By Jason Keidel
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Rex Ryan, the hefty and sometimes haughty head coach of the New York Jets, is back in his familiar perch – the headlines. And befitting his bombastic theme since arriving in New York, he commands the bold ink for items off the field as frequently as his deeds on the football field.

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The press was pressed to find the Tao of his tattoo, freshly dried after burned into his right leg during a vacation in Hawaii – an amalgam of tribal symbols and swirls and nuance (even a shark’s tooth!), stuff you really don’t expect to chat about with a football coach other than Rex Ryan, who’s never short of a quirk or a quote.

Ryan was a breath of floral air for a beleaguered fan base too used to pungent losing and getting Eric Mangini on top of it. Mangini’s grumpy style, Xeroxed from Belichick, didn’t float in the Hudson River because he didn’t win. The head coach of the Patriots has the prerogative of mood swings with three rings.

Ryan bashed open the door when he entered the Big Apple, unafraid of anything while saying everything. Out of the box he declared that he knelt at no altar named Belichick, that his mission statement was to bring the Lombardi Trophy to Barack Obama, no matter if he’s reelected. Assuming there’s a new president in 2012, this season is Ryan’s last chance to make good on his guarantee.

The risk Ryan takes with all of his histrionics is that he straddles the line between icon and idiot. There’s been an elongated honeymoon between Ryan and the fans and, frankly, the media, who deem him a darling because no notebook is blank after spending ten minutes with the man.

But it says here that Ryan needs to do more than make it to the AFC title game. He must win it. Soon. If not, he will go from funny to dummy, portly to piggish, in a New York minute As awful as it is to lose a Super Bowl – as a Steelers fan, I just did – it really is better to be there and lose than not make it.

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The foot fetish won’t be cute, nor will his wigs and other accoutrements at press conferences. New Yorkers are a loyal lot, and none more so than a Jets fan, but if losing is the mandate then the mask must change every few years to at least provide the promise of better days. Yes, what I’m saying is that even Rex Ryan’s act will get old if his two trips to the AFC title game are fool’s gold

In fairness, Ryan has been exponentially better than anyone (but himself) expected. Joe Namath and Mark Messier aside, no iconic New York sports figure has delivered on a guarantee of greatness. Ewing was tuned out after the first failure, finishing his career respected but not revered. Derek Jeter is not known for statistical eminence bur rather his big deeds under brown leaves. Do you know his lifetime average? His home run total? How many doubles, stolen bases, or RBI he has? Probably not. But you know five rings, don’t you? I bet you can’t quote Phil Simms’ stats, either. But you know he was 22-of-25 in that Super Bowl against Denver.

Carlos Beltran, who had some sublime years for the Mets and played through pain without a whisper of whimpering, is best known for the frozen stance in the batter’s box to end Game 7 of the NLCS in 2006 against the Cardinals, bat glued to his shoulder, the result of a perfect pitch from a great pitcher (Adam Wainwright) who threw a curve while the world expected a fastball. None of his nearly 150 homers count, nor do his diving catches or grinding through silent agony. Nada. Al Davis had it right: Just win, baby. Ryan seems to get that, too, but he’s now on the clock and on the spot. And he knows he put himself there.

And Rex Ryan can talk about how he’ll bring the bling to the Oval Office all he wants, but Canyon of Heroes is the only place where winners congregate in the Big Apple. If he forgets, he can get a new tattoo to remind himself.

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Is Rex’s new ink too much? Does he need to win the big one this season? Join the conversation below…