By Jason Keidel
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It seems Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather aren’t the only ones pining for a boxing exhibition.
Rex and Rob Ryan — the Wonder Twins of the NFL — channeled their inner Silva, or Tyson, depending on your sport. A recent dustup followed by a viral video shows the beefy football lifers involved in a barroom scuffle.
But much like the Ryans on the football field, they didn’t finish what they started. Nor did they win.
In case you haven’t seen the 37-second bout on eternal loop, it appears that a man started a scuffle with Rex, which provoked Rob to lunge across the room and grip the neck of the unsuspecting provocateur.
No blows of import were thrown or landed, and Rob was quickly pulled away from the fracas before it mushroomed into something of epic, TMZ contours.
The day before the skirmish, the duo were filmed wielding sledgehammers, pounding a car painted in enemy colors, as part of a pregame ritual for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final in Nashville, between the hometown Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins. Clearly it wasn’t enough to tap all the aggression from the loquacious siblings.
Folks get into fights on occasion, especially those in the testosterone-drenched world of pro football, where a broken bone is a sprain, a mangled finger is simply popped back into place and a concussion is just a headache. But what do two men of pseudo-celebrity and high salary gain from a brawl at Margaritaville? Especially two men past AARP age (54).
It proves one thing: The very traits that make the Ryan brothers so lovable and entertaining are what make them wholly unsuitable for coaching a pro football club. While a coach certainly must share some of the barbaric impulses of his players, he can’t indulge them. What separates the coach from the team are wisdom and restraint, knowing how to keep the action between whistles.
For those of us not schooled in Freudian nuance, the answer seems simple in the case of Rex and Rob Ryan — they never grew up. There’s a charming, disarming childishness to them, which is why we find them so funny and adorable from a distance. You want Uncle Rex to come over for Thanksgiving. You want Uncle Rob to hit the sangria then hit the karaoke floor a few hours later. You even let them watch the kids for a night. You just don’t want your uncles raising them.
There’s also an unhealthy stubbornness to both. Every time Rob’s fired, he gloats about the brilliant job he did, despite the stats painting quite a clashing picture. Likewise, Rex was displeased with the corporate ladder at MetLife Stadium, implying that the owner and general manager all but conspired to have him canned by not drafting the best players and leaving millions in cap space unspent.
The apples didn’t fall very far. Those of a certain vintage will eagerly recall the old man, the original Ryan who sired these two goofballs. That would be Buddy, who didn’t have the sons’ girth or saucer-sized blue eyes or mutating haircuts. But surely the boys inherited Buddy’s bluster, his blind confidence in everything he did on the gridiron.
It’s not a coincidence that Buddy made his name and game as an assistant. Nor is it a coincidence that Buddy has two Super Bowl rings — both as a subordinate — first as a defensive assistant under Weeb Ewbank during Joe Namath’s iconic run to Super Bowl III, and again as the architect of arguably the best defense in NFL history: the 1985 Chicago Bears. Yet each time he climbed that last rung to head coach, he failed and was fired.
Buddy also was once involved in a high-profile fight — his coming on the Houston Oilers sideline with his colleague Kevin Gilbride serving as his sparring partner.
Most peculiar people are just painfully normal folks stuffed behind a facade. But the Ryan boys are authentic. Which is why Rex will be pure TV gold when he squeezes into the booth to call a game or muses humorously over the pregame studios at ESPN. And Rob, with his sprawling gray locks that make him some hybrid of Odin and Poseidon, should find similar work, where the hubris and ham-handed assertions are always welcome.
Because while Rex and Rob Ryan are American originals, authentic to the bone, they are authentically unfit for duty on an NFL sideline. They belong in football, covering an NFL club, just not coaching one.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel