FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Too often lately when I’ve been writing for the Jets Insider, I forget that the site is predominantly blogging-based. A big advantage to the blogging style compared to the classic “AP” style is the acceptance of the first-person in the story. In fact the blogosphere thrives off personalities that can transcend the laptop or iPad and slap the reader right in the face.
With the season’s end filled with uncertainty, I think I will take this time to address an issue that has dominated the blogs, message boards, airwaves and flat-screen sets across the country.
This issue has been the pink elephant in the room throughout the 2010 Jets season. A confident, jovial, trash-talking, foot-loving, pink elephant. Of course I’m talking about head coach Rex Ryan, the unquestioned faced of the New York Jets.
He has not only been a great head coach, but also the team’s best cheerleader and publicist. From day 1 he had the respect of everyone who worked for him, and it was easy to see how willing the player’s were to go to war for him.
He’s the first to blame himself for mistakes and steal criticism from his players. A leader in every way, Rex even leads by displaying what not to do (remember the two birds he showed off to the fans of Miami?).
Ryan’s bravado and way with words, in two years, has turned a once-pessimistic, down-on-their-luck franchise into one that has something to be proud of. Like it or not, New York is packed to the brim with passionate, confident people who are not afraid to express themselves. Need I make yet another tired Jersey Shore joke?
The attitude that Ryan has breathed in to the organization has resuscitated a culture that has been waiting for someone to replace Broadway Joe. Someone who can talk the talk, and walk the walk. Ryan is that two-fold. He has most certainly talked the talk, and to a certain degree, has walked the walk. He took a revamped team with a first-year quarterback within 30 minutes of a Super Bowl and then turned around and added a 11-5 season for his sequel.
Having said this, the New York media (who should be thanking their lucky stars they have a character like Ryan to supply endless quotes and stories) continues to harp on the big-mouth backtalk.
Unfortunately, his gift of gab is also his biggest curse.
Personally, I see it as a double-edge sword. The media loves it when Rex comes out in a blond wig or waving pull-out spreads of his wife in front of the podium. Everyone drools over it. But he makes a few missteps with a microphone in front of him and, suddenly, the same ones who were drooling over Ryan and spitting on him.
Take today for example. During his daily press conference with the New York media, Ryan was asked to speak on being a great defensive coach going up against a great offensive quarterback. You’ve already heard it by now, but here’s the entire answer to that question.
It’s not just a coach on the field. You give the coaching community too much credit. This guys one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game. He is one of the smartest guys. It’s not just a coach dialing up plays, he dials his own plays up. Each play has three options. He comes up and takes option one. Whatever it is. Forget those options, I’m going to go to option four. This is who he is. The guy is tremendous. There no one else like this guy in the league. Nobody studies like him. I know [Tom] Brady thinks he does. I think there’s probably a little more help from [Bill] Belichick with Brady than there is with Peyton Manning. Tom Moore has done a great job with him for forever [as well as Jim] Caldwell and Tony Dungy. It’s Peyton Manning. That’s who it is.
A perfect example of Rex being Rex: giving the media way too much information. Here he is trying to answer some poor reporter’s question about facing Peyton Manning and somehow manages to take a shot at Tom Brady. I’m sure Ryan didn’t realize it at the time but he just made the entire New York media’s day with that little nugget.
And sure enough on my way home ESPN 1050’s Michael Kay and WFAN’s Mike Francesa spent their afternoon segment breaking down how detrimental Ryan’s verbal antics are to his team, as they fielded calls from New Yorkers, who, for the most part, were in agreement on the issue. It’s not enough that that very same bravado has single-handedly turned around a culture’s demeanor to their team, it also has to be the reason the team will falter.
But that’s who he is, that’s always been: more than what you bargained for. He always gives full disclosure on player injuries and is very upfront from that. What does he have to hide? He has a good football team, and a good life. I can understand why he doesn’t want to shut up. He’s happy about where he is in life.
It’s sad, but too true to ignore, media is negatively slanted — even in the sports world. It’s the reason Tom Cable can go 6-0 in his division and be fired. It’s the reason Marty Schottenheimer can be fired for going 14-2 and bringing his team to an AFC Championship game. It’s why Joe Girardi, who just a year ago was the toast of the town, can be so quickly ridiculed as an “over-thinker”.
William Shakespeare had the right idea when he wrote Much Ado About Nothing. Ryan’s jovial persona and the media will forever be engaged in a merry war as the media proclaim their love, scorn and need for each other.
But may the audiences be wary not to be deceived by the veils of the media’s off-the-field happenings. It may be nothing at all.
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