Rex Ryan does love the attention. When others are wilting under the bright lights of media scrutiny, the Jets head coach is in his element, basking in the spotlight. He soaks it up like a sunflower in summertime. Rex a sunflower. That’s gotta’ be a first.
As sons of an NFL coach, Rex and his twin brother Rob were given passes to move freely in & about one of the biggest jamborees on the American entertainment circuit.
Both indoctrinated into the pro game as teenagers when father Buddy Ryan was designing defenses for the Vikings (1976) and Bears (1978-85), the R & R boys gained valuable insight into the workings of the National Football League.
To hazard a guess as to what left the most lasting impression on the young Ryans, hands down, had to be watching Dad in action. In particular, how senior Ryan communicated with players & press. There must be reams of footage in the NFL Films vault showing Buddy on the practice field impressing his expertise onto the scores of future Cantonese he helped to mold.
Today, no coach, no athlete, no politician plays the media like Rex Ryan. He works a crowd like a master violinist, wooing wide-eyed reporters with Stradivarian sound-offs.
That’s not to say he’s the only press conference pro. Rival Bill Belichick disdains sparing with the media but has his own proven style. If Rex is the Muhammad Ali of NFL coach-speak, Bill is the Joe Louis: cool as a cucumber but packing a mean punch.
Every reporter question is a gift under the Christmas tree for Rex. The difference is he’ll never get bored with those wind-up toys and the softballs they toss his way. The press know better than to throw incendiaries. Like Dad, Rex will just throw ‘em right back.
Whether it’s early Super Bowl predictions or calling-out opponents, stirring the pot is second nature to Ryan. He creates controversy like the rest of us brush our teeth: habit.
The apple doesn‘t fall far from the tree. Like Pops, Rex has no qualms with occasionally playing the fool.
A psychiatrist might see his new tattoo as a cry for help (“Rex Sports New Tattoo” / AP / 8-1). Rexophiles know better. His recent venture into body art is designed to endear himself to his tattoo-laden team. When in Rome, as they say. Just make sure you stay clear of the post-game parties, Rex. Players play deep.
In truth, Rex Ryan is no fool. Far from it. Crazy like a fox is more accurate. Though every public statement feeds his narcissistic cravings, most are carefully calculated to help get the Jets back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1969.
With back-to-back AFC title games and some bold, pre-season roster moves, it’s fair to say the Jets are a top Super Bowl contender. Good enough to beat NFC favorite Green Bay? Even on the Jets best day, it’s a maybe. But then those ‘98 Packers looked pretty invincible themselves until they ran up against a determined QB named Elway.
The ‘dare-you’ he made earlier this month may’ve been Ryan’s most surprising statement yet. “I think we need to find someone else besides the Jets to beat the New England Patriots. I’m challenging the League.” (“Rex Ryan Says” / AP / 8-1). It’s not as if the Patriots scheduled-opponents are circling the date on their calendars but he has planted the seed.
Those who defeat the Pats help the Jets, while the losers gain a greater respect for what NYJ accomplished. An emotional edge come playoff time? That’s his theory, anyway.
Two problems with Rexology: 1) The enemies of my enemies are my friends, maybe. Like the uncertain and fracturous Libyan rebel force the West has allied itself with, Rex may find he’s gotten more than he bargained for when Patriot-thumpers ride their confidence onto victory against the Jets; and 2) Mr. Ryan showed his tell and Bill was watching.
It’s now clear Rex Ryan is obsessed with Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick, maybe even intimidated. Belichick and the New England mystique are tattooed on Ryan’s brain. You might say he has two tattoos: a calf…and a Beli-tattoo.
Three straight AFC titles games is a long-shot for any team. Jets owner Woody Johnson did his part this signing-season to encourage a return visit, his most notable signee being Plaxico Burress who, if healthy, should prove an asset. Woody’s best decision may’ve been the move he didn’t make (for now): signing Randy Moss.
The Pats have done some detail-work of their own. They hope Haynesworth turns over a new leaf and not turn into a headache. Ochocinco might be a strange bird but flew straight in Cincy last year. And if there’s gas left in these tanks, add-ons Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter will shore-up a defense that’s turned the Patriots into playoff pretenders.
Rex could’ve gotten a second tattoo while vacationing in Hawaii: NY Jets 2012 Super Bowl Champs, a la Jason Terry. The one reservation: Jets’ QB Mark Sanchez.
NFL’s a quarterback League. You don’t need Drew Brees stats but you better move those chains in crunch time. As far as Mark has progressed in just two seasons, in one of sports toughest markets (after the fish-bowl that is Green Bay), he’s still an unproven commodity.
The Jets aren’t alone. Owners and coaches in Chicago, Dallas, San Diego, Baltimore and Atlanta are puzzled too over whether or not their own signal-callers have what it takes to get to the big show in February.
The recent report of a row between the two (“Jets QB Sanchez” / NewsCore / 8-15) is more a tempest in a teapot (and Mark getting too chatty at GQ) than a real rift. What gives Rex hope is the storybook ending Sanchez almost authored in the 2nd half of last season’s AFC title game. But that’s horseshoes & hand-grenades. Close won’t cut it in 2012.
There’s one sure-fire way Rex Ryan can remove his Belichick-tattoo. And it’s not easy. The process is long and can leave scaring. Though, on rare occasion it can be painless and trouble-free (Green Bay’s EZ-Pass roadway to Dallas in 2011). It’s the same procedure the Packers used to remove their Favre-tattoos: win the Super Bowl.
About the Author
Written by Steven Keys
A native of the old Northwest Territory (IL), my wife and I have lived in four Midwestern states and Arizona. Today we live in Duluth, Georgia. I have a history / legal background.