Ladies and gentleman, esteemed members of the NFL congregation, welcome to the Rex Ryan Church of Professional Football—where we begin with the Holy Communion of baby back ribs and beer, buffet style.
Everyone take a knee.
A few months ago, I wrote a piece for AskMen.com explaining why New York Jets coach Rex Ryan is great for the NFL — through the good and the bad. Today, I am here to tell you why I'm a devout follower of Rexianity.
Here's the brunt of it: Non-believers can scrutinize his bravado, but his brash persona is a welcomed change to Roger Goodell's NFL show of scripted press conferences and agent-prepared statements. No one likes being patronized, yet it's common practice with most other coaches.
For years, fans have been made to feel like unnecessary spectators to a game their dollars supports.
The fourth wall was broken the moment Rex Ryan called Jets season-ticket holders and asked them to show up and be loud for the home-opener against the New England Patriots.
With all of his rambunctious might, Ryan vanquished the evil chorus chanting "Same Old Jets" at every opportunity. Despite the trials and tribulations, Ryan's prowess created an Eden of pride around a franchise marred by decades of hopelessness.
He didn't need any standoffs with the media, nor did he need to make a vain attempt at a competitive advantage through childish scheming. He told everyone what he was about and acted without concern for consequence.
There were no veils of secrecy.
Last January, he took the podium at the Jets facilities in Florham Park, N.J., and promised an aggressive defense and dedicated running attack. A year later and the Jets led the NFL in both categories throughout the regular season for a hard-fought playoff berth.
That's the Genesis of Rexianity, as delivered by the man I consider the prophet of the pigskin.
The Mouthy Messiah
Ryan began his tenure with a public challenge to Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder, a refusal to kiss any of Bill Belichick's Super Bowl rings with the Patriots, and an earnest wish to play the San Francisco 49ers after they accused the Jets of tampering with then-holdout receiver Michael Crabtree.
All before his first bye week as a head coach.
Yet, defining Ryan's season by press clippings alone does a disservice to the job he's done turning the Jets into a title contender. As our fingers pitter-patter against the keyboards with opinions of his exploits, Ryan is turning his team into a family.
The early summer war of words with Crowder focused all media attention on the Jets' head coach and not the shaky quarterback competition between rookie Mark Sanchez and backup Kellen Clemens.
As the season progressed, he proved to every man in his locker room that he'll be the first to fight for them when necessary.
If he's not giving a heartfelt, emotional address to his team, he's criticizing the 36 voters who didn't select cornerback Darrelle Revis as Defensive Player of the Year.
"I would like to congratulate the people that voted for Darrelle Revis. These guys obviously really know the game," said Ryan on Tuesday, before bashing the Green Bay Packers' defense against the Arizona Cardinals. "I tip my hat to them because they really know the game. That’s all I’m going to say about it."
Jets players don't have to come out and say it, but with every word Ryan builds another wall his team would demolish for their coach.
And don't think for a moment that Ryan's dedication to his men isn't noticed by NFL players whose relationships have soured with their coaches (see: Brandon Marshall).
Through respect, loyalty, and pride, Ryan has shown the consistency of his character since his introduction. Consistent often runs parallel to genuine, and that goes a long way towards keeping players on his side.
"Everybody had mixed feelings about (Eric Mangini)," Revis said to Rich Cimini of the Daily News. "As a team, you can’t go far (like that). … We’re men, we’re not boys. Coach Mangini ran it like a high-school team where he wanted all the control."
The Immaculate Hiring, as told by Rexians
Finally, the Jets front office selected a leader whose philosophy wasn't going to set the team back with an overhaul to the personnel. Trumpets blared, angels sang, and the light broke through the skies.
In Ryan, the Jets hired a confident man with the football acumen to make his scheme work—a far cry from the arrogant coaches of old who jettisoned potential Jets greats.
Although Bill Parcells returned the Jets to respectability in the late 1990s, his decision to bid adieu to defensive end Hugh Douglas, the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1995, was based on a personal dedication to his 3-4 defense. Douglas went on to wreak havoc with the Philadelphia Eagles and remains a local sports media figure.
In 2001, Herm Edwards, a defensive backs coach in Tampa Bay, brought his 4-3 base, Cover 2 philosophy to New York, and moved ahead without linebacker James Farrior. He went on to Pittsburgh where he became the centerpiece of a Steelers defense that's won two championships.
After Edwards was fired, the 3-4 defense returned in 2006 with Eric Mangini, rinsing away five years of building a 4-3 defense which ranked in the Top 10 in 2004. Pro Bowl linebacker and captain Jonathan Vilma, another former Defensive Rookie of the Year, was packaged to the New Orleans Saints for draft picks.
It might as well be the Old Testament.
Rex Ryan came to the Jets, signed inside linebacker Bart Scott to replace an aging Eric Barton, and plugged a familiar face or two in positions that needed to be addressed.
Without shuffling the roster, Ryan still shuffled the Jets defense to the top of the NFL in one season.
There's a reason every Sunday feels like Judgment Day for the other team. Ryan is sure of it.