By Jason Keidel
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Rex Ryan has rather large shoes to fill: his own.
Ryan’s reflexive, shock-jock coaching style was a blast of clean air over the polluted Meadowlands and the gruff, corporate countenance of Eric Mangini, who assumed all of Bill Belichick’s affectations without the glittering flipside of a Super Bowl ring.
The latest chapter in “The Quotable Rex Ryan” was burned with typical bravado. The hefty, haughty coach said this week that he would have a couple Super Bowl rings had he gotten the Chargers’ job a few years ago, implying that Norv Turner hasn’t reaped the most from San Diego’s fertile football soil.
Ryan quickly moonwalked from the assertion during the same rap session, and you could imagine him dialing under the dais with his right hand, mea culpa scribbled on his left, waiting for Turner to answer his cell phone.
We know Norv Turner is a titanic choker. Frankly, I never understood why the Chargers fired Schottenheimer after 14-2 just to hire Marty-Lite. But that doesn’t imbue Ryan with the right to snipe from the sideline at a peer. Ryan is standing on some abstract prerogative as a media magnet and confusing it with the wisdom of a winner. Simply, Ryan has no right to call out anyone until he makes good on his myriad promises to bring the Jets a Super Bowl victory.
Ryan needs to know that the echo of every promise must eventually land a Lombardi Trophy. Otherwise, he will go from cherubic to chubby, from cute to crude, from winner to loser in a New York minute.
Since he has done this in some form so often, we expect a clever comment every week. So Ryan now not only must live on his reputation, he also must feed it. And thus he creates a verbal loop, with his tongue now whipping the wrong people, people who can hurt him.
Ryan’s words may also glue targets to his players’ backs. Maybe Mark Sanchez gets hit a little harder on Sunday because of a blurb from his coach on Wednesday. And no yellow flag cures a concussion.
Does his team have his back? Indeed, Ryan is writing checks his players must cash. Many Jets have said they love playing for him, that the loquacious coach understands the verbal violence that fuels the physical contact. This week they can prove it. Just six games in, there has been more locker room discontent leaked to the media this year than the prior two years combined. Beating a sound San Diego team will say more than any press conference or players-only meeting.
To paraphrase Takeo Spikes, Ryan’s words have consequences. As he drains his quiver of quotes on the otherwise stuffy world of the rigid, robotic platitudes that litter the coach’s lexicon, Ryan sideswiped a coaching colleague (Turner). You’ve heard the sound bite ad nauseam. Turner, already delicate from the aggregate gags since he swapped headsets in San Diego, shot back, accurately stating that Ryan’s has yet to make good on his gratuitous guarantees.
There’s no stealth in Ryan’s game. He’s too large physically and figuratively to fly under any radar. He must want it that way. But he must also understand that finishing a career in the Ryan refrain means an era of also-rans. Whenever Papa (Buddy) Ryan arrived in a new city he assured the natives that a winner was in town. Perhaps it’s a form of Ryan relativism, because no branch of the family tree has won a Super Bowl as a head coach.
Craig Carton, a most devout devotee of the Jets and defender of Ryan, stated that the coach has more playoff wins with Gang Green than Bill Parcells does. And while he’s technically right, Parcells needn’t defend his record – particularly to New York – after bringing two titles to the Giants and remolding a moribund Patriots team into a winner (14 points short of a title). That’s kind of like saying Barry Switzer was a better Dallas coach than Parcells.
Listening to WFAN, it sounds like most of you are still strapped to the Ryan bandwagon, emboldened by his talk and his walk. And while two AFC title games in his first two seasons is quite impressive, a 9-7 record this season in the face of all the hubris could render you a little less sympathetic.
I was with you in the beginning. Though I’m a lifelong Steelers fan, I share your enmity toward New England. “Right on, Rex!” I shouted when he said he wasn’t here to kiss Belichick’s ring. It was a mighty mission statement. But perhaps he should have stopped there, and let the scoreboard do the chirping until he got you that ever-elusive ring.
At what point does Ryan saturate the novelty? When does his brand become bland? When he stops winning playoff games. Mike Francesa accurately asserted that the Jets need two vital victories against Buffalo in November. It would be rather ironic for the Jets, a team with stratospheric expectations, to lose to a team with none, and watch the Bills gallop into the playoffs as the only truly New York team, erasing many myths, including the quotable Rex Ryan.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com
Is it time for Rex to zip the lip? Let Keidel know where you stand on Ryan in the comments below…