By Steve Silverman »
There is no doubt that Rex Ryan is as strong as they come when it comes to implementing a powerful defense that can intimidate the opposition.
He did it in a spectacular manner with the Baltimore Ravens, and he has been more than adequate in that area with the Jets.
But there’s something that just doesn’t add up when it comes to Ryan as a head coach. He may have much the same problem that his father did during his head-coaching stints with the Eagles and Cardinals. Old James David “Buddy” Ryan was the unsung hero behind the Jets’ defense when they pulled off the legendary victory over the Colts in Super Bowl III. He was the over-sung hero behind the Bears’ 46 defense during their monstrous 1985 season in which they went 15-1 and rolled through the postseason, finishing off the Patriots in Super Bowl XX.
But when Buddy had his chance to work as a head coach, his Eagles teams were able to do everything except win championships. Rex took the Jets to the AFC Championship Game two years in a row, but when it was all set up for the favored Jets to dominate in the AFC last year they took a couple of steps backwards.
This year, they have brought in a small distraction by the name of Tim Tebow to muddy up the team in training camp. Tebow is the biggest media magnet in the NFL and cameras will follow his every move this summer. Quarterback controversies are usually not advisable for a coach who is trying to get his team to play consistently, but there will be a quarterback controversy of epic proportions as soon as Mark Sanchez has his first bad day in preseason.
Tebow has a number of factors that may make him a solid Wild Card-type player. He is big, strong and athletic, so that means he can run the football, can take a hit and can probably play special teams. He can also throw the football. What he can’t do is throw the football accurately. If he could reach the 50 percent mark in completion percentage, it would be a major step up for Tebow.
That’s not likely.
However, Tebow’s cult status makes him more than just a player. His mere presence generates a media event and you have to wonder if Ryan is cut out to handle him. Once Ryan starts getting questioned about Tebow on an everyday basis, he may become just as obsessed with the quarterback as many of his fans are.
That’s not a good thing if you are an NFL head coach. It’s also not a good thing if your offensive coordinator is Coach Meatball, aka Tony Sparano. The former Dolphins’ head coach may have impressed Ryan whenever he was involved in a coaching matchup with him, but he does not want to deal with that type of controversy.
Sparano, in true meatball fashion, wants to run a back-to-basics, ground-and-pound offense. That’s what Ryan wants also. At least that was the case at the end of the season when he parted ways with Brian Schottenheimer and brought in his former Miami rival.
But the Tebow-Sanchez situation will play out anything but decisively and in a straightforward manner. Even if Sanchez shows improvement in his passing accuracy and does better than he did in 2011 — when he completed 56.7 percent of his passes — it’s not going to stop the onslaught of Tebow supporters.
Few coaches are cut out for this kind of situation. It takes a deft touch and it will need to be defused. You can’t crush Tebowmania, which is what Ryan will try to do if the situation gets out of hand.
You need a thoughtful coach to handle Tebow. Not only does it mean finding a role for him, but it means finding a good reason not to play him behind center. Bill Belichick comes to mind as a coach who could do that and so do Lovie Smith and Mike Tomlin. But a bombastic, big-personality coach like Ryan won’t low-key it, and that means that Tebow is likely to surface as a distraction several times this season.
That probably won’t help the Jets win games. If they don’t win enough games, they won’t be a postseason factor. And if they are not a postseason factor, Ryan won’t be coaching much longer.
The Rex Ryan-Tim Tebow dynamic should certainly be an intriguing one. How do you think it will play out? Sound off with your thoughts and comments in the section below…