On Jan. 8, Ryan and Johnson faced the media in their mandated season-ending press conference and, needless to say, most reporters used it to slink even lower in their attempts to tear down Ryan and the franchise.
Coming into the presser, nobody knew which direction the Jets brass would go.
In the closing month of the season, Ryan had given cryptic, non-sequitur answers to most questions, taking a page out of Eric Mangini's school of press relations.
After reporters stooped to spying on Ryan and his wife while trying to take a vacation for a few days after five straight months of nonstop work, nobody would have blamed Ryan if he came into the press conference with an edge.
Instead, Johnson set the tone with his opening statement, apologizing to reporters for his delay in addressing the media.
Johnson said at the start of the press conference (h/t thejetsblog.com):
Thank you all for being here today and you are valued reporters to the New York Jets. This has been a very tough year for all of us. I want to make, whether it’s an apology, I read all of your statements regarding the delay.
After some general statements he turned the press conference over to Ryan. The head coach and owner spent the next 40 minutes answering questions honestly and giving insight into how they can fix the team after a 6-10 season.
There was no animosity, no incredulous questions from reporters and even when the mindless topic of Ryan's tattoo was brought up, the coach laughed it off with a joke.
About the only brash statement made during the presser was that Ryan said he wanted the Jets to be a team next year that nobody wants to play.
There's nothing wrong with that, and that's something any fan would want their head coach to say.
Things didn't go downhill until the press conference was over and reporters didn't have to look Ryan and Johnson in the face to try to ridicule them.
Although Ryan and Johnson spoke on a number of topics, reporters latched on a few select lines to blow out of proportion.
The idea that seemed to grind their gears was that Ryan would have some input in hiring the new general manager. Mind you, Johnson didn't say what role Ryan would have and there were no follow up questions about the Korn/Ferry hiring firm that was commissioned to hire a general manager.
The exact exchange took place as follows:
I believe in Rex. In head coaches, I’m part of that search and (believe) the relationship with the head coach and the owner is critical. The relationship with the head coach and the GM is also critical and that’s why Rex is part of this and he’ll get to know the general manager... (Ryan) will be part of the process, yes.
There are two major problems for people who want to twist this to mean that Ryan will be hiring the new GM. First, the team hired Korn/Ferry to hire a new general manager and they are not going to damage their reputation by allowing a coach to impede on their process.
Second, Ryan was in the Bahamas while the first interviews were conducted. There is no evidence of Ryan sitting in on any interview. The Jets also do not have a lineup of candidates waiting for Ryan to pick as their new general manager.
Ryan may have a role in choosing the new general manager, but it will be minimal at best.
Now, onto the way this press conference was covered.
First, as a point of reference, it would be worth it to give Brian Costello's coverage of the press conference in the New York Post a glance.
Aside from ignoring Johnson's claim that there is no "2013 playoff mandate," Costello reported on the facts of the press conference fairly, without taking any cheap shots.
Like any good journalist, Costello did not make himself the story or slant his article one way or another. He simply reported the facts and will let the reader decide his or her own opinion.
Unfortunately, that's about where the civil coverage ended when it came to the mainstream media.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Costello was Mark Cannizzaro, Costello's New York Post colleague.
In Cannizzaro's piece, he continued to harp on the meaningless nonsense story of Ryan's tattoo. Despite being only joked about briefly during the entire press conference, Cannizzaro mentions Ryan's tattoo five separate times in his short article in some sophomoric attempt to demean him.
In addition, he also accused Ryan and Johnson of being liars when it came to Mark Sanchez's contract dictating his status. Cannizzaro wrote:
There were a few fibs and some high comedy that came out of yesterday’s dog and pony show at the Florham Park training facility.
The fibs came in the form of Ryan and Johnson saying (with straight faces) the money owed to Sanchez would have no bearing on whether or not he’s a Jet next season.
Calling them "fibs" doesn't lighten the impact of accusing Ryan and Johnson of lying.
When a journalist stoops to those levels, how can anyone take anything he writes about the franchise seriously?
Of course, the bottom of the barrel in coverage of this press conference came from the Daily News.
Tim Smith, a Daily News reporter who has been pushing for Ryan to be fired since the season ended, twisted stats, belittled Johnson and Ryan and even found the space to insult Jets fans for actions from two decades ago.
In his column on the press conference, Smith took to comparing Ryan and Eric Mangini.
Johnson fired Mangini after a 9-7 season, but he embraced Ryan, who fashioned a team in his own boisterous image, then went 8-8 and 6-10 the last two seasons. Bet Mangini didn’t even have a tattoo of his wife wearing just a Chad Pennington jersey on his biceps.
Even if you ignore another childish comment about the coach having the tattoo, there's a major problem with Smith's logic. If he wants to compare the two coaches, he shouldn't conveniently omit years to fit his own agenda.
If he wants to compare records, how about saying that Mangini was 23-25 in three seasons while losing his only playoff game while Ryan is 34-30 with a 4-2 playoff record.
Smith also claimed that Ryan's two AFC Championship appearances were with Mangini's players.
That stick in the mud Mangini helped Tannenbaum stack the team with enough talent that Ryan was able to ride it to two AFC Championship Games.
Smith totally ignores the fact that Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Shonn Greene, Antonio Cromartie, Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, LaDainian Tomlinson, Joe McKnight, Matt Slauson, all key players in the Jets' run, never played for Mangini.
Neither did the the rookie quarterback that Ryan turned the team over to in 2009.
But Smith wouldn't expect Jets fans to actually think for themselves; he made his opinion of Jets fans perfectly clear by dragging up problems that faced the team two decades ago. In response to Johnson comparing Ryan to Jets fans, Smith wrote this:
Hopefully not the type of Jets fan who would set a fire in seats in the upper level of the stadium to keep warm on a brutally cold Monday night game or the ones who stand on the outer wall of the concourse and jeer women walking past who refuse to lift their shirts and flash their breasts.
To be fair, those kind of things did happen at Giants Stadium in the Joe Walton years. However, there is no other reason to throw references like that into a column than to insult fans and the franchise.
Fans can do their own research from there as to how the rest of the coverage went. It was as predictable as it had been all year.
Like him or not, Ryan is one of the three most successful coaches in franchise history. He's one of two coaches (not counting Al Groh's one-year stint) who has a winning record and has twice as many playoff wins as any other Jets coach.
In a time when stability in sports is often thrown out the window, Johnson wants to stand by a coach he believes in, and for good reason.
Johnson gave his reasons for supporting Ryan, and they were all legitimate. Johnson pointed to Ryan's success as a leader and a motivator and then gave an expanded answer about his feelings for Ryan.
I think Rex Ryan is perfect for the New York Jets. He’s just like a New York Jets fan in many respects. He’s hardworking, he’s very smart (and) sophisticated, he’s 100 percent into this team, 100 percent. There’s nobody that’s more committed to this team and (who) has the skills to bring it forward than Rex. So, I don’t know how to say it any other way, but I’m totally happy with Rex as head coach and I think when we make these changes that we’re talking about today and refocus ourselves, I think it’s going to produce something really good.
Any qualms with anything said there?
If you read the headlines about this press conference and listen to talk radio, the media has done what they do best with the Jets. They've taken a benign press conference, mandated by the NFL, in which the owner wanted to support his successful head coach after a bad season and twisted it to fit their own agenda.
An owner supporting his head coach through tough times isn't necessarily front page news. However, painting that owner as delusional and the head coach as a failure who is lucky to be employed is much more interesting.
Just ask Ian O'Connor, resident Jets hater of ESPN New York.
O'Connor's take on the press conference was more of a personal attack on Johnson.
At times, he called the owner "weak" and a "sucker" and claimed that Johnson "so badly wants to be buddies with the tatted-up Ryan, so badly wants to be that nerdy physics professor welcomed into the locker room by the popular coaches and jocks."
Jets fans should listen to these press conferences and then draw their own opinions of the situation. Johnson and Ryan did nothing wrong during this press conference, but the media still perpetuated the circus atmosphere.
With each passing event, the Jets are actually starting to come off as sympathetic figures and much of the media continues to have their reputation diminished.
Beat writers like Manish Mehta and Rich Cimini of the Daily News already carry very little weight with the Jets fans they are supposed to be writing for. After reading Tim Smith's take on things, how could any Jets fan take him seriously either?
O'Connor is a more accomplished writer than any of them, but anyone who reads his work is aware of his obvious grudge against Ryan, Johnson and the franchise as well.
This is just the way of the land and the writers are going to continue to push their agenda until Ryan is out the door.
In this world of streaming video, online injury reports and social media, the local beat writers are becoming as insignificant as fast as the papers they write for. The good ones will stick to their journalistic principles, report on events and keep themselves out of the story.
Sadly, that has now dwindled down to a select few and nothing the Jets do will be good enough for the New York media as long as Ryan is the head coach.
Help us continue to fight the good fight and stand up for our team. Follow RC Cos and the Jets BR Report on Twitter: @BR_Jets_Report
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