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Fontana: Rex Ryan isn't done as NFL coach

The New York Jets have fired Head Coach

The New York Jets have fired Head Coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Al Bello

Six seasons have passed since Rex Ryan boasted of getting to meet President Barack Obama in the next few years after guiding his team to a championship. It was big talk from a first-time head coach taking over the Jets, a franchise which then had a 40-year Super Bowl drought.

To his credit, Ryan was at the doorstep of The Big Game twice in his first two years. But then, young franchise quarterback Mark Sanchez's growth stalled, all-world cornerback Darrelle Revis got hurt and was dealt, the Tim Tebow experiment never got off the ground and neither did the rest of the team over the past four seasons.

But Ryan was never just a coach. He was a personality who attracted headlines as much for non-football distractions -- the tattoo, his bedroom preference, the middle finger -- as the Jets own exploits. It was fun, if a little odd, in the beginning when he led the Jets to consecutive AFC Championship Games, but without on-field results, that type of nonsense doesn't usually bode well for a continued stay with an NFL team.

That's why he had to go. That's why the Jets ended his tenure with the team yesterday. And it won't be long before the gregarious ex-coach finds his way on TV on Sunday mornings, creating sidesplitting hijinx and breaking down the afternoon slate of games.

But make no mistake, Ryan, 52, will get another chance in the NFL, and he might just get that meeting with the president some day.

Of the nine Jets head coaches since the dawn of the 1990s, three of them -- Pete Carroll, Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick (hey, he had the job for a couple of days) -- can say today that they've coached Super Bowl champions.

Of the three, Rex is most like Carroll. He's a rah-rah kind of coach for whom his players love to play. That type of goodwill coupled with Ryan's early success here will earn him a second chance in the league. And, if he's smart, he'll wait for a gig that offers something he never had with the Jets: a talented quarterback.

Such jobs become available all the time. Last year's Lions opening featured Matthew Stafford under center, and this year the Falcons can sell coaching candidates on Matt Ryan. By next year, maybe it'll be the Panthers and quarterback Cam Newton. Or the Titans or Buccaneers, one of whom is sure to end up with Marcus Mariota.

Ryan has his limits as an in-game coach, but it's nothing that can't be overcome with the right personnel around him. Give him that quarterback, the right offensive coordinator and a stud defender or two, and he'll be right back in the thick of the Super Bowl hunt somewhere else.

I won't make that guarantee, but there's a good chance Rex would.

Scott Fontana, amNewYork's sports editor, can be reached at


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