Rex Ryan: world class or donkey's ass?
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Aug 24, 2010
Separated at birth: Jets coach Rex Ryan and a donkey? We don't know. Not yet. Check back with us in January.
By Mark "The King" Wald
Cold, Hard Football Facts Troll-in-Training
There are human beings, there are great NFL coaches, and there are braying asses.
All of us are at least one of the three, and in the case of CHFF Trolls it's mostly the last one. Some of us are two of those things, and since there are only 32 NFL head coaching jobs in the world it's safe to say you know which two we're talking about.
In the case of Jets head coach Rex Ryan he might be all three. But great NFL coach is still the unknown part.
It's a conclusion that doesn't involve a biological sample or expensive sociological study. Where there is bread there is usually butter. Where there is smoke there is fire. Where there is booze ingested in great quantities there is the Chief Troll. And where there's great NFL head coaches (key word here: great) there's a decided absence of loudmouth donkeys.
Hell, look at CHFF's list of the 10 greatest coaches in history. Landry? Walsh? Shula? Gibbs? They were more like professors than punks. Lombardi? Yeah, he had a rough edge. But he was a task master who celebrated his style after his great victories, not before. Then there's the most successful coaches of recent vintage here in the Look-at-Me Era, guys like Belichick and Dungy. The former avoids the spotlight better than Whitey Bulger. The latter is so soft-spoken they should name a hearing aid in his honor.
With that said, the NFL's had its share of colorful character coaches. Joining the ranks last year was Ryan, the Jets' "brash head coach," which seems to be the only label the media can come up with to describe him.
The ink on Ryan's contract was barely dry before he started talking about how the Jets wouldn't back down from anyone. Then he directed smack talk at Bill Belichick and flipped people the bird. This summer he guaranteed a Super Bowl and, more recently, got a little misty over comments Tony Dungy made about his potty mouth.
If Ryan was smart he'd take stock of his actions and decide what he wants to be. If his goal is to deliver a Super Bowl title for the Jets and join the ranks of great NFL head coaches — a goal he'd no doubt aspires to — he'd best stop acting like someone out trying to prove how tough he is. By making one bold statement after another, Ryan sounds like a guy desperately trying to get himself to believe them.
Hey, we're all for individualism. Rex seems like a fun guy to drink with (though even his friends probably have a snoot full of him by beer three). And thumbing our nose at authority is what CHFF does best. But his style isn't conducive to long term NFL head coaching success.
Ryan's loud, boastful style works when the good times roll, good times like New York's impressive playoff run last year. Whether the Jets were lucky or whether his skill as a coach accomplished it, or a little of both, the team's late-season run bought him an Act-Like-an-Ass-For-Another-Year card.
But when things don't go so well, Ryan's style is going to grate on his players like soft pine on a new rasp. You won't see a lot of guys wearing green and white following him around with a pan helping sweep up the dust, either. That's the way it usually works: Big act. Big fall.
A chip off the old block, it's fitting that Ryan is similar to another guy who coached a few years ago: his pop, Buddy. The elder Ryan was a great defensive coach who helped craft one of the most dominating teams of all time, the 1985 Bears. The dude could design a defense. He was quite a character, too.
But he was a poor head coach, more famous for fostering team divisiveness than winning. After one of his Eagles' early playoff exits, a 21-7 loss to the L.A. Rams in Philadelphia in 1989, the clueless Ryan boasted how the Rams "beat us with a junior high defense." Satisfied his team played a more macho style of football, Buddy forgot the goal was to win the game.
Sound familiar? Between trying to prove he's not here to kiss Belichick's rings and insisting that the Jets won't back down from anybody, you wonder if the little Ryan gets the big picture.
As if anyone needed more convincing, Ryan appeared on a list recently published by a top scientific magazine, the Cold, Hard Football FactsJournal of Pigskin Psychology. Here's a summary of the journal's findings in four key categories.
|Pts||Lack of NFL Decorum||Pts||Telltale Physical Trait Betraying Donkey Status||Pts||Total Score|
Eagles & Cardinals
|Allegedly took out bounty against weeny kicker, Dallas Cowboy kicker Luis Zendejas||7.5||Once remarked of likely future Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter "all he does is catch touchdowns"||8.5||Called timeout to ran up the score on NFL class act Tom Landry's Cowboys||8.0||Girlish right cross, as demonstrated striking Oilers offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride's endomorphish chin||7.0||7.8|
|Jerry Glanville, Oilers & Falcons||Sported all black wardrobe in desperate attempt to generate commanding presence and intimidate opposition||7.0||Traded current 20 year NFL veteran Brett Favre, saying "it would take a plane crash to put him into a game"||9.8||After his Falcons beat Raiders back when that meant something, uttered sore winner boast "we were the only team that deserved to wear black today"||6.0||Smart-ass sneer any decent American would take pleasure wiping off impish face||7.5||7.6|
|Immediately upon hire announces "Jets won't back down from anybody, and oh by the way, my Dad can beat up your Dad"||6.5||Unobserved||0.0||Dissed current NFL coaching icon, saying "I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick's rings"||9.0||Donkey-like guffaw begs for serious put-him-in-his-place shot to the chops||8.5||6.0|
|N/A||0.0||Stubbornly relied on talent deficient quarterbacks who used to play for him in college||6.0||Foolishly bragged success in NFL would come down to nothing more than creative play-calling, insulting studious NFL O-Coordinators everwhere who took years to hone craft||7.5||Beak-like nose and beady eyes reminds bullies everywhere of nervous high school dweebs with stack of books just waiting to be dumped||5.5||4.8|
Ryan's entering only his second season as coach. But 2010 will be a telling year for the coach. The Jets won't take anyone by surprise, and Ryan's continued boasting and misguided self-insertion into Darrelle Revis's contract dispute have only served to ratchet up more pressure.
Even Joe Willie, the king of guarantees, is taken aback.
We're in no position to judge (that's Dungy's job, according to Rex). But Ryan might spend less time worrying about playing the role of Rex Ryan and more time playing the role of NFL head coach. That means staying away from bulletin board material, not inciting the opposition, not undermining his owner, and getting his team to practice hard, focus, and execute.
It sounds boring, but it's the stuff the Lombardis, Shulas, Landrys, Gibbs, Nolls and Belichicks are made of.
And don't forget: Ryan's Jets fielded the best defense in football last year ... until it mattered most. In the AFC title game against Peyton Manning and the Colts, Ryan's defense was torched like victims of the Spanish Inquisition.
If Rex continues to win like he did last year until that point, he'll surely thumb his nose at those who doubted him, true to character. But if history is any indication, Ryan's act is more likely to wear thin than wear well and he will soon find himself hee hawing, like Glanville did, on television with the rest of the donkeys.
Based on the Jets playoff run last year, he gets the benefit of the doubt. For now.
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