FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – It is more than just a role in the film. With the news on Thursday night that Jets head coach Rex Ryan is set to make a cameo appearance in the upcoming Adam Sandler movie “I hate you, Dad,” it is just another reason to love Rex.
Yet, it may not matter if you or the movie critics love Rex that much. That isn’t the point of this or anything Rex does.
In the movie, set to hit theaters in 2012, Ryan will play an avid Patriots fan and will talk eagerly about New England head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. It is very tongue-in-cheek stuff from the Jets head coach and all lighthearted. Ryan even took a crack at himself on Friday, saying that he is “not going to make a guarantee that there’s an Oscar coming,” a tip of the Jets cap to his frequent promises of taking his team to the Super Bowl. Lost in the shuffle about Ryan’s big screen debut, and yes it will have to be a pretty big screen for a coach who shows no positive signs of his Lap-Band surgery from a year ago, is the fact that this plays well with the rest of the league.
While Jets fans ooh and ahh over their coach going “mainstream” and critics pan the bit role as another sign that perhaps Harold Camping was right and the Rexpocalypse is upon us, this is the sort of thing that plays well in 31 other locker rooms in the NFL. Every move from Ryan is calculated, every guffaw line orchestrated, the head-smacking moments ordained in what is an orchestra of psychological posturing.
For Rex being Rex, simply put, is more than a show. It’s a sales job.
The tattoo he displayed on his right shin during preseason camp wasn’t just a ghastly fashion statement, it was a move designed to fit in with the 53 players who line up for him on every Sunday. Much like the rest of the NFL, the Jets locker room has more ink than the Magna Carta and Ryan strolling in with his tribal tattoo gets him the sort of “street cred” that lets him slide up next to a Plaxico Burress, a Santonio Holmes and level with them just a bit more easily. It makes him one of them, and not just the guy with the whistle around his neck.
For two years now, Ryan has been the king of the mind games, making this punch line of a team the ones now having the last laugh.
He dressed up like his brother Rob Ryan, the Browns defensive coordinator, the week before a tough road game in Cleveland. Then after a humiliating loss in New England, he had the team bury a ball from the game outside the practice field, exorcising those demons. Then before playing the Patriots in the playoffs, he took all the pressure off his players by labeling it as a battle between Belichick and himself. The Jets went out and won that game, knowing that all they had to do was play New England and not the mystique of their head coach.
It may not show up on the Wonderlic, but it is wonderful stuff from a coach who is the master motivator and the king of Zen.
The role is a joke as Ryan plays an avid fan of the team his own fans hate the most. At first blush, there is a cringe when realizing that the Jets head coach is wearing and embracing the team’s most bitter rival. But in today’s NFL of few padded practices, players don’t want an old school coach who yells and challenges them – names like Landry and Lombardi sadly wouldn’t last a season in today’s league – instead they want a coach they can relate to.
Ryan is that man, that “player coach” who is part buddy, part play-caller and part coddler of their tender egos. A small role in a film, a role not even integral to the plot of Sandler’s movie, is still a sign that this head coach is cool and hip. As great of a sales pitch as the Jets might be able to deliver to free agents about their Super Bowl ambitions, pointing to the aura that the always affable Ryan is building around himself is perhaps the hook, line and sinker to continue adding talent to the Jets.
There is no better way for Ryan to position himself around the league than to poke fun of himself in this movie. As he heads to the box office in 2012, Ryan will be more than just hamming it up with his shtick – he will be readying his team for some free agency laughs too.
Kristian R. Dyer covers the Jets for Metro New York and contributes to Yahoo!Sports. He can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer