Like the quarterback he just returned to the bench, Michael Vick, Rex Ryan is a goner. He has five games left in his six-year New York Jets administration, and then he will likely do a little song and dance in someone's TV booth before re-emerging as a head coach with another team.
Rex will be remembered in these parts for delivering wildly entertaining copy, for blustering his way into two AFC Championship Games, and for ultimately being another nice guy who finished last. Even if his Jets finish 2-14 this year, we've seen worse runs in this market. Rich Kotite didn't make it to two victories in his second and final season with the Jets, and hey, he never advanced to the NFL's final four.
But for all of the staggering mistakes made by owner Woody Johnson and GM John Idzik, Ryan wasn't an innocent bystander here. He was terrible down the stretch of his Jets career, too, and if he hasn't learned from his own triple-bogeys, he will be certain to repeat them on his future owner's tab.
So what does Ryan need to do to improve at his job? Other than staying at least a dozen zip codes away from Johnson and Idzik at all times, how does Ryan make sure his second go-round as a head coach turns out better than his first?
Ryan can't get by on mere reminders from friends that Bill Belichick stunk in his first head-coaching shot in Cleveland. On the two-year anniversary of Ryan's Thanksgiving night debacle against Belichick's New England Patriots, the Jets' coach needs a kick in the butt-fumble.
We're only here to help. This is how to build a better Rex:
Take that TV job instead of a defensive coordinator's job
You have nothing to gain by retreating to the one side of the football you're comfortable with, Rex. People already know you can coach defense with the best of 'em, and the more time you spend talking authoritatively about offense and everything else on TV (without losing any games along the way, of course), the more opportunities you'll have to fool gullible rich-guy owners who will soon forget about those three Geno Smith interceptions against the Bills.
Wait for a team with an established winning quarterback
Here's the obvious problem with that: The teams with proven winners at the game's most important (by far) position generally aren't looking for new coaches. So in the event no such job opens up next year or the year after, Rex, wait for a team that has the No. 1 pick in a draft that includes an Andrew Luck-type prospect. A near-certain franchise maker. You have proven you have no idea how to develop a quarterback, Rex, so you need a sure thing. No gambles next time.
But go ahead and meet with creative offensive minds anyway
We're talking college and pro here, Rex. See if Chip Kelly will meet with you. If not, head out to Oregon and sit down with Kelly's former offensive coordinator, Mark Helfrich. Spend a few days with Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M and pick his brain on all the college quarterbacks he's developed. Archie Manning is one of the nicest guys around; I'm sure he'd be happy to tell you what made him a star NFL quarterback and what made his two sons Super Bowl MVPs. Make it a tour across America, Rex, and try to neutralize your most glaring weakness.
P.S. Under no circumstances should you include a stop with Tony Sparano on this tour.
Start criticizing players when they deserve it
Stop coddling and protecting every slacker and bad actor in your locker room, Rex. We all know you love to be liked, but there's a reason nearly every big winner from Lombardi to Parcells to Belichick was/is hated by some/most of their players. Phil Simms spent much of his career despising Bill Parcells, and their partnership seemed to work out OK. You still embarrass yourself defending Santonio Holmes as much as you embarrassed yourself the day you didn't realize Holmes was benched by Brian Schottenheimer. You don't need to be Mark Messier or Derek Jeter to understand that all team captains aren't bad -- just team captains who conduct themselves the way Santonio Holmes did. And the next time your starting quarterback misses a pregame meeting while taking in a movie, bench him and shred him for conduct unbecoming an alleged leader. Public shaming is a great weapon, Rex. Use it.
Be more presidential
If there were a contest to name the NFL head coach you'd most like to have a beer with, Rex, you would win in a landslide. You really do come across as good and genuine people. But without losing your sense of humor, you need to be taken seriously. And you can't be taken seriously when you show up at a podium wearing an absurd wig and a supersized gut in the colors of the opposing Cleveland Browns to mock your brother Rob. Some playful bantering with reporters is fine, and there's no need to rip a page out of Belichick's news conference playbook. But in the next stop, you need to set more of an urgent daily tone.
Don't guess on your next GM and owner
You should've resigned after Mike Tannenbaum's firing, Rex, and accepted a financial hit that would've been absorbed by the next contract, anyway. You would've left with those two AFC title appearances, a winning record, only one losing season in four, and a lot of leverage in negotiations with other teams. But you guessed that you could win over a numbers guy, Idzik, and you guessed wrong. Idzik was going to tell Woody Johnson anything he wanted to hear to become a GM, and look where you are now -- at the mercy of a 2-9 roster pieced together by someone in way over his head. Make sure your next GM has the kind of extensive personnel experience you can bank on, Rex, and make sure the next owner is more committed to spending up to the salary cap and less interested in hanging out with the cool kids in the cafeteria. If that GM/owner combination isn't available after the 2015 season, Rex, be sure to wait an extra year or two in the sanctuary of your TV booth, or face the consequences.
Oh, and you're welcome.