The New York Jets will have a lot of new players on defense in 2013 — and a new play caller, too: Rex Ryan.
The Jets’ coach, who hasn’t been the primary play caller since his first season, 2009, said Tuesday at the NFL meetings in Phoenix that he will handle the job.
Ryan did some of the play calling in recent years, but he left much of it to former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who left in January to accept the same position with the Buffalo Bills. Ryan promoted former secondary coach Dennis Thurman, a first-time coordinator.
“Dennis and I worked side-by-side with each other literally for years now,” Ryan told the New York Daily News. “It’s something that we talked about and we want to do. I want Dennis to just be totally involved like he always is, but I’ll make the calls [and have] the final say on the calls. But again, the process will be very similar.”
This comes as little surprise, considering Thurman has no experience as a play caller. He said recently that he and Ryan hadn’t talked about the particulars, fueling speculation that Ryan would handle the calls.
“I have no problem if he wants to call it,” Thurman said two weeks ago. “If we do it like we’ve done in the past, my input will always be there.”
Ryan also told the newspaper he will be more involved in the defensive meetings during the week, a return to “my roots,” as he called it.
This contradicts the philosophy Ryan espoused last offseason, when he made a concerted effort to be more involved in all aspects of the team. He will lean on longtime running backs coach Anthony Lynn, who has been promoted to assistant head coach/offense.
This looms as a make-or-break season for Ryan, who has two years remaining on his contract and is working for a new general manager, John Idzik. The Jets haven’t made the playoffs since 2010.
The Jets finished with the league’s top-ranked defense in 2009, when Ryan called the plays. They dropped to third to fifth to eighth, and the decline could continue.
Since the end of the season, the Jets have parted ways with six starters. They cut linebackers Bart Scott and Calvin Pace and nose tackle Sione Po’uha, and they lost three players in free agency — defensive tackle Mike DeVito and safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell.
They replaced Pace and Po’uha with low-cost free agents, linebacker Antwan Barnes and defensive tackle Antonio Garay, respectively.
This article was originally posted on ESPN.com