What Isn’t Rex Ryan Doing Right? What Does John Fox Actually Do?

In his fourth installment of Settle This, the “Wet Blanket of Reason” looks at the nature of being a head coach in the NFL. Plus, five thoughts going into Week 13 and a dive into the rulebook
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Could the Jets afford to give Rex Ryan a chance with a good GM? Would it be smart?

— Chris

This a great question, and one that is tortuous for me to answer. I’ve been a huge Rex Ryan fan for a long time. For my money, there’s no better defensive mind in the game. And while he’s far from perfect, he’s still a decent head coach.

When I was still at The Boston Globe, I wrote my plan for turning around the Jets following their 49-19 loss to the Patriots in the Butt Fumble Game. My advice from Nov. 25, 2012: “[Woody] Johnson has to first decide whether he believes in Ryan as a coach. Everything else is based off that, because this is not going to be a quick fix… If Ryan is the guy, that means [Mike] Tannenbaum will have to be served up as the change... If Ryan is the guy, that means Johnson has to hire a general manager who is basically handpicked by Ryan. Johnson can’t bring in a strong general manager because he may not want to keep Ryan, and that would prolong the turmoil.”

Johnson kept Ryan and fired Tannenbaum, but fumbled the final part. I’ve never understood keeping a head coach but then hiring a new general manager, especially if they don’t have any experience together. It has worked on occasion—in Carolina last season, with Ron Rivera and Dave Gettleman—but it’s not usually a good plan, especially if the general manager is more on the business side (like Jets GM John Idzik). At least Gettleman is a talent evaluator first and foremost. Same goes for Dennis Hickey in Miami. The Jets really should have pushed to hire someone from the Ravens’ veteran personnel leadership. They know Ryan, and they know talent.

But Johnson didn’t do that. He hired a person who, not surprisingly, did a great job cleaning up the Jets’ cap mess, but didn’t do a good enough stocking the roster with talent at key spots—namely at quarterback and in the secondary. It’s also worth noting that Idzik only brought in one senior member of the Jets’ current personnel department (Rod Graves). The rest of it hasn’t changed, which is almost unbelievable as much as it is disappointing. How do you not exact change when given the job opportunity of a lifetime?

That’s not to say Ryan has done a good job with what he was given. I don’t think he has. Too many penalties. Too many failures with game management. He’s twice failed to correctly identify and oversee the development of young quarterbacks. Three times he’s failed to hire a good offensive coordinator. The Jets have changed general managers, but they’ve still botched the quarterback and offensive coordinator. Who does that fall on? The head coach.

In my view, Johnson is again facing the same decision he had to make in 2013. He can keep Ryan and hire yet another general manager, one he is familiar with and one who can minimize Ryan’s weaknesses. Or he can start from scratch. This pains me a bit to say, because he’s been just about the only somewhat worthy adversary to Bill Belichick in the AFC East, but the Jets need a fresh start. And so does Ryan. I think he needs to go somewhere to recharge his batteries, get some reflective distance and get better for his next opportunity, which is sure to happen. My preference, because I think it would be an epic tandem, is for Ryan to replace Dom Capers in Green Bay should the Packers fizzle out in the playoffs.

My advice for the Jets is to finally do this the right way. Hire a general manager with a scouting background, let him hire his own coach and find the franchise’s next quarterback. Or, if the Jets really want to go for broke, send a draft pick to the 49ers for Jim Harbaugh and let him hire his own general manager and pick the quarterback. That latter option, I think, has the best chance of success for the Jets.

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Wet Blanket of Reason

Greg A. Bedard earned his u201cWet Blanket of Reasonu201d nickname for his long history of tempering rabid fan enthusiasm with cold, hard, irrefutable facts. He’ll take the same approach to settle your arguments on a weekly basis. To catch up on Settle This, CLICK HERE. Email ideas for future topics to talkback@themmqb.com with the subject line 'SettleThis, or tweet at @GregABedard.

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Mr. Blanket,

I am not having a dispute or disagreement with anyone, but would like for you to give not two, not three, but ONE reason why John Fox should be head coach of the Denver Broncos? Jack Del Rio has total control over the defense; I can’t imagine John Fox peeking his head into an offensive meeting with Peyton Manning and Adam Gase; and John Elway has built this team based on his own vision. So what, exactly, does John Fox do to elevate this team?



This question made me laugh out loud. First thing to keep in mind: John Fox has been a winner for nearly his entire coaching career, even in his collegiate days. In the pros, he’s gone to the Super Bowl with the Giants as their defensive coordinator, and with the Panthers and the Broncos as a head coach.

I asked your question t two people who would know—Mike Klis of the Denver Post, and a league source with knowledge of the inner workings of the Broncos’ staff. What kind of influence does Fox have on game planning and play calling? Both had basically the same answer: Fox goes over the game plan with each coordinator and has final say. As a former defensive coordinator, he obviously has more influence on Jack Del Rio’s plan, but he leaves all the game-day play calling to Del Rio and Adam Gase. Gase and quarterback Peyton Manning pretty much run the whole show on offense.

It’s a bit of a philosophical thing. Some coaches, given their backgrounds, are intimately involved on that side of the ball (like Chiefs coach Andy Reid and many of the coaches on teams that run West Coast offense). Others prefer to be CEO-type coaches and oversee everything. Considering everything that a head coach has to deal with, I don’t know how guys like Reid do it. Finding enough time for everything during the week to game plan is one thing, but calling plays, evaluating the last series and preparing for the next while maintaining overall game management? I don’t see how some things such as challenging plays and time management aren’t missed (and you can argue that Reid and others miss more than the CEO types). “Foxy,” as everybody knows him, is a CEO-type coach who empowers his lieutenants.

But if I had to give you one thing that Fox does to elevate his team (besides hiring the right coaches, which determines the viability of a head coach and the team) it’s this from the league source: “He knows which buttons to push for each individual player; they would run through a brick wall for him.” It’s the same thing you heard about him when he was in Carolina. One of the most important aspects of being a head coach has nothing to do with X’s and O’s: it’s motivating players in a way that gets the very best out of them. And given Fox’s track record—this is the man who won a playoff game against the Steelers with Tim Tebow at quarterback—it’s difficult to say he’s not one of the better in the league at doing that.

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Hi Greg:

Here is one we would love to have you settle. My friend says that a spike by a QB to kill the clock is, by definition, intentional grounding. The QB is not outside the tackles, the ball does not make it past the line of scrimmage, and there is no possible receiver in the area. He is just throwing it to the ground to kill the clock.

I say that it is not intentional grounding because he is not trying to avoid a sack. He is just stopping the clock. (But the real reason is that they want to give the QB more time and extra plays to make the game more exciting.) Is it just part of the game, or should there be a penalty as well as loss of down?



Actually, neither of you is, technically, correct (although you’re closer). Here’s the wording of Rule 8, Section 2, Article 1:

Item 3: Stopping Clock. A player under center is permitted to stop the game clock legally to save time if, immediately upon receiving the snap, he begins a continuous throwing motion and throws the ball directly into the ground.

By definition, it’s not intentional grounding because the rulebook allows a quarterback, who is under center, to throw the ball into the ground to stop the clock if it is one continuous motion from center. So this is a rule, or, if you will, an exception to the intentional grounding rule. If you were to look at it simply in terms of whether a passer is facing pressure, quarterbacks could drop back, take a peek down field and then fire the ball into the ground without being under duress pressure. But they can’t. That is called a delayed spike, and it is indeed intentional grounding (loss of down and spot foul, or 10 yards from previous spot, whichever is greater). Thanks for the question. I love diving into the rulebook.

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Week 13 Nickel Package

  1. Packers-Patriots is the marquee matchup of the week, and perhaps the season, as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick make what could be the final visits of this historic careers to iconic Lambeau Field. There are so many great angles to this matchup. Certainly the quarterback showdown will garner all the headlines, but I think the team that can establish the running game early and stick with it will be the winner. Both defenses can be run on.
  1. As far as matchups go, it would make sense for the Patriots to use much of the same game plan they used against the Lions. With safety help over the top, they should have Brandon Browner body Jordy Nelson underneath to take away the back-shoulder and timing passes that he and Rodgers are so good at, and the Pats should let Darrelle Revis deal with Randall Cobb, who is better than Golden Tate. They should force Rodgers, whose dangerous running ability could be an X-factor, win with the other guys. That’s why Eddie Lacy and the Packers’ excellent interior line of Josh Sitton, Corey Lindsley and T.J. Lang will be so important.
  1. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers should alternate matching up Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews with Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski. That, however, will take away from the pass rush, so Packers DT Mike Daniels needs to have a big game getting after Brady.
  1. Yes, I said before they lost to Oakland that the Chiefs aren’t quite contenders. So you might be surprised to learn that losing to the previously winless Raiders has changed nothing for me. Those types of losses, especially within the division, happen. The Chiefs are still a good team and they would rise to AFC contender in my mind if they knock off the Broncos. Really, there’s no excuse for Kansas City not to finally beat Peyton Manning. They are at home, and the Broncos’ offensive line is in disarray. I expect the Chiefs to harass Manning all night long and deliver a victory. If Kansas City loses, they’re indeed pretenders.
  1. Look out for the Seahawks. With linebacker Bobby Wagner back after missing five weeks with foot injuries, safety Kam Chancellor playing at a high level after being beat up most of the season and defensive tackle Kevin Williams finally looking like a replacement for Brandon Mebane, Seattle’s defense is now close to its Super Bowl-winning self heading into the Thursday night showdown with the 49ers.
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