Keidel: Regrettable, Forgettable Rex Ryan

By Jason Keidel
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I can see you now, solemnly peeling your presents open, with hollow holiday smiles for the family, warming your frigid soul over the fire, half-tempted to jump in it, pretending you’re sparked by Christmas spirit…

All because you hitched your hopes to Rex Ryan – who, perhaps, finally and irrevocably let you down.

When Rex Ryan landed in New York, he was something not even hardened New Yorkers had ever seen – large in contours and cadence, and confident beyond belief. He was not just unafraid, but unabashed in his charge to remold the moribund Jets into Super Bowl champions. This was a man who could bask in Broadway’s glow and not burn in its glare. Even I, though not a Jets fan, bought the braggadocio, particularly as Ryan stood in stark relief against Eric Mangini, who had all the moxie of a mortician.

And while Ryan didn’t cash in on his seismic semantic bets in 2009 and 2010, he came close enough to reassure you that his blueprint would always be in bold ink. He inherited his craft from father Buddy, whose mantra, “There’s a winner in town,” became a signature line and then a punch line after a few runs with no rings. But bombast remained the hallmark of the family business. Rex knows only one way to play poker in the Big Apple: No Limit. But Papa Ryan discovered that being a head coach in the NFL is a zero sum game, and that no verbal smokescreen can hide the final score.

Rex is learning that now. The NFL’s portly preacher, swollen with gaseous guarantees, declarations of dominance and a new world order, is speaking with no choir singing behind him today, his formerly fawning flock tuning him out, changing channels to the Knicks, Rangers, or warming their hands on some Hot Stove talk with Jack Curry and Jon Heyman

It’s a galling confluence of events for the HC of the NYJ: his nuclear pre-game arrogance and fallout that covered the Northeast Corridor, and subsequent gag against the Giants. By losing to the wrong team at the worst time in the right town, Rex Ryan has gone from a breath of fresh air to a gust of hot air in a New York minute. This is what happens when you give one guarantee too many, particularly against your cotenant. A jury of his peers (even if he says he has none) has delivered the sentence: Death by MetLife.

After losing to the Giants on Christmas Eve, Rex quickly morphed from cocky to contrite. “They were the better team today, and they’re the better team this year,” a humbled Ryan said. “I was clearly wrong,”

Actually, Rex, when are you clearly right? Ryan would get a free pass for his faux pas if there weren’t so many of them. Every misguided missive is recorded, stamped, and archived. And while there’s a compendium of computations that still put Gang Green in the playoffs, it would take John Nash to explain them and Steve Nash to execute them. Let’s just say this isn’t what Rex or Jets Nation had in mind when they broke the huddle on the 2011 season.

Everyone agrees that a coach’s job his to put his players in position to succeed. To that end, Rex’s most ardent apologists say his hubris is a tool to fuel his players, a pep rally on replay, Knute Rockne on rigorous, eternal loop.

But the wins must back the words, and 8-7 is the model of mediocrity. For nearly three years, Ryan rolled some semantic dice and never crapped out. Some of that came from the gods and some from guts, with the Colts benching Peyton Manning and blasting the back door open for the Jets to reach the postseason in 2009. The Jets soared through that portal and reached the AFC title game, where Mr. Manning dropped the guillotine on Gang Green. In 2010, Ryan’s troops trampled Tom Brady’s Patriots and shocked the world, before falling flat in Pittsburgh. This year, the back and front door appear to be on the same hinge, while the Jets border on unhinged.

And no matter your problems with peripheral players and coaches, this all falls on the HC of the NYJ, The Quotable Rex Ryan. Even if you don’t think it does.

Nowhere else have I heard a coordinator catch more shrapnel than Brian Schottenheimer, football’s Brutus to Ryan’s Caesar, betraying the defensive-minded head coach with putrid play calling. But it doesn’t work that way. You can’t ask Schottenheimer to go Ollie North, stand tall before The Man, and take the hit for this most sorry season.

I listened to a lot of WFAN yesterday, and heard a lot of deflection. Too bad a ref wasn’t around to toss the flag for holding – onto Rex, the Jets, and the notion that this team is a title contender – and then blaming Brian Schottenheimer for all of it.

“My daughter could call a better game!”

“Sanchez can’t throw 59 times!”

“Brian’s gotta go!”

“Sanchez is a USFL quarterback!”

“Throw it more to Keller!”

“Throw it less to Keller!”

“What happened to handing the ball to Shonn Greene?”

If Rex gets loved in good times, he gets loathed in bad times. And it’s not like the 2011 Jets played like the 1985 Bears, with a granite defense begging a bulimic offense just to score double digits.

“They held the Giants to 11 first downs!”

“The Giants had the ball for just 23-plus minutes.

“Eli was just 9-for-27!”

(Forget that one of them went to V. Cruz for 99 yards)

“Go Rex!”

As with most stats in most sports, they are lathered in blather, half-truths, with the most important statistic of all, so say Don Shula – the winningest coach in NFL history – is the score.

The Jets’ defense is ranked No. 8 in yards allowed per game (319), which is rather misleading. A total of twenty-one – 21! – teams have allowed fewer points. The list includes juggernauts like Miami, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Arizona, Washington, and Seattle. Math is hardly my strength, but it sounds like around 66% of NFL defenses are better than that of the defensive mastermind: The Quotable Rex Ryan.
And the Jets lost a game they couldn’t lose, at home, to a team Rex inferred was inferior. You’ll point to Rex’s two trips to the AFC title game in his first two years, the de facto defense against Rex’s detractors. And Rex has reminded us ad infinitum that they sniffed (but whiffed on) the Super Bowl. But you, the fan, have been there: tantalizingly close but tangibly short. And now, to follow those two campaigns by missing this postseason, when all – particularly Rex Ryan – say this team was built for the Super Bowl…?

I eulogized the Jets when they lost to Tim Tebow and were 5-5. Over the next few weeks, however, I changed my mind more than Mitt Romney. I learned an important lesson: stick to your guns (or gums), and imbue your words with some meaning. It’s a lesson Rex Ryan is learning. Or at least we hope he is.

In a twist of twisted, ironic happenstance, the two men with the least to brag about met at midfield. Ryan bumped into Brandon Jacobs. Even the most jaded Giants fans see the softness in Jacobs’s game. But he got all kinds of bold up in Rex’s belly.

Jacobs, who rarely has the right to boast, met the one man in MetLife stadium whose mouth is bigger and ego more bruised. There was some lip flapping (what else do they do well?) and Jacobs allegedly threatened to punch the plump coach in the grill.

Jacobs – who fancies himself a boxing fan – talks like Bernard Hopkins and runs like Mr. Whipple. (Show me one Giants fan who hasn’t lamented a Jacobs run where he wouldn’t plow through a player half his size. Show me a fan who doesn’t sigh at the first sight of fatigue – when, after just two plays, a puffing, panting Jacobs trots to the sideline for a breather.) But it was Brandon’s big chance to stick it to Rex. You can decide if he succeeded.

Being a Jets fan – and I mean Jets fan more than Rex fan because Ryan just happens to be the latest emblem of an epidemic – means making a masochistic pact with yourself, your sporting soul, and the cosmos. You’re willing to take the pain provided some gain is gonna spike the NJ Turnpike.

You’d like Rex to fill this four-decade chasm. And to do it with his ardent, aberrant, and sometimes abhorrent sense of style would make him an icon. Until then, to those who had so much hope for this now hopeless season, he’s just a waste with a whale’s waist and a big mouth. You don’t want more words added to The Quotable Rex Ryan. A picture, perhaps, would work – one with Roger Goodell handing the hardware to Woody Johnson. If that happened, we’d actually like to hear what Rex Ryan has to say.

Feel free to email me:

  • jadez


    and lets not forget that personal changes have made the jets stinky.
    and lets not forget rex threw sanchez under the bus when the defense was starting to take a hit.

    bottom line?
    rex is the head coach.
    he is responsible for poor personal moves and he is responsible for running 65 pass plays and he is responsible for the jets failure this season.

  • jadez

    rex was a breath of fresh air if you think winning a football game is the most important thing in life.

    he was a disgrace while winning and he is the same disgrace today.
    the difference is the people who only care about football now have their reason for disliking him.
    the real people who live in a humane society where people are appreciated for their decency NEVER liked rex.

  • JMS

    loved that “bombast remained the hallmark of the family business” reference. so true when you think about buddy, who wasn’t nearly as likeable.

    as a giant/yankee fan who used to loathe the jets and the mets, i’ve actually come around to feeling sorry for both team’s fans. as such, i was happy when rex arrived and did/still do find him entertaining to a point. that said, i have to agree that all of the boasting and guaranteeing is starting to have a negative effect on the team and if he keeps at it much longer he’s going to turn the jets into more of a joke than they were when he first took over. at a minimum it seems to have put undue pressure on his young QB who may have been able to flourish more w/o these unreasonable expectations thrust on him.

    • JK

      Agreed on all counts, counselor.

      Like I said, Rex was refreshing for myriad reasons, not the least of which was his penchant for puncturing the stuffy, corporate cadence of the NFL’s brass. And, on some level, he did back up his words with two trips to the AFC title game.

      But Rex needs to learn from his old man; not just the good parts, like diagraming potent defenses, but also when to let the team talk for him. Buddy Ryan became a joke, tooling around like an old drunkard, swinging wildly at Kevin Gilbride on the sideline, telling the world a winner was in town while he sputtered out of the sport sans any Super Bowls as a head coach.

      Rex is risking irrevocable redundancy. It’s gonna be quite a cold winter in the Ryan household, and his words will boomerang back to him until he makes another deep playoff run. And if he doesn’t win a Super Bowl in the next three years, he will be discarded and disregarded much the way “Manginius” was.

  • JK

    Thanks, Jim. Again, Rex would be royalty if he were more muted in his approach. But he has his dad’s penchant for perilous boasting. Despite all the talk and the high-grade coaching gene pool, the next Ryan to win a Super Bowl will be the first. Buddy won under Weeb and Ditka and didn’t come close as head coach with Philadelphia or Arizona.

  • Jim inVA

    This tells it like it is! Hopefully, just hopefully, Rex Ryan will see the wisdom of the words in this article by Jason. There is nothing wrong in being confident, having faith in your team. But when you make promises like Rex has over the past 3 years and come up empty each year, they you have to question the wisdom in doing that, especially to a fan base what has gone 43 years without a Super Bowl appearence!!! The problem also is in having your players believe they are actually better than they are. I really hope Rex learns to tone it down and wit until he actually wins something, even the division would be a start. Somehow I don’t think even that will happen as long as Tom Brady is putting on a uniform. Rex, take the advise of us fans and the sportswriters and wait until you have won something, something more that a couple of playoff games, then tell us how great your team is. Be humble for a change, realize you are not the best coach in the NFL, maybe then you will make some progress towards you goal of winning a Super Bowl for us long, suffering fans!!!!

  • JK

    I dig it, RR. And why is it suddenly Sanchez’s fault? Or Schottenheimer’s? Rex has Jets fans so spellbound that they literally are physically incapable and pointing a finger at him. He’s the head coach! Jets fans are so jaded by this dude they don’t see the facts. Again, if Rex is loved for the good, he’s gotta be loathed for the bad. Simple, right?

    • Robert Richardson

      Rex made the Sh_t sandwich. Now everybody is being made to take a bite except him! btw I love the Ollie North ref!!! …. (freakin dirtbag)

      • JK

        I’ve been with WFAN for nearly two years and today was my first political reference. I stay away from either wing for obvious reasons. But the Ollie North analogy was party neutral. Just a perfect picture for the beleaguered Brian Schottenheimer. Why is he the fall guy? I wasn’t hearing all the chirping about his play-calling when they won 4 road playoff games.

  • Robert Richardson

    Like the old school commercial. ‘Kool-Aid, Kool Aid, taste great! Wish I had some. CAN’T WAIT!’ but NOT me man. Rex came a stormin’ in and I watched in horror as the J-E-T-S faithful practically crowned him ‘Baby Moses’. ‘ HE’S TAKING US TO THE PROMISED LAND!!” they all shouted to the world. I checked their glasses TOO LATE and realized they had already drank the green kool aid. I have had my heart broken TOO many times over the course of 43 years, my memory TOO long and vivid (ITS A CURSE) to be impressed with ‘Flexing Rexin’. I found myself battling my own peeps and being called a traitor. I hate you Rex from bringing in that Kool-Aid. I hate you for turning my peeps against me!! And my hatred for you intensified Christmas morning when I realized what you have done to my beloved J-E-T-S. Yes Rex, you have joined Rich Kotite in the eternal J-E-T-S doghouse. When I saw the pic of ‘Chise picking himself up in front of two celebrating G-Men, I screamed to the heavens,”What Have I Done! What Have I Done!!!” But no, it wasn’t me Rex …. IT IS YOU !!

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