By Kristian Dyer
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Jets head coach Rex Ryan has drawn an awful lot of criticism these days, but going to his son’s football game in Clemson on Saturday afternoon shouldn’t be questioned as a slam on his commitment to the team. It should be applauded as his commitment to the right things.
The timing was far from ideal for Ryan, who flew down to Clemson on Saturday to see his son Seth’s first college football game. Seth is a freshmen wide receiver for the Tigers who didn’t play against Georgia in the season opener this weekend. But that his son wasn’t likely to play didn’t stop his father from going down to see the game, or as he said Monday in his press conference, “just played dad there for the day.” Of course, Ryan is under fire for being at his son’s game on the same day that the Jets cut their roster down to 53 players.
Most of the personnel decisions were already made the day before he flew down, he said. No matter as there is still uproar that he wasn’t seated in a conference room and instead was in the stands at his son’s game.
But Rex Ryan made the right call on Saturday afternoon to be there at Clemson. It took courage, and while it might undercut his standing in the organization, he instead chose family over football — and that is always the right call from the playbook.
The fallout from this call he simply had to know was coming. And Ryan couldn’t turn his back on this one.
Earlier in training camp, Ryan’s role on the team took a hit when general manager John Idzik undercut his head coach by saying that he would have a role along with Ryan in the decision on picking a starting quarterback. Typically, the role of picking a starting player – quarterback or otherwise – falls to the head coach. But Idzik inserted himself into the decision-making process in a move that clearly made Ryan look on the outs and perhaps signaled that his influence in the organization is shrinking with a new general manager in town.
It would have been easy for Ryan then to look at a situation such as Saturday and determine that public perception would read his presence in “Death Valley” as a sign that he was out of the loop on determining the roster. He could have called it off and in all likelihood, Seth would have understood. No matter of course that the majority of the moves were made the day before – it would still seem as if Ryan wasn’t on top of things. And for a head coach so often accused of being loosey goosey and not detail-oriented, it could have been the wrong play.
Instead, Ryan went there for his son’s big moment to see Seth’s first-ever college football game. No matter that he didn’t play and simply stood there on the sidelines, father wanted to see and support his son in what was a big moment in both their lives.
There is no offseason anymore in the NFL and Ryan is known to be a constant presence at the team’s facility, a workaholic who is among the first at the team’s facility and among the last to leave. It means that so many times in his life, he chooses the Jets organization and by proxy the players and fans over his own social life. Family often takes a back seat in his daily and weekly routine, as his trips to Starbucks at 7 a.m. nearly every morning for a jolt of caffeine can attest to. He puts in the hours to try to turn this team around.
At no point did his decision to fly to South Carolina cost the team a chance to make any roster moves or sign any players, especially with the preponderance of Jets moves made the evening before. But somehow, it is easier to pick on Ryan for the timing of this move, especially in light of his decision two weeks ago in the third preseason game – a choice that directly led to Mark Sanchez’s recent shoulder injury.
Rex Ryan knew that his decision to go to Clemson would get picked up by the media. He knew that it would be painted as a decision that showed he was out of the loop or simply didn’t care about the moves at the bottom of the Jets roster. He knew he would take heat for it and be criticized and questioned and second guessed. He knew a firestorm was coming.
And yet, he still chose family over football for one night.
And he chose right.
Kristian R. Dyer covers the Jets for Metro New York and also contributes to Yahoo! Sports. He can be followed for news and random tweetings @KristianRDyer.
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