By Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — The demands are constant and, frankly, ridiculous.
WE WANT ANSWERS!
Jets fans and reporters won’t shut up about how Tuesday’s long-awaited press conference at the team’s facilities in Florham Park, N.J., was this big abomination, this major embarrassment, this exhibition in deception and false understanding.
It was none of those things. It was an attempt to move forward. People say all the time “quit living in the past.” Well, the Jets are trying to look ahead, and are being destroyed for it.
Look, if you want to continue to scream that Rex Ryan should have been fired and that his holding on to his job despite the firing of nearly everyone else in the organization was a complete farce, I’m not going to sit here and argue with you. I can completely understand your angst, even if I don’t totally agree with it. If you want to call Woody Johnson the most clueless owner in sports, again, you won’t hear me pounding the drums of dissent.
But this notion that Ryan and Johnson were going to sit up there in front of a hundred reporters and cameras and cast buckets of blame for the team’s disgraceful 6-10 season is just foolhardy. From what I saw, both the head coach and the owner pointed fingers at themselves for this season’s disaster.
And, really, that’s all you should have expected them to do.
Professional sports coaches and executives, at least ones with half a brain, simply don’t throw colleagues and players under the bus. Being fired is embarrassment enough. There’s no reason to continually kick someone when they are down after having been dismissed just because fans think they deserve their pound of flesh and reporters feel they are entitled because they have been charged with finding out the truth.
There are few among us out there who didn’t think Mike Tannenbaum and Tony Sparano shouldn’t have been fired for their performances, and Mike Pettine allowed to leave to pursue other opportunities after his efforts. So why do you need to hear the truth? Will it make you feel better? Will it somehow, magically correct the many problems this organization has?
Absolutely not. At the end of the day the Jets would still be right where they are, mired in the muck of ineptitude with neither a present nor a future to hang their hats on.
Whether or not he knows better, Johnson believes in Ryan, the same way thousands of Jets fans believed in Ryan moments after he stepped up to the podium in advance of the 2009 season. Ryan captivated the fan base that day, and later made good on his promise to change the culture of the Jets. You can make the argument that what Ryan did in his first two years at the helm was one of the more remarkable feats in New York sports history, considering just how much of a dismal franchise the Jets had been for the previous 35 years. Sure, the Jets had their moments, got to AFC title games before Ryan arrived, but they never sustained their brief excellence. Ryan came aboard and not only made the Jets relevant, he made them feared and respected, two words that hardly ever collided in the same sentence when previously discussing the other team in New York.
What we have now is the “what have you done for me lately” cliche, perhaps the most overused and abused sense of entitlement a fan base can conjure. And while 14-18 and without a playoff appearance over the last two seasons is indeed unacceptable, in the grand scheme of things it was also predictable, considering just how poor a job everyone in the organization did scouting, recruiting and assembling talent.
I realize Ryan had a hand in picking a lot of the players the Jets currently have, but as much as you think he deserves the same amount of blame as Tannenbaum does, you cannot turn around and laud Tannenbaum for all of his great moves prior to Ryan arriving when it’s largely believed Eric Mangini pulled the general manager’s strings before, during and after draft days and throughout free agency periods when the former coach was here and the Jets were putting together the foundation of their 2009 and 2010 clubs.
People like to say Ryan is linked to Mark Sanchez, but I’m asking you to prove to me how he is short of being Jets coach at the time of the trade that allowed the team to move up to No. 5 in the 2009 draft to select him. You honestly believe that a rookie head coach had the immediate clout to supersede the belief system the front office had at the time and demand Sanchez be picked, especially coming off a series of drafts that featured the former hierarchy picking players like Darrelle Revis, David Harris, Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson?
I don’t buy that prior to the 2009 season Ryan was immediately appointed as the great and powerful Oz. He had input, sure, but I highly doubt he was pounding on office tables pontificating about how this was his team and he makes the rules. My guess is Ryan was his usual enthusiastic self about a player in Sanchez that appeared to have oodles of talent and probably expressed as such, but at the end of the day likely went along with whatever the organization, i.e. Tannenbaum in consult with his true lieutenants, decided.
What would be crazier, giving a rookie head coach complete autonomy or not following the blueprint and men who had just come off successful overall drafts?
In my opinion, Ryan got all of his power later, after the Jets had won, after the culture was completely changed. That’s when he truly won Johnson over and was believed to be a complete football man, as opposed to a tremendous defensive coordinator who knew how to light a fire and get as much as he could out of everyone, regardless of position.
Now, if you want to argue that after receiving that power Ryan misused it, as evidenced by the fact that he hasn’t built a talented and deep 53-man roster, again, I’m not going to argue with you. But at the same time that’s why the Jets are currently looking for a new general manager, one that Ryan will have input on but will not ultimately pick, and one that will have final say on all personnel decisions.
Ryan is clearly a better coach than he is a franchise-maker. But, still, there are many out there who hold him accountable for everything, and that really isn’t fair to him.
Do you think a coach like Ryan, who wants nothing more than to win a Super Bowl, really loved the idea of heading into 2012 with rookie and second-year wide receivers? Do you think, knowing what you know, that he doesn’t long for a speedy, breakaway running back? Do you think Ryan decided to give Sanchez an extension that amounted to an apology in the form of 50 million excuses for him to remain mediocre at best?
If you truly think those things, then you don’t know Ryan.
He said Tuesday he’s always wanted an attack-oriented team in all facets of the game. The Jets have really only been that way on defense, and not nearly as consistently as fans would like, due mostly to the lack of fierce pass rush. But still, this defense is good enough and representative on its best days of a playoff defense. It’s Sanchez who has completely retarded the Jets, stifled them to the point where even if they did have that home run running back to complement workhorse Shonn Greene and improving Bilal Powell, they still wouldn’t be as successful as they could be because everyone would be keying on the run, on every play.
You don’t think Ryan knows this? Hell, everyone knows this.
But you didn’t need Ryan and Johnson up there Tuesday telling you. You needed them to do what they did, as in trying to turn the page and move on.
For regardless if you like him or not, Ryan will remain the Jets’ head coach. This belief he has one year to prove himself is absurd, considering the QB situation. Until he’s outcoached on the field despite having a competent QB and/or loses his locker room, which did not happen in 2012, Ryan will remain.
It’s hard to truly judge him without a team filled with talent.
Ryan told you one very important thing on Tuesday, something you absolutely have to hold him accountable for in 2013: this team’s quarterback going forward will be the player that gives the Jets the best chance to win, regardless of the money he makes.
Start judging Rex’s performance based on that statement, because when he said he felt like Tuesday was his first day on the job, it really was. The Jets cannot change the past and Johnson will probably own this team forever. Get used to it.
What other choice do you have?
And stop asking for total transparency from NFL owners, executives and coaches. They are not going to sell out their own.
Stupid may very well be what stupid does on the field, but reality off the field is what goes on in one team’s shop is its business, and although you may think you are entitled to answers, it only appears that you are.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet.
Are you willing to give Rex a chance to fix this mess? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …