Think What You Will About Rex Ryan the Coach, but Leave Rex Ryan the Dad Alone
New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan is drawing fire from the New York media this week for attending the Georgia-Clemson football game on Saturday because Ryan's son, Seth, is a freshman walk-on receiver at Clemson.
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reported that Ryan's absence, which coincided with the Jets' final roster cuts, indicated Ryan's diminishing role and lackluster work ethic:
"He’s got zero influence,” a source close to the situation said about Ryan. “(He) doesn’t care and he is letting everyone know. He just shows up for his check... It’s a big F.U. to all the players.”
With all due respect to Mehta and his unnamed source, give me a break.
First, Ryan's absence was excused by general manager John Idzik, per the Mehta report. Secondly, it was one absence. Is it an important day in the organizational year? Sure, but it's also a day that some general managers handle anyway.
Bleacher Report lead writer and former NFL player Matt Bowen said that he was once waived by a defensive coordinator and didn't meet with the head coach or general manager.
"A scout could do it really," Bowen said.
I think there is a misconception that all head coaches talk to every player who is cut... That's not true— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) September 3, 2013
It's absolutely asinine to believe that Ryan had any less input in the process because he wasn't there on the day that it happened. This isn't 1950. We have cellular phones, the Internet, texting, etc. Hypothetically, even if some last-minute decision had to be made, do we really think Ryan wasn't available to help make that decision?
Talking to people arnd the NFL this AM, clear that HC missing cutdown day isn't normal. But some defend Rex, say technology makes it doable.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 3, 2013
Later in his column, Mehta wrote:
By all accounts, Ryan has been a great dad, but sometimes the job must take precedence. Ryan, a football lifer, understands the inherent sacrifices of being a coach, which made this decision that much weirder.
That's Mehta's opinion, an opinion he's paid to write about and certainly entitled to give. It's also an opinion that I vehemently disagree with on both a personal and professional level.
Personally, I can't help but think of my father who passed away on the day of my high school graduation after a three-year battle with cancer. The disease ravaged his body—starting in his prostate, moving to his liver and colon and eventually even to his omentum, a fatty layer of tissue that surrounds and protects the internal organs.
So, he was literally filled with cancer throughout his entire midsection.
As a sophomore in high school, I came home early from a class trip to say goodbye to my dad after a surgery failed to remove some of the tumors. He proceeded to make it another two years, promising to make it to my graduation. Just a few hours after I walked across the stage and spoke to him on the phone, he died.
My dad came to almost all of my football games even though my prep school was clear across the state of Michigan. It was a three-hour drive, and he would make the trip nauseous and freezing—sometimes the same day as a chemo treatment—and sometimes wouldn't even be able to get out of the car when he arrived.
So, as a son who would do just about anything to have his father here today and who cherishes the memory of a father doing anything to show support for his son, let me just say that if anyone needs to get his priorities straight, it is Mehta, the New York Daily News and anyone else who faults Ryan.
Professionally, this is a clear sign to anyone following the Ryan saga that the media has turned on him. He was once their darling, but losing tends to end that honeymoon period, especially in the dirty media snow globe that is New York City.
It's piling on Ryan for little reason other than to pile on. I'm one of Ryan's biggest detractors, and the Jets should be one of the worst football teams in the NFL this season. However, what does Ryan's attendance at a Clemson football game have to do with that?
This is media piling on, but also doing so lazily. Ryan has made, and will likely continue to make, coaching decisions—you know, things that actually affect a football team—that have sent this ship sinking down faster than it probably should.
He's a good defensive mind, but he makes decisions with his gut rather than his head. He's not a great game manager, and the choices of coaches he has put around himself haven't helped.
Piling on Ryan would be fair if it were a film study of where Ryan's teams have failed on the field and why he's contributed to the failure. How about a statistical look at his decisions in the fourth quarter or on fourth down?
I would love to read any of that analysis, and it would be useful to the discussion. This "hot sports take" that Ryan's absence on cut-down day is in any way part of the problem (or even indicative of a larger problem) is stupid, and the general tenor of the sports media is going to make themselves sound more stupid for the report having been circulated.
This makes it worse, and everyone involved in the "controversy" (Loving Dad-Gate?) knows what's about to happen. Now, the rest of the media have to talk about it—guilty, I know. It has to be rejected or accepted, and the lines have to be drawn. Then, we'll fight about it.
Sports talk radio across the country will debate it, Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith will weigh in on ESPN and then we'll all weigh in on how they weighed in.
All of it—absolutely every single bit of it—is unnecessary and has nothing to do with football or the myriad of reasons why the Jets could end up firing Ryan at the end of a disastrous season.
Kudos to Ryan for supporting his son and knowing when family should come first. Kudos also to the New York Jets organization and general manager John Idzik for supporting him and allowing his absence.
Football, and fathers, won't last forever. Here's hoping that Seth Ryan appreciates his father's decision as much as I do and as much as the rest of the media should as well.
Michael Schottey is the NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.
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