Rex Ryan: Subdued or Castrated?
When he first took over as Jets coach, Ryan was a breath of fresh air and captivated a media and fan base that had grown to feel smothered under Eric Mangini. Ryan’s brash openness and willingness to make bold statements was something new around the Jets. Backed by a star-struck owner, Woody Johnson, and a general manager who would clearly prefer it if the media never asked him any questions, Mike Tannenbaum, Ryan became the lightning rod of the organization.
On the field, the cockiness paid off as the Jets made a stunning run to the AFC Championship game in his rookie season, then repeated the feat in his second season. By virtue of the innocent climb theory and with the experience gained by quarterback Mark Sanchez in leading the team to the championship game twice, the Jets went all-in in Ryan’s third season. Under Mangini, the character of players on and off the field was taken into consideration before they were brought onboard. With Ryan, he made the same error that his father made as coach with the concept that he can coach anyone. The days of reckless outlaws getting away with anything they wanted to get away with ended with the proliferation of social media and any player’s behavior becoming national news the second it occurred. The Jets followed the script by trading for or signing the likes of Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie and Plaxico Burress.
Almost as a concession to the owner’s wishes of having stars in Jets green and white and to have a symbol to ward off the evil forces that sabotaged the Jets to 8-8 in Ryan’s third season, the Jets acquired Tim Tebow and announced that he and new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano were going to reinvent the NFL with Tebow getting as many as twenty plays per game at quarterback. Instead of creating an offensive weapon, however, all they did was foster confusion and begin chipping away at the already declining confidence of their supposed franchise quarterback, Sanchez.
It’s easy to see how Sanchez – no angel himself – came to feel unappreciated and marginalized. They took away his running game in his third season and expected him, with the lucrative new contract, to take the next step into shouldering the load. He couldn’t and didn’t.
Predictably, Sanchez had an awful season sharing time with Tebow in 2012. Then in 2013, he was again the subject of scrutiny as new general manager John Idzik drafted another quarterback, Geno Smith, to “compete” with Sanchez. In football-talk, compete means “please do enough to take the guy’s job.” Smith hasn’t done that, but may be about to win the job as game one starter by default due to Sanchez’s shoulder injury.