By Ernie Palladino
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Monday’s press conference with the Jets coach in Florham Park showed us something.
Rex Ryan learns, maybe slower than most, but at least the message eventually gets through.
The question involved his reluctance to talk about his 6-7 team’s playoff chances. With a look half self-deprecating grin, half sincere humility, he answered it thusly.
“I’m not gonna guarantee a playoff spot, if that’s what you mean,” Ryan said. “The fact that we’re one game under .500, we’re probably not in the playoff conversation.”
Good, Rex. Good. After all those foolish Super Bowl predictions, something finally sunk in. The realization that squeaking past a 2-11, last-place team in Jacksonville has, under current circumstances, entitled your group to nothing but the privilege of playing next week represents a little bit of personal growth. A touch of added maturity. A muzzling of his primal instinct to lead with his jaw and dare the world to belt it.
The old Rex probably would have done just that. But after a controversy-filled, injury-riddled season like this, Ryan appears to have become appropriately humbled. While that might not suit the purposes of the city’s headline writers — gotta admit, he did look dashing in that green ring-master’s getup inside the Sunday Daily News — it should appease the long-suffering Jets faithful.
Listening to the endless empty promises of Super Bowl glory can take a toll on any constituency, and especially one digging deep for those MetLife Stadium PSLs. So when things don’t go right, well, it’s better to just be quiet.
Heck, if he had done that before, maybe they’d still have Fireman Ed leading the chants.
There’s no doubt the Jets are on a nice little run right now, with two straight wins and three in the last four. And we all know by now that they’re a game out of the playoff conversation after Pittsburgh and Cincinnati both lost.
How far a team can go that went life-and-death a week ago with Arizona, a 58-0 loser Sunday, and which might have been looking at overtime with Jacksonville if not for Bart Scott’s red zone interception, is anybody’s guess. Ryan reflected that uncertainty, too.
He answered affirmatively to a question that this could be his most injury-filled season, what with Stephen Hill just added and Dustin Keller remaining a question mark for the Tennessee game. Let’s not forget the old ones that put Santonio Holmes and Darrelle Revis on IR.
They still don’t have much of a quarterback. But at least Mark Sanchez showed he has some potential as game manager than passer down this final three-game stretch. If he continues that, Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell willing, he might just hang onto his starting job. If he tries real hard, he might even produce a first-half touchdown drive.
As for the coach, let him leave all the rah-rah stuff for the locker room. Perspective, the kind he showed Monday, should become a major part of his public persona for the rest of the season and beyond, even if his team does, by some crazy stretch of the imagination, find itself playing in January.
“The only thing we can do is keep our heads down and keep winning games,” Ryan said.
Concise, humble, understated.
Life would have been a lot easier for him and fans of the team if he had acted like that a long time ago.
Are you a fan of the quiet Rex, or is the team missing something without his braggadocio? Sound off in the comments…