Rex Ryan could revive the Chicago Bears
By MATT BARBATO
College Contributor Network
The NFL's "Black Monday" usually consists of several head coaching changes and two changes that occurred on Monday were the firings of Jets' head coach, Rex Ryan, and Bears' head coach, Marc Trestman. Both teams drastically underperformed and while Ryan has been with the Jets for six seasons, Trestman lost control of his team in merely two years.
Trestman's departure will be long overdue for Bears fans, while there are still mixed emotions as to whether Ryan should be fired. Jets' general manager John Idzik gave Ryan a barren roster to coach and it was too much to overcome in a 4-12 campaign. The Bears were even more disappointing, going 5-11 after entering 2014 with a ton of momentum.
If the Bears want to return to the glory days of the "Monsters of the Midway," then owner George McKaskey should give the embattled Ryan a call. Yes, Ryan is coming off a miserable season and is 26-39 since 2010, but Ryan's defensive smarts and boldness could be a saving grace in the Windy City.
Ryan is a defensive guru who would transform Chicago's defense from one of the worst units in the league into a top-15 unit in one season. Through 2009-14, Ryan's defense never finished worse than 11th in yards allowed per game. During the past two seasons the Bears have ranked 30th in that category.
Chicago's defense finished 30th in yardage allowed and dead-last in points allowed per game in 2014, while the Jets finished sixth and 24th in each category respectively despite a patchwork secondary.
Ryan's 3-4 defense and complex blitz schemes did a good job of masking New York's woeful secondary, as the Jets finished 15th in the NFL in passing defense despite playing with an amateur group of cornerbacks. Chicago's cornerback combination of Tim Jennings and Kyle Fuller is far superior to the Jets' revolving door of defensive backs.
New York has been stout against the run during Ryan's tenure. The Jets ranked in the top-10 in rushing defense in four of six seasons under Ryan, something a Bears defense has not accomplished since 2012.
Ryan is also one of the most beloved coaches in the NFL by his players, something Trestman certainly was not. The Jets have played hard for Ryan all season despite being eliminated from playoff contention in November while Trestman has seen his share of drama and displeasure in his locker room.
Ryan's player-friendly mentality could be a breath of fresh air for a locker room filled with personalities such as Brandon Marshall, Martellus Bennett and the infamous Jay Cutler. It could be argued that the love for Ryan saved his job last season when the Jets rallied in the final quarter of the year to finish 8-8. Players love Ryan and there's no reason why that couldn't carry over into Chicago's locker room.
One thing Trestman didn't earn from Cutler was his respect, especially after he randomly benched the gunslinger in Week 15. Cutler has been labeled as a coach killer, but Ryan has seen far worse in New York. After experiencing six seasons with the likes of Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Michael Vick, and Matt Simms at quarterback, Ryan would surely be thankful to have a quarterback as talented as Cutler running his offense.
One valid drawback on Ryan is his lack of offensive knowledge. This was a reoccurring problem for him in New York. The Jets were never an offensive juggernaut under Ryan, but they were never nearly as talented on that side of the ball as the 2014 Bears are. Ryan would not have to be a hands-on offensive coach with Chicago because the talent is already there and established.
Another problem is Ryan couldn't find a competent offensive coordinator with the Jets. Brian Schottenheimer was the best one, but it only went downhill from there as Ryan hired abysmal play callers in Tony Sparano and Marty Mornhinweg. Ryan would need to find a good offensive mind to help lead his offense.
Ryan could utilize a hybrid version of his ground-and-pound offense in Chicago. The Jets ranked first and fourth in rushing offense in 2009 and 2010 as Ryan led the Jets to consecutive AFC Championship games with Sanchez as the quarterback. This style of offense would allow Matt Forte to be the featured player of the offense, and could protect Cutler from his high turnover rate.
It might not look like it, but Ryan and the Bears could be a match made in heaven. The Bears would quickly evolve into a better defensive unit, while returning to a throwback offensive identity. That identity could lead to a more efficient offense, as defenses would have to respect Cutler and his plethora of weapons while figuring out a way to stop Forte on the ground.
If the Bears are willing to go out of their comfort zone and hire a former head coach (something the franchise has rarely done), it could get the Bears much closer to getting back into the postseason. Ryan's bravado was relatively successful in the Big Apple, but it could be a home run in the City of Big Shoulders.
Matt Barbato is a senior at Marquette University. His favorite sport is football and is an avid New York Jets fan, for better or worse. You can follow him on Twitter @RealMattBarbato