Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Rex Ryan Should Shut Up Until He Can Back It Up

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterMarch 18, 2015

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1. Rex Ryan, Please Pipe Down

Rex Ryan was at it again recently. Talking and talking and talking. And talking. 

And freaking talking.

"I feel pretty good about what we've added," he told Toronto's Sportsnet 590. "So we'll see. ... I think the conference really got stronger. If anything, it currently doesn't look—if you can say winners and losers in free agency—obviously New England had to cut quite a few players.

"So obviously they don't look as strong as they did. I certainly hope they're not. They just got through winning the Super Bowl. But I believe the rest of the division really has got stronger. I don't think there's any doubt about that. I truly believe that we got stronger." 

This is another variation of what Ryan has said for over six years: I can beat the Patriots. I will beat them. Listen to me. Trust me. I'll do it because I said I will.

During the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick regime, the Bills are 3-25.

That's three. And 25.

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Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

Ryan against the Patriots: If you include a playoff win from 2011, he's gone 4-9. The Patriots have won six straight division titles and those titles were captured while Ryan was coach of the Jets. Along the way, Ryan talked and yammered and talked some more.

This is typical Ryan. Nice man. OK coach. Big mouth.

I'm normally not one of these media types who tells a guy to be quiet, but how many times are we supposed to listen to Ryan make a guarantee or talk about how he's going to dethrone the Patriots, only to watch Belichick kick his ass again?

Ryan has made lots of promises and sales pitches. Glengarry Glen Ryan. Very little of what Ryan has said has ever come true. 

Ryan in 2009: "The message to the rest of the league is, 'Hey, the Jets are coming, and we're going to give you everything we got. And I think that's going to be more than you can handle.' "

The league handled Ryan's Jets OK.

Ryan in 2009: "I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick's, you know, rings. I came here to win. Let's put it that way. I'm certainly not intimidated by New England or anybody else."

Fair enough but four wins.

Ryan in 2010, on the Super Bowl: "I just know what's going to happen. My crystal ball, I'm seeing a Super Bowl trophy in there. Now, I could be wrong, but that's what I see. But every time I go to work, that's what I look at. I'm not embarrassed to say that I believe that will happen. The great thing is we get to prove it soon. That's the beauty of it."

No Super Bowl trophies. Namath's championship doesn't count, Rex.

Ryan, taking a shot at Brady, while praising Peyton Manning in 2011: "There's nobody like this guy in the league. Nobody studies like him and all that. I know Brady thinks he does."

Ryan has always done well against Brady, but Brady has still consistently beat him.

Ryan in 2010: "As much as I respect and admire Bill Belichick, I came here to kick his ass, and that's the truth. That's just the way it is."

Ryan in Buffalo is utilizing the same game he did in New York. He is playing to the desperation of a fanbase dying to hear something, anything positive when it's been so long since something, anything, positive happened there.

Gary Wiepert/Associated Press

The Bills have definitely gotten better. The addition of critical pieces like LeSean McCoy is reason to be optimistic, but the Bills won't beat the Patriots for the division until Brady retires or is traded. It just won't happen. No gaps will be closed unless you count the clothing store.

"I know it's been 15 years since the Bills made the playoffs," Ryan said at his introductory presser. "Well get ready, man, we're going. We are going."

Another Ryan staple: the guarantee. He guaranteed Super Bowls with the Jets. Twice, I believe.

That didn't happen, either.

2. Eagles Still in Play for Mariota?

I continue to hear it. Not rumors. People who would know are saying Chip Kelly is still in the mix to try to get Marcus Mariota.

I still cannot find anyone in the NFL who believes Kelly is satisfied with Sam Bradford. I still cannot find anyone in the NFL who believes Kelly when he says he will not make a play for Mariota. Not a single person. I'm sure there are people who do believe Kelly. I just can't find them.

3. Josh Freeman Worked Out for Jets

I'm told the workout went well and there are a handful of other teams interested. Freeman has been working extensively with Jon Gruden for some time now. He'd be a good addition to any team.

4. Drew Brees Gone Next Year?

Things could change. Drew Brees could go through a salary restructure. He could voluntarily reduce his cap number. But if he refuses, if he doesn't, Brees will be gone next year.

The Saints are in salary-cap hell. Next year is the last year of Brees' contract and his salary-cap number is a stunning $27 million. The problem the Saints have is that even if Brees restructures, it may not be enough, and it's at the point where as long as Brees is on the Saints, the team will be in salary-cap purgatory.

Brees is still good, but there's no question he has not been a top-tier quarterback the last few years. He's obviously in decline, and it's looking increasingly unlikely he'll be on that team long-term.

5. Let's Be Clear: Suh Wanted to Leave

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 09: Ndamukong Suh #90 of the Detroit Lions sacks Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins during the first quarter of the game at Ford Field on November 09 , 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. The Lions defeated the Dolphins 20-16. (Photo b
Leon Halip/Getty Images

This is an excellent story by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press on Ndamukong Suh. The story is fantastic. I'm just not sure what Suh says in it is true.

I've heard from Lions players, repeatedly all this past season, that Suh told them he thought his time in Detroit had run its course. I heard this over and over. I've heard the same since he left. None of the players were critical of Suh in any way. It was the opposite. They were always supportive of Suh, but it was clear to them—always, for some time—that he wanted out.

They never thought the reason he wanted to leave was anything other than a new start. Then the Miami Dolphins knocked in his door, threw the economic output of Venezuela at Suh, and bam. The decision to leave was made even easier. But he was always going to leave no matter what he says now.

6. Texans Get Still-Effective Wilfork

One team executive on Vince Wilfork: "He's got a solid two-to-three years left. He can help a lot of teams but especially a younger team on the verge of making the playoffs. He also brings a lot of smarts to the table. He's still very valuable."

The Texans obviously feel the same way. Smart signing, to say the least. Wilfork will provide even more leadership in a locker room that already has J.J. Watt.

7. Woman as NFL Assistant Coach

Jennifer Welter was an interesting story when she played football. She's an even more interesting story now that she is coaching men, as you can see in this Time Warner Cable video. I would not be shocked to see Welter as an assistant coach on an NFL team one day. I'm serious. She could be the NFL's version of San Antonio Spurs coach Becky Hammon.

8. New Term for Union Executive Director

Congrats to DeMaurice Smith for winning reelection. Now, here is what the union needs to do: Get guaranteed contracts for players.

Baseball has them, and those guys don't have to worry about dealing with CTE. Basketball has them, and the level of violence isn't a fraction of what it is in football. The players who deserve guaranteed deals the most don't get them.

The next CBA deal with the owners is years down the road, so the union needs to build a war chest and strike, if necessary, to force the owners to guarantee all contracts. It would take a lost season, but in the end, it would be worth it.

9. Sean Gilbert Closing Speech

Sean Gilbert as a Carolina Panther in 2002.
Sean Gilbert as a Carolina Panther in 2002.Craig Jones/Getty Images

One other thing on the union president. The closing speech Gilbert gave to the player reps in an attempt to get their vote was brilliant. Not good enough, because he lost, but still brilliant. I put it here in its entirety because it really symbolizes how some players see what's happening to the sport. Gilbert isn't alone in these thoughts. The speech was emailed from Gilbert to some members of the sports media.

"This experience has been truly humbling. If I showed anyone any disrespect during this process, from the bottom of my heart I want to apologize.

This is an emotional experience because I truly believe I will be the best Executive Director.

Again, I thank you for your time and, most importantly, your dedication to your fellow players.

I have received feedback from many of you about my platform and my solutions. I appreciate that, whether it's positive or negative. The only way we get better as a union is to have full transparency and an open exchange of ideas.

I know some of you want to reopen the CBA. Others just want to get through this CBA and hope to do better in 2020.

But let me ask you this: What do you think the owners are going to ask for? Whether it's now or in 2020, the owners are going to make demands again. That's business.

Let me also ask you: How is it ever going to get better if we don't have a plan to combat against a lockout?

How is it going to get better if you continue to allow the owners to use pressure and leverage against you?

What happened in 2011 is going to play out again and again for generations upon generations of players. The owners are going to take more money and demand other things.

When this deal expires in 2020, they're going to take whatever they want because we have no answer.

It's no different than when a poorly coached defense doesn't know how to cover a particular play. The offense is going to run it again and again until you stop it.

Now, here's the other thing I know:

In the next negotiation, the owners are going to ask for 18 games again. If they don't get 18 games, they're going to take another $10 Billion from you.

I'm not guessing about that. I KNOW that.

The owners are already making plans for it. I have handed you a copy of the schedule of future Super Bowls. This schedule comes from both NFLmedia.com and the NFL Record-and-Fact book.

If you read that, you'll see that the Super Bowls in February 2017 and February 2018 don't have firm dates. They are listed as TENTATIVE.

Why do you think that is?

The reason is that the NFL wants you to play 18 games. They're hoping it happens even before this deal expires. They want the ability to move the Super Bowl back in February to adjust for more games.

The most valuable thing we have is games. The networks want more games. The networks are putting pressure on the owners to give them more games. The networks need the programming to survive.

I know this because one of the members of my team spoke to three different owners. When the subject of 18 games came up, all three owners felt confident that in exchange for 18 games they would be willing to give us what is my platform.

The owners want to extend the playoffs into February. The owners want to play the Super Bowl on President's Day weekend, a four-day weekend that would turn the Super Bowl into a bigger event. When I brought up the idea of bidding out the Super Bowl, the owners jumped at the idea. They loved it.

They want 18 games because they believe that it's worth anywhere from $3 Billion to $4 Billion PER YEAR.

Let me repeat: $3 Billion to $4 Billion EVERY YEAR. For the players, that means that the salary cap would go up by anywhere from $46 Million to $62 Million per team.

Yes, the salary cap could be more than $200 Million in an 18-game season. That's if you do it on your terms.

Again, if you do nothing, the owners are going to take what they want because they know they can get it.

What I have for you are answers for EVERY SINGLE SCENARIO.

If you want to go back to the table with the owners, I know what to ask for.

If you want to fight them on collusion, I have the case.

If you want to fight them on a lockout, I have the internet.

If you want to be prepared for the 2020 negotiations, you better have an answer to a lockout.

The truth is that you need all those answers. You need a strategy for how to negotiate with the owners. You need to have a way to get a fair and equitable deal.

I know all of this sounds aggressive. It's not aggressive, it's business. It's leverage and pressure. It's what the owners do to you and it's what we should do to them.

In fact, it's your duty. Let me go back to where I started on Saturday. The NFLPA Constitution says we must "PAY HOMAGE TO OUR PREDECESSORS FOR THEIR COURAGE, SACRIFICE AND VISION."

I ask you to pay homage to men like Gene Upshaw and John Mackey. Pay homage to men who tried everything they could to get what you deserve. Do everything we can to PRESERVE OUR GAINS.

Have the courage to change direction.

Status Quo is unacceptable.

Change MUST be mandated.

We need to stop playing from behind. We need to think like the owners. We need to think like businessmen."

10. Historic, Class Act Retires

Roger Goodell and Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
Roger Goodell and Patriots owner Robert Kraft.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

One of the best human beings I've ever known, indeed, one of the most important players and executives in league history retired recently. Very quietly. His name is James Harris.

Harris was the general manager in Jacksonville when I got to know him and, again, have rarely met anyone with more class and decency. His importance to football is summed up beautifully in this New Yorker story.

Harris will be missed.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.