MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Rex Ryan walked out of Sun Life Stadium a 4-12 coach, facing the likelihood of a Monday morning pink slip from his boss. To hear his players, you would've thought it was Lombardi leaving the building. The players love the man, and we're not talking about fake admiration. It's real. To a man, they want owner Woody Johnson to grant a stay of Rex-ecution.
But it's not happening, and they have no one to blame but themselves. If they care for him so much, why didn't they play this well in September and October, when the games still mattered? The New York Jets beat up the Miami Dolphins 37-24 with Geno Smith and Eric Decker enjoying an all-day game of pitch and catch -- too little, way too late.
"It's a results-based game," linebacker Calvin Pace said. "If you don't win, bad things happen."
Those things will start happening Monday morning, when Johnson is expected to fire general manager John Idzik and Ryan. Johnson needs to take care of business, and get it done quickly, so they can proceed with their searches for a general manager and coach. Those are competitive situations, and the Jets can't afford delay-of-game penalties in the offseason. We've seen enough this year.
Bottom line: Ryan is toast. Some of his players spoke of him in the past tense, wishing it didn't have to be this way.
"He's going to be missed," guard Willie Colon said. "I mean, if he goes. Obviously, I don't know the outcome."
They played hard for Ryan to the bitter end, outclassing a Miami team that's supposed to be on the upswing with Joe Philbin returning for a fourth season. On this day, the Dolphins were the dysfunctional team in the stadium, with wide receiver Mike Wallace arguing with coaches and pouting on the bench -- shades of Santonio Holmes in the 2011 season finale.
Despite tremendous adversity, the Jets stuck together and showed heart. But, as Ryan would say, it's a winning business and the Jets finished 4-12, missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year. That gets coaches fired.
"Four-and-12, that's as bad as I've ever been around," said Ryan, who refused to dwell on his uncertain future after the game. "That was tough. The record was awful. You are what your record says you are, but we're a hell of a lot better than that."
Well, maybe a couple of games better, but we're not talking about a team with playoff-caliber talent. Ryan deserves plenty of blame because this certainly wasn't his finest season. He made plenty of mistakes along the way -- including a few Sunday -- but the Jets were competitive in 14 of 16 games despite glaring weaknesses at quarterback and cornerback. It makes you wonder what he might have done if Idzik had supplied him with enough talent.
Idzik, the man in the figurative black hat, actually showed up Sunday wearing a black suit -- a fashion faux pas. Who wears black in 80-degree South Florida heat? It looked like he was dressed for a funeral, and he probably was -- his own.
A grim-faced Idzik was one of the last people out of the locker room, probably hoping the swarm of reporters wouldn't stick around for his appearance. His was wrong. The embattled executive, showing no emotion whatsoever, resembled a zombie as he walked briskly to the team bus.
"I'll catch you guys later," he said.
Idzik gave Ryan a poorly constructed roster, and Ryan wasn't able to work a miracle. Sunday was an aberration, as the Jets scored a season-high 34 points, recorded seven sacks and watched Smith play the best game of his career. His posted a perfect passer rating (158.3), only two months after his Blutarsky rating against the Buffalo Bills (0.0). Decker finally played like a $7 million-a-year wide receiver, racking up 221 receiving yards -- only seven yards shy of Don Maynard's team record.
"It's hard not to be somber," Colon said.
Right tackle Breno Giacomini: "I walked into the locker room pretty sad."
Ryan didn't reference his job status in his postgame address to the team. Surprisingly, he wasn't emotional, according to several players. He tried to keep it upbeat, promising a game ball for every player.
"We love Coach Ryan," Smith said. "I'd love to play for him for my entire career."
True love means never having to say you're sorry.