Mere days after the New York Jets earned a crucial victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers and solidified their chances of tying down an AFC playoff berth before the end of the season, head coach Rex Ryan finds himself answering all the wrong questions for the New York media.
Ryan has refused comment on a Deadspin.com report containing videos of what the site alleges is Ryan's wife declaring her love for feet, among other things. The video and the accompanying story are not especially lewd, by any accounts, but they do have the sports world abuzz over the imagined improprieties.
That this report has surfaced is a more damning reflection upon the news media culture we have so inelegantly cultivated in America over the past few years. Ryan should by all rights be answering questions about how the Jets will protect banged-up quarterback Mark Sanchez from a staunch Chicago Bears pass rush this week, or about how the team hopes to take momentum away from their huge win last week.
Though this incident (if indeed the story is even based in fact) by all rights ought to have remained private, Ryan has put his foot in his proverbial mouth too often. He has made dozens of mistakes and proven himself incapable of the sort of leadership an NFL team needs to win a championship. Read on for five reasons the Jets ought to kick Ryan to the curb.
Professional football players do not grow on trees; they come to maturity the same way as every other child in the United States. There is one principal exception to that statement: prodigiously talented football players are almost universally coddled, spoiled and facilitated from the time they are young high school students.
That is not a problem for many players. They have the humility and intelligence to evaluate themselves on an even keel, and the good sense to treat others with the respect they so crave from fans and peers. For others, that special treatment feeds an unwieldy sense of entitlement, and among NFL players, the percentages begin to tip toward the less desirable course.
Ryan inherited a troubled locker room, it is true, but the group of thugs and half-wits he now leads have behaved badly under his stewardship. Now one has a drunken driving arrest; one is sexually harassing a reporter and one holds out for a better contract without a remote whiff of leverage. Ryan is helping this Jets team become more delinquent and irritating every week.
Ryan's use of abusive language was well-documented this summer by HBO. He also gained some measure of infamy for suggesting (however half-truthfully) that reporter, Ines Sainz, was due the harassment she received from his players at the team practice facility. For all the documented rage and disrespect Ryan has tallied, the average American middle manager would be canned in a heartbeat.
Right now, of course, Ryan's actions have been merely borderline. In fact, the general sense seems to be that he is no more or less an ass than the average NFL head coach. Based entirely on what has already come to pass, that assessment is tough to dispute.
Of course, the longer he stays in his current role, the more the risk of something else happening mounts. What happens when Ryan snaps and grabs a player by the throat at practice, or looses a profane tirade after a tough loss on live television? The Jets are leaving themselves very open to serious liability by keeping such a volatile personality on their payroll.
Danny Woodhead had 104 receiving yards during the Patriots' absolute shelling of the Jets recently, and he did it for New England. That was despite the Jets having had Woodhead in training camp, and on the roster when the season started. Ryan eventually cut the diminutive back, and he has paid dearly for that choice as the Jets' running game has sputtered late in the season.
Nor is Woodhead's an isolated situation. Ryan has made a fistful of poor personnel decisions since taking the helm, often making moves just to make them and trying too hard to be the new Bill Belichick. The recent acquisitions of Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie illustrate another phase of this problem: Though each has been a success on the field, they are all well-documented trouble-makers between Sundays, and Ryan has done nothing to curb their thuggery.
Ryan has led the team to big wins this season, such as the one over the Patriots in Week 2 and over Pittsburgh this week. At other times, though, the team has come out flat and lost games they could easily have won, such as to Green Bay and Miami. Ryan has a sharp tongue, but, as his figure suggests, round edges: He seems to lack the intensity that would allow his teams to play to their full ability every time they take the field.
That his team retaliates for such embarrassments with cheap shots (like those delivered late in the Patriots' beat-down of New York) and cheap tactics (see Alosi, Sal) reflects Ryan's general lack of discipline and self-control.
Certain added pressures and challenges come along with coaching a New York team. As recent history informs us, the best leaders of New York franchises are those who can maintain an even keel under scrutiny and avoid clashes with players and management, not to mention the press. Guys like Joe Torre and Tom Coughlin demonstrate that point. Ryan, Bobby Valentine and Billy Martin show us what happens to those of the opposite disposition. The Jets should cut their losses before Ryan implodes like Martin did.