By Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — The beauty of Rex Ryan is he has always marched to the beat of his own drummer, often with the type of success that says if you don’t like my way of doing things, there’s the highway.
I’m troubled by an apparent shift in that thinking so far in training camp.
After last season’s three-game debacle that closed what was a highly disappointing 8-8 campaign, Ryan made it clear in no uncertain terms that he’d change his ways somewhat, as in he’d become more cognizant of what’s happening with the Jets in all aspects. I thought that to mean that he’d pay more attention to the offense and special teams, and hold more players and coaches accountable for performance. I didn’t expect him to become this quasi-policeman he’s sort of morphed into through the first two weeks of camp.
Now, don’t misunderstand, Rex is not ruling with an iron fist. The Jets are still free to be who they want to be, both on the field and publicly, but something is decidedly different, something that’s difficult to put a finger on and I’m not sure if it’s for the betterment of the team.
This particular team.
Ryan made a bold statement to the media, which amounted to him saying he’d be on top of things. But I didn’t expect him to sort of go out of his way to show reporters he is, in fact, on top of things. I expected it more to be lip service that would be judged overall by what goes down on the field, not this obvious need to make sure the media understand that he’s got the ship in order.
Rex’s reaction to the so-called “brawl” on Monday seemed very unlike him in that this man has presided in some capacity over his fair share of training camps. He knows better than anyone that player fights happen. More often than not they are over before they really get going and the combatants end up sharing a meal or a beer later laughing about it. While fights are not something you necessarily condone, players throwing hands can be viewed as essential to team building. It’s just the nature of football.
Yet, following his speech to the team that said shenanigans would not be tolerated, there was Rex on Tuesday ordering sprints after another altercation broke out. Rex later said it was his way of showing his players that he’s the boss and that he means business.
My question is: Locker room cancers aside, when has Rex ever been mistaken for someone who isn’t in charge?
The Jets made their beds long ago when it comes to public perception. They are who they are. All cracking down does is just draw attention to the cracking down. I honestly believe the Jets are not in anything remotely resembling turmoil. It’s just everyone around them — be them media members, fans, what have you — are being overly inundated with so much stuff that really isn’t news they don’t know what to believe anymore and everything seems like it’s important.
Most of it isn’t, I can assure you.
Take the Antonio Cromartie wide receiver thing. Cromartie took it upon himself to state in an interview that he thinks he is the second-best receiver on the squad. If there’s ever been a more apparent example of Cro just being Cro, please point me in its direction.
Cromartie is his own man and neither the media, Rex nor the gods of football are going to change that. Even with all of his talking, one can’t say that he hasn’t been a very good Jet on the field. So, I found it strange that Rex felt it necessary to even address his comments. Who cares that Chad Schilens took it the way he did? Any veteran half in-tune with how Cromartie shoots off at the mouth could have easily put an end to it with a simple “just ignore him” with a laugh, and probably attempted to do just that, but there was Rex needing to have a sort of meeting with the parties involved. Once again, it reeked of Ryan overdoing it with this notion has has to prove to the media he’s in charge.
I just don’t understand it.
Trust me, if Rex continues to volunteer his new-found overseer-of-all things stance with the media during camp, you can bet your hard-earned cash reporters will come calling at the first sign of adversity during the regular season, expecting Rex to make an example of someone for poor play, when in fact the Jets may not end up being this great team because they lack the talent at key positions to actually be that team. Losing may not come about because anyone acted up or said the wrong thing.
Part of the blame for this coach’s new approach failures is his for volunteering his pledge in the first place, but the other part falls squarely on the team’s owner. Woody Johnson must have desperately wanted to do HBO’s “Hard Knocks” again and was persuaded to go in another direction because this notion that having ESPN at camp for all-inclusive and exclusive coverage was a ridiculously stupid idea, especially for a team looking to change its image.
With the “Worldwide Leader” in attendance, everything is a story, even the most benign of things. Why Johnson agreed to this boggles the mind. The only answer I can come up with is he’s just not happy unless he rules the back pages. If that’s indeed true, then Johnson telling the media on Tuesday that he can’t understand why the coverage of his squad has been so extensive speaks to the reality that he really has no idea either A. how the media works or, B. what the hell is going on exactly with his team.
Does Johnson not know that Tim Tebow in attendance by itself is a recipe for media overload? Does he not know that the combination of Tebow and his wild and crazy Jets are the perfect ingredients for reporter Armageddon? Again, I think he’s out of touch with what the Jets should be focusing on and that’s getting ready for a season that could make or break careers.
Rex and Woody are setting the tone for a season from hell. If it continues on this path only the Jets’ players can save it. Now, of course, if this team wins a lot more than it loses nobody is going to care who said what to whom and when, or who chose this direction over that, but knowing what you know right now about the Jets, their strengths and weaknesses and all points in between, are you confident the media will be humbled and 8-8 will turn into 12-4?
Only the greatest optimist on the planet could be that naive. Sure, the Jets could very well be better than many are predicting, but they could also be far worse if certain things go in certain directions. Ryan and Johnson needed this to be the camp that put all of the nonsense of the past to bed, but here we are again right back where we started, and, believe it or not, the reality is only the Jets’ players are blameless, which in itself is hard to believe.
“Camp Chaos” has been used a few times to describe the current state of the Jets, but really, from where I’m standing, it’s more along the lines of “Camp Confusion.”
And it starts at the top.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet
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