Rex has begun his Green & White reign.
The Jets have announced this evening that Rex Ryan, the Baltimore Ravens' vaunted defensive coordinator, is their new head coach. The franchise's 17th overall head coach and 15th full-time skipper will be introduced at a news conference Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the Atlantic Health Training Center.
Jets owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum have concluded their three-week head-coaching search by finding in Ryan a coach that Johnson calls "a great football mind and leader." In an email to Jets staffers sent out this evening, Johnson said:
"Rex is revered by his players and respected by his peers around the NFL for his innovative schemes. There is no doubt in my mind that he has the expertise and instincts to build on the foundation that we have in place and take this franchise to the ranks of the NFL's elite. He brings an aggressive, physical brand of football that will captivate our fans and ignite their passion."
"I'd like to thank Woody Johnson and Mike Tannenbaum for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Ryan. "It's been a dream of mine to become a head coach in the NFL. Coming here to the New York Jets, where my father once coached and was part of the Super Bowl III staff, is fantastic. I look around at the facilities and the people they have in place and see a first-class organization. I'm just proud to be part of it."
Ryan emerged as the frontrunner for the job soon after Johnson and Tannenbaum interviewed him for five hours in Baltimore on Jan. 11. The list of candidates to replace Eric Mangini included Jets assistants Brian Schottenheimer and Bill Callahan as well as top NFL assistants Russ Grimm from Arizona, Ron Meeks from Indianapolis and the Giants' Steve Spagnuolo, who has since been named the St. Louis Rams' new head coach.
The search rose to a new level this morning, following the Ravens' Sunday night 23-14 loss to the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field. Johnson and Tannenbaum flew to Baltimore in Johnson's plane to meet Ryan, begin the negotiation process, then fly Ryan back to North Jersey to finish negotiations at the team's new training complex in Florham Park, N.J.
"During our search, we were looking for a great football mind and a passionate leader," Tannenbaum said. "Rex is a coach with an established track record who is universally respected by players and coaches for his skills as a communicator and his creativity."
Ryan, who turned 46 in December, has established himself as a great NFL defensive mind. It runs in the family, of course. Ryan's father is Buddy Ryan, the well-known head coach of the Eagles and Cardinals from the mid-Eighties to the mid-Nineties who early in* his *career served as the defensive line coach for the Jets' Super Bowl III team in 1968.
And Ryan's twin brother, Rob, also has been a veteran NFL defensive coordinator, with the Oakland Raiders for five years before recently accepting the same title on Mangini's new Cleveland Browns staff.
Rex Ryan played defensive end for Southwest Oklahoma State from 1983-86. He went immediately into college coaching and spent 10 of the next 12 seasons coaching at five different schools - Eastern Kentucky (1987-88), New Mexico Highlands (1989), Morehead State (1990-93), Cincinnati (1996-97) and Oklahoma (1998).
Rex and Rob also spent two seasons on the Arizona Cardinals staff assembled by their father, Buddy Ryan, in 1994-95.
But Rex's rambling days ended when he joined Baltimore in 1999. He's been there for the past 10 seasons and spent the last four as the Ravens' D-coordinator and before this season added the title of assistant head coach in the first year of John Harbaugh's regime.
And quite a presidential term those four years were. Ryan could easily qualify for the Secretary of Defense as the Ravens ranked consistently in the NFL's top 10 in many statistical categories. Here is a summary of the Ravens' major rankings the past four seasons:
Additionally there are these among many Ryan distinctions from 2005-08:
* The Ravens are the only NFL defense in that span to have yielded fewer than 1,000 first downs to opponents (999).
* Their 104 TDs allowed are second to Pittsburgh's 103 and their 13.4 percent touchdown drive rate is the best in the NFL.
* They allowed league-best averages of 4.9 plays and 22.9 yards per opponent drive.
Further, since 1999, when Ryan first came to Baltimore, the Ravens merely rank first for fewest points allowed (17.1 per game), fewest rushing yards allowed per game (87.3), most shutouts (9), most takeaways (337), most interceptions (212), most interceptions returned for touchdowns (29) and lowest third-down conversion rate allowed (33.9 percent).
All of the quantity indicate a quality of leadership that Ryan has indicated he's ready to bring to another team at the next level, as head coach of the Jets.
The Ravens, who gave the Jets permission to talk with Ryan early in the process, are sorry to lose him.
"Just being around Rex," said linebacker Ray Lewis, "being around his knowledge, being around his passion for the game, makes it special to have him. ... Just playing for him is a privilege. That man is gonna be a great head coach."
And Woody Johnson and the Jets are clearly thrilled to have him on their team.
"Rex is approachable and easy to work with. He understands the importance of working together with every department to construct a championship-caliber team," Johnson said in his email. "I am confident Rex is the right fit for us."