned to be the final piece of his near-perfect secondary, has been a major flop as both a sideline and nickel corner for the Jets. According to PFF, he is the 81st best corner in the NFL.
Heck, even when given a late-round draft pick, he spends it on a fullback who is no longer on the roster.
Mangini may not have been a good fit as the coach of the Jets, but there is no disputing the difference in results the Jets have had on draft day without him in the war room.
Rex's Role Moving Forward
Ultimately, Rex does not deserve blame for the mistakes made in the personnel department, as Ryan does not have final say on the roster. However, it is in Rex's best interests to take a step away from personnel decisions moving forward, especially when it comes to self-scouting.
There is no doubt that Rex Ryan can coach with the best of them and can scheme defensively around almost any weakness, but these misfirings by the personnel department are starting to catch up with the Jets, evidenced by their 4-7 record.
Yes, Rex does know how to spot defensive lineman, but when it comes to offensive personnel, where most of the issues lie, he is just as clueless as Mike Tannenbaum appears to be.
If the personnel department is the true culprit of the Jets poor record this season, Rex would be doing both himself and the Jets a favor by sticking to what he does best: coaching.