Starting at the end of last year, the public demand to fire Rex Ryan began in earnest. The Jets had just finished 6-10, and it seemed that in Rex Ryan’s 4th year the team was headed in the wrong direction. The team changed general mangers and offensive coordinators, but kept their head coach. Ryan gave his detractors more fuel when his starting quarterback was hurt in the final quarter of a meaningless preseason game.
As a Jets fan, I often defended the team’s decision to keep Ryan. Sure Rex has made his fair share of bad decisions. The most egregious being blind to how bad a quarterback Mark Sanchez was, the most critical position in the NFL. To me Rex has one saving grace that makes him better than most NFL coaches. Rex Ryan knows defense.
According to Football-Outsiders, Ryan’s first year the Jets were the league’s #1 defense. Since then the team has ranked 5th, 2nd, and 9th on defense. If having Rex Ryan equates to a top 10 defense, then it reasons that a Rex Ryan coached team will be at least good on one end of the ball and probably never bottom out to an ghastly 1-3 win season. On the optimistic side, giving Ryan a good offense can result in a significant amount of success.
In other words, given Rex Ryan’s expertise on defense, he is likely to be better than the average coach. And since a bad coach can ruin a season (Rich Kotite, your ears are burning) keeping Ryan should keep them from wasting a year when the roster has talent.
Coming into this season, few people thought Mike Woodson’s job would be in jeopardy. Woodson replaced D’Antoni and lifted a team mired in mediocrity. In Woodson’s first half-season the Knicks were 18-6 in 2012, and last year the team won 54 games and the Atlantic for the first time since Columbus crossed it (give or take a century or two).
However this year has been a nightmare for the Knicks. New York ranks 28th out of 30 teams on defense. Much like Ryan was blind to the deficiencies at his most critical position, Woodson is blind to the Knicks’ shortcomings at center. According to 82games, Andrea Bargnani’s affect on the defense is to make the team 11.1 points worse per 100 possessions.
Now if you’re following this analogy, you’re going to guess that I’m going to lobby for Woodson to stay, much like I was for the Jets keeping Ryan. Actually I think the Knicks should cut ties with their current coach, despite his previous success. I’d rather the Knicks sign a coach that’s more like Ryan, one with a strong defensive identity.
Last year P.J. Carlesimo took over as the Nets coach mid-season. Brooklyn was 14-14 at the time, and then won 35 of their next 54 games. Brooklyn lost to Chicago in a 7 game series, and because apparently this wasn’t good enough for the Nets’ owner, Carlesimo was inexplicably let go.
Much like Ryan, Carlesimo can accentuate a team’s defense. His Portland teams ranked between 5th and 7th in defensive efficiency, and even his ’99 Warriors were 10th. That was no small feat given the lineup of Dampier, Starks, Chris Mills, Bimbo Coles and Antawn Jamison.
Hiring Carlesimo mid-year would be a low-risk move for New York. First, a mid-season swap may just jolt this team out of their current slumber. The Knicks have enough offensive minded players, that if Carlesimo can give New York a defensive boost, this is a roster that has some late-seed potential. If P.J. doesn’t work out, then New York can fire him at the end of the season and look for a coach in the offseason. (Unless they need to tank in 2015 where they have their own pick & keep Carlesimo around to run things into the ground). And as an added bonus, any gains made by Carlesimo would be a reminder to Nets fans that their owner is the one more likely to make a rash decision in this city. (Which is saying a LOT.)
Mike Woodson had some success with the Knicks. Unfortunately his flaws are becoming larger by the day. The inability to adjust to Indiana in last year’s playoffs. His inequitable treatment of J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. His mishandling of the center position. His failure to embrace small-ball. The collapse of the defense under his tenure. Only one person can help New York, and it’s not Mike Woodson.