The Rex Ryan Love-Hate Relationship

Rex Ryan

I got my wish: Tom Coughlin will be the Giants’ head coach in 2015. I think the final few weeks of the season showed that the Giants’ 6-10 season was more of a product of leading the league with players on injured reserve rather than Coughlin losing the ability to coach overnight. Even without a postseason appearance since 2011 and a postseason game since Super Bowl XLVI, Coughlin still has that and XLII on his resume and that should be enough to keep him around until he decides he longer wants to be. And with Ben McAdoo assisting in the best offensive season of Eli Manning’s career and an Odell Beckham Jr.-Victor Cruz receiving tandem next year, the Giants could be back to where they were three years ago at this time. Unfortunately, if you’re a Jets fan, the future isn’t as bright.

The team that tried to become the King of the City in 2009 and 2010 with back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances fired the man who got them there. Rex Ryan coached his final game as head coach of the Jets and general manager John Idzik watched his final game as the head of the front office on Sunday. Ryan was doomed from the start of the season when Idzik made him make Geno Smith the starting quarterback and when he decided to not spend $20 million that he’ll never get to spend. And Idzik was doomed from the second he went to the podium for the “We Suck, But We’re Trying Hard” press conference that will likely serve as the reason he is never leading a front office again.

I have written a lot of words about Rex Ryan since he became the head coach of the Jets and flip-flopped on whether I liked him or not more times than I have with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. He came to New York as a fat, loud-mouthed defensive coordinator, who called out Bill Belichick in his first days, eliminated his own team from the postseason before a run to the 2009 AFC Championship Game, gave us a memorable season Hard Knocks in the summer of 2010, embarrassed the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the 2010 divisional round and then came a stop on third-and-6 away from having a chance to win 2010 AFC Championship Game. He leaves New York as a slimmed-down quieter version of himself, who hasn’t seen the playoffs since that 2010 AFC Championship Game and is 26-38 over the last four years.

After going back and forth on Rex Ryan’s personality and abilities, I settled on liking the outspoken Rex, who didn’t want his team to settle for being a “slapd-ck team” and just wanted to eat a snack. The Jets might always be “the same old Jets” but even for a Giants fan like myself, who enjoys watching a good Jets loss, Rex gave outsiders a reason to watch for a few years and a reason to root for his Jets, like I did for that Jets-Patriots divisional game back in January 2011. So in honor, of Rex Ryan, I went back and found five things I wrote about him from August 2010 through January 2011 to look at his best season as Jets head coach.

Rise of the Jets – Aug. 12, 2010
There are going to be a lot of people that watch Hard Knocks simply to see what Rex Ryan is like outside of his comedic press conferences and aside from his extravagant Daily News and Post headlines. After watching Rex freely make fun of his in-laws in the opening minutes of the show, you just knew he was going to make the most of this opportunity to have a camera and censor-free microphone in front of him for training camp.

In the show, Rex Ryan appears to be an actor rather than an amusing and overweight NFL coach. Some of his lines and actions seem a little over the top and rehearsed, the same way that the cast of the Jersey Shore now plays up their personas to fulfill the roles of the celebrities they have become rather than be themselves like they were in the first season when the show gained popularity. (Don’t get me wrong, I will continue to watch Jersey Shore no matter how fake the cast becomes, just like I would watch Hard Knocks even if Rex Ryan were reading off cue cards.)

I think the pre-camp meeting was the best example of Rex being a head coach that knows there is a camera recording him. Rex made it clear that he wants his team to lead the league in the wins, but it was almost as if he was trying force every last swear word he could into this scene, so that fans would come away from Hard Knocks and say, “Wow, Rex Ryan is a badass.” But if you take away Ryan’s HBO vocabulary from that meeting, it definitely wouldn’t have passed through the final cut. A power point presentation on Day 1 of camp for NFL players? What player would pay attention to that? It was almost as if someone recorded the first day of class from each semester of college when the professor would just stand there and read the syllabus word for word before you letting you go early. Not exactly captivating TV without Rex trying to break the South Park movie’s record for most swears in one scene.

Rex has reached a point in my life that not many other people can achieve: the point where I could watch Rex Ryan do just about anything. It’s such an elite club that I can’t even think of another person on this list. Whether it’s trying to drop 37 F-bombs before taking a breath, wearing Chuck Taylor shoes given his body type, eating a lunch big enough for a family of four at Cafe Ryan, throwing footballs, punting footballs or just standing around making small talk, there isn’t anything Rex Ryan can’t do that wouldn’t be compelling. I only wish Tom Coughlin could be half as likeable as Rex Ryan.

Rex will never have trouble finding a job in the football world, which is disappointing, because the man could carry his own reality show. And like a lot of other people, I would watch every second of it.

A Reality Check – Dec. 7, 2010
I didn’t like Rex Ryan at first, then he grew on me and I even wished Tom Coughlin was a little like him when I said, “I only wish Tom Coughlin could be half as likeable as Rex Ryan.” Actually I wish Tom Coughlin could be half as likable as anyone, but I was wrong to think that Coughlin should change his ways to be more like Ryan. After my 180 on Rex, I have done other 180, and now a complete 360 and I am back to my initial stance of not being a fan of Rex Ryan anymore.

There are few, if any, press conferences in sports as entertaining as Rex Ryan’s, but even those are getting old. In two seasons, Rex Ryan has become what The Office has become for me over seven seasons — a show that I was skeptical about at first, and then grew to love before becoming skeptical again.

One day Rex is saying that the Jets are the team to beat and the next he is saying that he knew the AFC East would run through New England. I understand that you have to take a grain of salt with whatever Rex says, but it’s become ridiculous. He wants to come off as this cocky, arrogant and pompous winner when the Jets are winning close games against barely competent teams. And after losses, he becomes an apologetic, sincere and humble the next. It’s an odd act that has made him a favorite of Jets fan, but an immature and unprepared clown to outsiders.

Tom Coughlin might not have a comedic personality or a limit to the amount of snacks he can eat in a day or a twin brother that looks like Sean Connery’s character John Mason at the beginning of The Rock, but he has beaten Bill Belichick in a big game (the biggest of games), and at least with Tom Coughlin you know what you’re getting, whether you like it or not. Oddly enough, I’m thankful that Tom Coughlin is the way he is.

Year in Review, Part 1 – Dec. 29, 2010
I’m not sure who Rex Ryan wants to be. One day he wants to be an NFL coach and the next day he wants to be friends with the players and a class clown with the media. So far his team has underachieved by the standards he set in Hard Knocks (leading the league in wins), but you would never know that from the way he conducts himself.

I was still on the fence about whether or not I liked Rex Ryan and then on Sunday when he was giving his press conference and found out in the middle of it that the Jets made the playoffs because the Jaguars lost, and he started acting like the Jets had decided their own fate with a convincing win, well it was then that I finally decided Rex isn’t for me.

I don’t agree with everything that Bill Belichick does or how he handles the media, but I get why he acts that way, and at least he is consistent. He gave this interview outside the locker room after losing to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, and had the Patriots won, his postgame interview probably would have been very similar.

Call him smug, or arrogant or pompous, but call him consistent. That is all I ask of Rex. Be consistent. Find a personality and stick with it. Either be an authority figure or a coach that is buddy-buddy with the players. Don’t try to be both because you can’t be both.

A Giants Fan for Jets – Jan. 14, 2011
I once saw Dave Attell do stand-up and the show started at midnight, and Dave had already done two shows that night. Saying he was drunk would be like saying Marisa Miller is good looking. But as the show went on and on and a waiter kept delivering drinks to Dave, the show only got better and better. I’m sure the people at the 8:00 show got a good show, but it was definitely not as good as the people who went to the 10:00 show, and their show definitely was not as good the show that I saw at midnight. This is what’s happening with Rex Ryan.

Rex started off talking trash on the first episode of Hard Knocks, it got better once the regular season started and then once the Jets began to play important games. Then the playoffs started and he began to call out anyone that walked by him leading up to this game where he has used material on Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Just think about some of the crazy things that have come out of Rex’s mouth and then think about this: he has NEVER been the head coach for a team in the Super Bowl. Imagine Rex Ryan with two weeks between the AFC Championship (if the Jets can get there) and the Super Bowl? I think only a two-week marathon of The Office or Friday Night Lights could keep me as entertained.

And the Winner Is … – Jan. 19, 2011
On Sunday night, CBS ran a piece on 60 Minutes about Billy Walters, a sports gambler in Nevada that bets hundreds of thousands of dollars on football and basketball games and won $3.5 million on the Saints in last year’s Super Bowl.

I take back anything bad I have said about Rex Ryan. He’s a hero. And I’m not joking when I say that. He’s the man.

When Rex ran into the end zone to celebrate Shonn Greene’s touchdown with the players, he won me over. For a minute I thought Rex was the one that scored the touchdown and seeing the players celebrating with him and letting him be one of the guys for that moment made you realize that when Bart Scott says he would “die for Rex Ryan” that he probably isn’t the only one on the Jets that would.

When I look at my team, the Giants, I see a team that if Tom Coughlin was fired tomorrow, the players would give remarks like, “football is a business” or “it’s not Tom’s fault” when really the majority of the team probably wouldn’t care and would likely be happy. (And Antrel Rolle verified this on Tuesday.) If Rex were fired, I could see the Jets threatening to not show up and play. That’s the vibe you get from this Jets “team” and it’s something you don’t get from the Giants.

The Jets are Rex Ryan. The entire team has bought into his trash talking system, and during Hard Knocks when he kept reiterating, “Play Like A Jet” I thought, “What is wrong with this guy?” Playing like a Jet meant not winning championships. But what Rex meant was that “Playing Like A Jet” meant “Playing Like A Jet From When I Took Over This Team.” Nothing with the Jets before Rex Ryan matters and like he said, “Same old Jets going to the AFC Championship for the second year in a row.”