By Ernie Palladino
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On the surface, it appears Rex Ryan tried to take a page out of Jim Fassel’s book, copyright 2000, when he said he wanted his Jets to come back Monday from their week of idleness and contemplation with an “all in” attitude.
Go a little deeper, though, and it becomes apparent that Ryan’s “all in” and Fassel’s “all in” back then bear two entirely different meanings.
For Ryan, it means turning around what is quickly beginning to resemble a lost season through renewed focus and determination.
Unfortunately, the Jets’ problems haven’t come through lack of effort. Talent, maybe. Coaching, definitely. But effort? Not in the least. Though Mark Sanchez’s passes have looked like football and receiver were magnets of like poles, and Kyle Wilson has been beaten downfield like a bass drum keeping rhythm to a Sousa march, lack of effort has never been an issue in their 3-5 start.
Ryan simply needs to understand that even the greatest of seamstresses can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, as the saying goes. And this Jets squad, as constructed by Mike Tannenbaum and as anointed to greatness by Ryan himself, makes some of those old pigs look like blue-ribbon shoo-ins at the state fair.
It’s almost incongruous that Ryan would send off his troops with a message like that, when it is his planning and that of his coordinators, Tony Sparano, Mike Pettine, and Mike Westhoff, that has contributed mightily to the fix they’re in. Equally perplexing is the fact that certain observers would liken this declaration to Fassel’s 2000 “all in” proclamation, which was personal and playoff-directed.
Fassel’s team was in a far different situation than Ryan’s Jets. Following two consecutive losses to St. Louis and Detroit in which they played poorly, the Giants were 7-4 on Nov. 22. The press corps sensed a collapse coming, but were taken completely by surprise by Fassel’s words as he opened the Wednesday press conference.
“I’m raising the stakes right now,” he said, eyes aflame. “If this is a poker game, I’m shoving my chips to the middle of the table. I’m raising the ante — anybody that wants in, get in. Anybody that wants out, get out.”
On and on he went, 20 minutes worth.
“This team is going to the playoffs,” he said. “I’ll make that statement. We’re going to the playoffs and I’m taking full responsibility for everything.”
It certainly gave an already hungry pack of beat writers something fun to write about for the next day. But Fassel, having delivered a similar message to his team in the morning meeting, somehow made it stick. His squad went out to Arizona and pounded the Cardinals 31-7 to begin a five-game, season-ending winning streak.
That team wound up in the Super Bowl. Yes, they lost to the Ravens. But the Giants were still there. And, who knows, they may have made it anyway without Fassel’s histrionics. After all, they were 7-4, not 4-7.
Not even 3-5.
At 7-4, you don’t panic. You adjust. As entertaining as it was, Fassel’s playoff guarantee didn’t exactly fall into the category of high-stakes poker.
Ryan’s “all in” request is far different. As the playoffs float further and further into the horizon, he is laying their retrieval on a roster of players that has problems ranging from the quality of its healthy starters to a lack of depth, to a deficiency of offensive foresight.
Call Ryan’s plea an unfortunate choice of words, then.
He might have been better served conferencing in Tannenbaum so they could offer a more accurate phrase.
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