Rex is a Jet

OWINGS MILLS -- The Mad Scientist has officially left the Baltimore Ravens' football laboratory. The son of fiery former NFL head coach Buddy Ryan, Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan was hired Monday as the New York Jets' new head coach after being offered the job nearly an hour after the Ravens' AFC title game loss Sunday night to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"It's been a dream of mine to become a head coach in the NFL," Ryan said in a statement. "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, 46, agreed to a four-year contract worth roughly $11.6 million, leaving the Ravens after a decade in Baltimore to replace Eric Mangini. He'll be introduced at a news conference Wednesday at the Jets' team headquarters, so as to not coincide with today's presidential inauguration.

With his passionate approach toward the game, Ryan is the polar opposite of the stoic, robotic Mangini.

"We got the right man for the job," Jets owner Woody Johnson said in a statement after flying to Baltimore along with general manager Mike Tannenbaum on Monday morning to finalize the contract details. "There is no doubt in my mind that Rex 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."

Ryan's departure was met with a mixture of sadness and appreciation in the Ravens' locker room. Ryan informed the players that he had been offered and was going to accept the job on the team's private charter flight back from Pittsburgh early Monday morning.

"I think it's a gain for them and a loss for us, but it's well-deserved," Ravens linebacker Bart Scott sad. "It was a long time coming."

Under Ryan, the Ravens had the second-ranked defense this season behind the top-ranked Steelers. Baltimore led the NFL with 34 takeaways and 26 interceptions. In four seasons as defensive coordinator, Ryan's defenses ranked in the top six in th e league in total yardage allowed.

"You could tell he wanted to be a head coach," strong safety Jim Leonhard said. "He has the track record and he deserves everything he gets right now."

Far greater than his statistical impact, Ryan will be missed for his colorful, bold personality, sense of humor, strategical expertise and trademark aggressiveness that intimidated quarterbacks.

"He has meant a lot to this defense, he has meant a lot to this organization, he has raised a lot of us," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "You can't replace a Rex Ryan, the personality, the way he coaches defenses, the way he inspires guys, the way guys trust him.

"You can't replace him. The guy is unbelievable. He's going to do a great job with the Jets."

Added cornerback Fabian Washington: "I'm happy for him. It's long overdue. I wish him the best."

Known as a straight shooter unafraid to tell team owners what he thinks about the state of their team during interviews, Ryan finally landed a head coaching job after previous interviews with the St. Louis Rams, Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers.

The sixth time proved to be the charm as Ryan beat out Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, Jets assistant head coach Bill Callahan, Arizona Cardinals assistant head coach Russ Grimm, Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Ron Meeks and fired Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski.

The Jets also interviewed New York Giants defensive co ordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who was hired by the Rams after they interviewed Ryan a week ago. Ryan is expected to take linebackers coach Mike Pettine with him to New York as his defensive coordinator.

Ravens quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson could potentially join Ryan as the Jets' offensive coordinator. Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is reportedly interested in talking to Jackson, too. Leonhard is an impending unrestricted free agent. He would definitely listen if Ryan gives him a call during free agency.

"I would love to play for Rex again," Leonhard said. "I have a lot of respect for him. If that opportunity comes up, that would be great."

It remains unclear who Ravens coach John Harbaugh will pick to succeed Ryan as the Ravens' new defensive coordinator. The Ravens are expected to promote from within and choose from a candidate pool that includes linebackers coach Greg Mattison, secondary coach Chuck Pagano and special assistant Vic Fangio. Defensive line coach Clarence Brooks is highly-regarded, too.

"There's a lot of great candidates here," Scott said. "We'll keep the ball rolling."

A former University of Florida defensive coordinator whom the Ravens were thrilled to convince to jump to the NFL last year, Mattison has a long background with the Harbaugh family having worked for Harbaugh's father, Jack Harbaugh, at Western Michigan.

Pagano is a former University of North Carolina defensive coordinator who previously coached the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns' defensive backs, improving the Ravens' pass defense markedly from a year ago. He coached Ravens star free safety Ed Reed at the University of Miami.

And Fangio, who's known for his acumen at figuring out opponents' tendencies through diligent film study, has the most experience as a former NFL defensive coordinator with the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints.

"The guys that are here are all great coaches with all the experience and knowledge," Johnson said. "I know they will make a good decision. We trust them."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

Ravens Insider Top Stories