By Steve Silverman
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A Week 3 win in Miami. Tied for first place in the AFC East. Looking down on the New England Patriots in the standings.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis, their best player and the best cover man in the NFL since Deion Sanders was in the middle of his stellar career, is out for the season with a torn ACL.
When he came off the field against Miami after a sudden movement, it had the look of a very serious problem. The full scope was determined by an MRI exam and the worst fears of Rex Ryan and all Jets fans were realized. Surgery is on the horizon.
Any time a team loses its best player it’s an all but impossible situation.
For Ryan, this is nightmarish. At a certain point he will try to put a different spin on the event and may try to use it as a rallying point – at least for public consumption – but not being able to put Revis on the field hurts Ryan personally as well as it hurts his team’s productivity.
Few coaches in the league have a partnership with one of his players the way Ryan does with Revis. This is underlined by the way Ryan always calls him by his last name. There’s a certain love and dependence on the player that few coaches will ever show.
There are other coaches who have strong relationships with other top-level players, but none that top the Ryan-Revis kinship. Most of the time, those associations are between a head coach and an offensive player.
Here’s a look at six of the most significant relationships between an NFL head coach and a key player in the league.
Mike McCarthy/Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay – This is one of the best coach-player relationships in the league. Rodgers knows that McCarthy has his back and probably always will. McCarthy was in Rodgers’ corner when the Brett Favre will he or won’t he retire controversy was at its height. McCarthy had the guts to stand up to a demi-God like Favre and say that he liked Rodgers and his potential more than he liked Favre and his gunslinger mentality.
Bill Belichick/QB Tom Brady, New England – No surprise here. While Brady is one of the three best quarterbacks in the league and may be a top 10 all-time quarterback, it was Belichick who recognized Brady’s intelligence and leadership when he took over for injured veteran Drew Bledsoe during the 2001 season. Brady had more big-game intensity than Bledsoe, and Belichick recognized this before the Pats played and defeated the Rams in the Super Bowl. Most other coaches would have probably gone back to Bledsoe, and the two have been in lockstep ever since. Belichick will consult with Brady on the gameplan because he knows Brady will be objective and his insight is valuable.
Mike Tomlin/SS Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh – We said most of the top player-coach relationships are with offensive players (almost always quarterbacks), but Polamalu is often the rallying force on the Steelers. Tomlin knows he can get his message across through Polamalu. When the Steelers are at their hard-hitting best, it is often a Polamalu flying tackle that gets them started.
John Harbaugh/QB Joe Flacco, Baltimore – Another relationship where the coach had to take a leap of faith to build his rapport with a player. The obvious choice in Baltimore is defensive players like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. However, Harbaugh knew that the Ravens had to join the party offensively and once he saw that Flacco had the physical tools, he knew he had to build him up emotionally. He has done just that.
Gary Kubiak/QB Matt Schaub, Houston – The Texans may very well be the favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. You can’t argue with the overall offensive talent on the team and the team’s climb may not have been meteoric, but it has been steady. Kubiak and Schaub have been walking together as they have gained ability, confidence and effectiveness. They are tied to each other.
Tom Coughlin/QB Eli Manning, N.Y. Giants – This relationship is not as obvious as some of the others because Coughlin is an old-school coach and the Giants are always going to be his team as long as he roams the sidelines. However, he has helped nurture Manning to the point where he is probably the best big-game quarterback in the league. That wouldn’t have happened unless Coughlin was letting him know that he had faith in him as a leader when others were doubting him.
Is the Jets’ formula broken without Darrelle Revis? Let us know…