By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK — If it came down to a vote of players, media and fans, Rex Ryan would be back with the New York Jets next season.
In a landslide.
But the court of public opinion will likely play very little into the final decision by owner Woody Johnson and general manager John Idzik. Ryan’s status as coach of the Jets is still difficult to call.
“We’re working on Miami, and that’s where 100 percent of the focus is,” Ryan insisted Monday.
It could be the final game of Ryan’s five-year tenure with the Jets (7-8), who have failed to make the playoffs for three straight seasons. Ryan still has one more year remaining on his contract, so the speculation that the coach is in his final days with the Jets could be overstated.
Neither Johnson nor Idzik has commented, and that has led to debates, discussions and arguments whether Ryan deserves to be back. Ryan also declined to comment on whether the owner or GM has spoken to him about his future.
“Guys,” Ryan said, “I think the entire organization’s committed on trying to find a way to beat Miami.”
Several of Ryan’s players have used the word “love” when talking about their feelings for their coach during the last few weeks. Many fans have taken to sports talk radio and social media to show their support, with one even starting a petition that had gathered nearly 200 signatures on the site change.org imploring Johnson to keep Ryan.
The hashtag KeepRex on Twitter has also picked up some steam since the Jets’ 24-13 victory over Cleveland on Sunday.
“It’s just one of those things where he really cares about his players,” wide receiver David Nelson said. “Players appreciate that. Players know and they respect him for that. They believe in him and they respect him and they play hard for him.
“I think it’s just the mutual respect he gives his players.”
Several national and New York-area football columnists have presented compelling arguments why Ryan coming back should be a no-brainer. No. 1 among them is the fact Ryan has squeezed seven wins out of a team expected to have a tough time approaching last year’s 6-10 squad.
Despite the overwhelming show of support, Ryan reportedly told his team Saturday night that “word on the street” is that he’s out after the season. There was also a published report that said Ryan was angry that the team has begun considering possible replacements.
“I’m not disgruntled about anything,” Ryan insisted, while neither confirming nor denying the reports. “I’m excited about the opportunity that’s in front of us, which is the Dolphins.”
Ryan was retained last season when Johnson fired GM Mike Tannenbaum, a surprising move considering many anticipated the Jets would start from scratch — including the coach. Instead, Idzik was hired under the condition that Ryan would be his coach, at least for this season.
Now, Idzik could be looking to hire his own coach, as is usually the case with NFL GMs. But Idzik is also looking for the “right” coach.
“He’s a player’s coach, a guy that we all love to play for, we all love to compete for,” rookie quarterback Geno Smith said. “We all play for one another around here and it’s a very close-knit bunch. Rex just has continued to be himself and that’s the reason why we love him, and that’s the reason why we continue to go out there and work hard in practice and continue to play hard.”
In a short video posted on the team’s website of Ryan’s postgame speech Sunday, Johnson could be seen smiling and clapping as the fired-up coach celebrated the victory. While that could be merely trying to garner clues from body language, there’s also this to consider: If Johnson’s preference is to keep Ryan but he allows Idzik to make whatever move he sees fit, the heat on the GM could be immense if the franchise takes a step back without Ryan.
Idzik would also, in a span of less than a year, be the guy who traded the popular Darrelle Revis and fired Ryan. They would be bold — and mostly unpopular — moves, and decisions that could define Idzik’s legacy.
But for six more days at least, Ryan will continue to treat things as business as usual.
“Well, that’s easy,” Ryan said. “I have a job to do.”