In the end, Rex Ryan’s gargantuan mouth bit off more than it could chew.
From Day 1 through Day 1,429, the New York Jets head coach has talked. And talked. And talked. And talked.
Often his answers and demeanor have been humorous. I’ve honestly never met a high-profile coach or manager who wanted to be loved by the media like Rex did. One well-known writer told me, “When it comes to press conferences, he’s the best.”
On the other hand, when it comes to press conferences, Bill Belichick is easily the worst. But that’s a topic for another day.
This is about the fall of Jets and their head coach. And his mouth.
The problem is that during his incessant, humorous and sometimes incoherent ramblings, he made promises he couldn’t keep.
His “I’m not going to kiss Belichick’s rings” comment was just what Jets fans wanted and, the Jets believed, needed to hear. It was akin to a new Red Sox manager coming in and saying he hated the Yankees. New Englanders love that.
That was fine. But then Rex, with the back page of the N.Y. Post and N.Y. Daily News in his corner, got dangerous.
He promised something football coaches at all levels would never dare promise: He promised championships, as in Super Bowls.
He also pulled another coaching no-no, he told everyone that the Jets drafted a “franchise” quarterback in Mark Sanchez. He even jokingly nicknamed him “San-chize,” stealing a back page headline. It was way over the top, his promises and unreal expectations.
Along the way he tried, sometimes successfully, to prod his talented and successful neighbors to the north, your New England Patriots. He gave half-hearted praise of Belichick and Tom Brady early in his tenure, always saying, “Their coach is better than me. Their quarterback is better ... But he’s going to get my best shot.”
I never understood what that meant. Doesn’t every coach and every player plan on giving “their best shot”?
Even though most pundits predicted the 2012 Jets would be the worst team in Rex’s tenure, he wouldn’t hear any of it. The Jets went out and stole more back pages of the Post and Daily News by acquiring the biggest lightning rod in NFL history, Tim Tebow.
There were more promises about how they would use Tebow as Sanchez’s backup in case he struggled. They’d use him at tight end. They’d use him to run new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano’s vaunted “Wildcat” offense. And, last but not least, before a Patriots game Rex threatened to use him at running back.
To which Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes shot back, “Oh man, I hope they use him at running back.”
Of course, none of that happened with Tebow. He was simply a way for the Jets to get some cheap headlines.
In the end, Rex and his promises have caused the Jets a lot of anger and misery this fall. Their mascot, Fireman Ed (Anzalone), quit on the team at halftime of their game on Thanksgiving night. He simply left the MetLife Stadium and announced he was retiring because of all the negativity, some related to the fact that he chose to wear a “Sanchez” jersey this year in support of the quarterback.
Why the negativity? I have one theory: Promises Rex couldn’t keep.
The quarterback Rex helped choose, was and always will be a backup. And winning Super Bowls is lot easier for teams not in the same division as Belichick, Brady and the Patriots.
The irony is that Rex is a very good to great defensive coordinator. He was Brady’s biggest nemesis the last four years. No team confused Brady, not even the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers, more than the Jets.
Even this year, as embarrassingly bad as the Jets have looked on offense, over four of the last five games his defense gave up only 11 points a game.
Of course, excluding the 49-19 debacle against the Patriots, all without arguably the game’s best defensive player in cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Of course, the offense, particularly Sanchez, was as bad as his defense was good, scoring more than 20 points just once in the last seven games.
So what happens now?
The Jets will no doubt fire GM Mike Tannebaum and they don’t have anything close to a franchise quarterback, which means this franchise is back where it started when Rex started making his promises. They are the good old Jets.
As for Rex, owner Woody Johnson has expressed his love for his coach several times over the last year. But it appears he may have finally, in this nasty climate the Jets are in, talked himself out of a job.
You can e-mail Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.