I am a lifelong New Yorker and covered sports in this town for over 20 years and I know how things work in The Big Apple. If the sports media wants to “get you” they will always have the last word unless, of course, you win a championship. They will run you out of town. I was a first-hand witness to how unfairly the media pictured Omar Minaya and I am starting to see the same treatment of Rex Ryan.
We all know 6-10 is not acceptable for any NFL coach but to me I look at someone’s entire report card—not just the part of it that furthers my point of view. Rex Ryan has been here 4 years and has had 2 very successful seasons and 2 sub-par seasons. He brought the Jets to straight 2 AFC championship games and has also limped to the finish line in 2 other seasons. The rest of it is just conversation. What do I mean by the rest of it? I mean the tattoo, the boasting, and his blustery nature.
You certainly could have made a case to fire Rex Ryan by today’s NFL standards but could easily make a case to keep him and I would have chosen to keep him. But neither case should be defined by anything other than what his team does on the field. But on-the-field stuff bores the media—they need juice. Who likes whom? Who is ready to throw someone under the bus? And it all circulates around this “kick a dog when he’s down” mentality.
I remember a time when covering sports meant “talking about the game” but that time is past. Covering football used to mean analyzing how one team’s game plan could decide the game and how WR vs DB matchups or blocking schemes could turn the game on a dime. Now it appears to be a watered down version of TMZ and that is sad. It is sad because young people don’t learn the game by watching football—they learn that the game is about everything besides football.
It all started with Tim Tebow and quite frankly, the Jets brought on some of that on themselves but from a football perspective if the media could not understand what the loss of players like Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes could do to a team, then they are not paying attention. By season’s end, they wanted the scalp of Rex Ryan and when he delayed his end of season press conference they decided to file a grievance with the NFL and send a photographer to stalk him and his wife while on vacation. Like an angry child, they stomped their feet because Rex Ryan dared to defy them. And oh by the way, one reporter tried to take “off the record quotes” and use them in a story as if they were “on the record.”
Every single story about Rex Ryan had little to do with football but attacked his personal brand. I heard this some nonsense a few years ago when the media decided Tom Coughlin was an “angry old man” and needed to go. How did that work out? Or when Joe Girardi was viewed as a surly manager by the media in 2008 and the Yanks would never win anything with him at the helm? A year later, they were traveling up “Canyons of Heroes.”
Even Mark Messier’s championship pedigree was challenged one year before the Rangers won the Stanley Cup because he had not delivered a championship yet. And we all know the number the media played on Patrick Ewing treating him poorly at every turn because he wasn’t as accessible to them as they would have liked him to be. Time and time again, the media gets this wrong.
My read is simple: Give Rex Ryan players and he will win and that has been proven. Give him substandard players and he will struggle just as any NFL Head Coach would. But it is not because of a tattoo or a blustery persona.