The Rundown: To extend or not to extend? That is the question …

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

It’s Week 10 of the NFL season, the Jets are 5-4 and are knocking on the door as potential AFC contenders. It’s not a place that many expected the Jets would be as they entered their bye week, but what is most remarkable is the wins that the Jets have gotten against teams like the Saints, Patriots and Falcons. It’s been a good start to the season and with a few days off, there’s been a lot of talk about whether Rex should receive an extension to his contract, which is set to expire at the end of the 2014 season.

NFL: New York Jets at Atlanta Falcons

Rex was recently asked about his future with the Jets and he deflected the question. “Our job is incomplete,” Rex told reporters. “We have a long way to go.”

This week, GM John Idzik was asked about the team’s 5-4 start and said that while no one on the staff is happy about 5-4, he thought the coaching staff has done a solid job, per ESPN NY.

“I think he’s done very well,” Idzik said during his bye-week address on the state of the team. “It’s been great working with Rex and his staff. … Rex has pulled it all together. He’s our leader.”

Without an extension beyond 2014 and a new GM in the building this year, the expectation nationally was that the Jets would have a tough season and Rex would be summarily dismissed.  With the winning start for the Jets, players have voiced their approval for their head coach.

Kristian Dyer reported in Metro that many players want Rex to return, including guard Willie Colon.

“I do [want him back],” guard Willie Colon told Metro. “When I got here, the team had been through a lot. I think now you’re starting to see guys mingle together, guys coming together. This is a young team and you see them growing up. This team is on the up and up and guys understand what Rex is saying, that we’re only going to do this thing together.”

Colon called Ryan a “mastermind coach” who understands this team inside and out.

Right tackle Austin Howard also endorsed Rex’s return in the same piece.

“Rex is a great coach. The business of this game is that you have to perform, you have to have productivity as a player or as a coach in order to keep a job,” guard Austin Howard told Metro. “The way he has coached us with that swagger — with that belief – you have guys in here starting to believe in him. Rex is about the team, he loves this game and he’s passionate. It’s never been about Rex Ryan. It’s always about the team. You look at the walls around here. It says ‘Team’ and Rex understands that; he understands that it is a family.”

In what can only be seen as the ultimate sign of the times the Daily News, who has gotten with the program, has given Rex Ryan their stamp of approval

The 5-4 Jets are the NFL’s biggest surprise this side of Kansas City, a feel-good story complete with a head coach who should no longer be on the hot seat.

Woody Johnson needs to draw up the contract extension paperwork during the bye week, but he’ll likely wait until after the season to make it official: Rex Ryan deserves to be the Jets’ head coach beyond 2013.

The players and the Daily News might want to extend Rex, but some writers are preaching caution.

Rich Cimini wrote that the Jets would be wise to sit tight for now, because there’s not telling what the second half might look like in what might be a valid, but harsh-ish point.

No doubt, the arrow is pointed up for the Jets, but this is a team that can’t win two a row. This is a team that ended the previous two seasons on three-game losing streaks. They’re still the Jets, so there’s always a Butt Fumble waiting to happen. If they drop five of the last seven, against a relatively benign schedule, would Ryan still deserve a new deal?

Brian Costello takes a little more mellow tone, noting that the sheer fact that Ryan is still under contract through 2014 is all the reason the Jets need to hang tight.

Ryan is not about to become a free agent. His contract runs through next season, so there is no need to worry about him being lured away by another team.

Back on ESPN NY, Matt Ehalt disagrees. Ehalt wrote that the Jets would be unwise to let a defensive mind as talented as Ryan go, as it is the defense that is making this team as competitive as they have been.

Before the season, there was the general perception the Jets were one of the worst teams in the NFL, and would contend for the No. 1 pick in the draft. Now, they’re vying for a playoff spot. That’s quite a turnaround, and that’s due to Ryan.

Give the man an extension.

John IdzikIt is true that the coaching staff and Rex Ryan in particular has done a great job, but at Newsday, Bob Glauber pointed out that John Idzik has had his oar in the water as well. Idzik was saddled with a Tannenbaum cap hangover, non-starters at the quarerback spot and an all-star defender who would rather $16 million on a winless team than contend for four million less.

Idzik couldn’t patch all the holes on the team heading into the 2013 season and so Glauber writes that John Idzik has to be credited with some of the jury-rigged solutions the team has pursued and we need look no further than the work he’s done since the start of the season.

.. it’s more than hitting on the most important early-round picks that defines what Idzik has meant to the equation. It’s coming up with Sudfeld off waivers to fill in for Cumberland and suspended tight end Kellen Winslow Jr.; picking up Salas off the Eagles practice squad Oct. 15, the same day they signed Cribbs, the former Browns All-Pro return man, who is also doubling as the Jets’ Wildcat quarterback. And finding wide receiver David Nelson, who has helped fill the void left by the oft-injured Santonio Holmes.

So everyone’s offering their opinions, what do I think?

I think that the Jets are on the brink of some very good things and making big major changes for 2014 would be a step in the wrong direction. Rex Ryan’s defensive prowess is unquestioned. Marty Mornhinweg is proving to be the offensive coordinator that Rex Ryan wished he had since 2009 and John Idzik is a competent GM and is going to tell Rex Ryan ‘no’ when required, something we wrote repeatedly about that we feel like Mike Tannenbaum wasn’t always so good at doing.

On the whole, the Jets have built a young defense with emerging players that can carry the unit for the next five years and fit hand-in-glove to the Ryan defense. The offense needs some investment at the skill positions but the Jets are going to be in prime space to make acquisitions there via the NFL draft with a full slate of picks along with some serious cap room. In 2014 the Jets will be able to jettison Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes and according to Over The Cap, that will put the Jets at about $84 million in cap allocation, leaving them roughly $35-40 million (assuming rookie contracts eat up about $3-5 million) to extend players like Mo Wilkerson (his deal expires at the end of 2014) or sign new ones. Wilkerson is the big one, but know that Jeremy Kerley and Austin Howard will need new deals while other players like Willie Colon, Jeff Cumberland, Kenrick Ellis and Kyle Wilson might also be in the mix.

The Jets should extend Ryan, but are more than okay with seeing how the rest of the season plays out first. Going to the playoffs would almost guarantee his return, but should the Jets go 7-9 or 8-8 a lot of the future will ride on how the Jets go 7-9 or 8-8. If the Jets can avoid a late season tailspin in the final weeks, Rex should be back and extended beyond 2014. Aside from the Panthers, the other six games are all very winnable contests for the Jets. There are a few traps that the Jets will need to avoid (at Baltimore, at Miami, Cleveland) but winning four of seven is doable.

We’re impressed with the Jets so far, but this Jets team is still a long-shot to be playing at MetLife in the upcoming Super Bowl. Even so, this is a team that is rebuilding quickly and a few more parts could put this team back into serious contention in the AFC.

One of those pieces should be Rex Ryan, but there’s no mad rush to get a deal done.

NFL: New England Patriots at New York Jets