Should it be illegal to fire Rex Ryan?
The next time the NFL rules committee gets together I want them to make it illegal for any team to fire Rex Ryan. Or if his employers do dismiss him, it is then a league requirement for someone else to hire him immediately.
The recent shenanigans from the New York Jets may have a depressingly-familiar ring for fans of the AFC East team, but to the rest of us it constitutes entertainment in the solid gold category. The Jets may not have a stable situation but at least they have a coach who is very much alive and kicking, and operating with a passion too often missing in others.
The latest madness offering from the Jets head coach may be his best yet. And those of you who have seen him in action before will know only too well that his past actions will be hard to beat.
But his Press conference in the wake of Saturday’s pre-season overtime win against the New York Giants was a classic even by Rex’s high standards.
[dropcap][/dropcap]It all started in the fourth quarter of the game. The Jets handed the first half to Geno Smith, a young quarterback they think is going to be the future but who is struggling at the moment. He threw three first-half interceptions against the Giants and conceded the sort of safety that makes you wonder if he has ever played football before. Believe it or not Smith gave up a safety by running out of the back of his own end zone while trying to throw a pass. He was under no immediate sack pressure and he was heading across the field as if on a roll out. He just didn’t see the end zone line until it was too late.
In the fourth quarter, Ryan decided to put Mark Sanchez into the game. Sanchez was reckoned by most observers to be the favorite for the starting job and therefore it came as a big surprise when he was shoved in there so late in a pre-season game. There are usually two problems in that scenario – the opposition defenders on the field in the fourth quarter of a pre-season game are mainly guys who need to prove something quickly in order to make the final cut and your own offensive line is likely to be guys who are second string at best. Sanchez was a sitting duck.
And so it transpired that, while scrambling and throwing on the run, Sanchez was hit hard and decked. He stayed down with a shoulder injury, is out of the final pre-season game and may miss the start of the season.
Understandably, Ryan’s decision to put him in harm’s way was the only thing on reporters’ minds when he stepped up to the podium after the game and that was where the fun started.
Ryan repeatedly told the gathering that he was the one who would decide who the starting QB was going to be and that it was going to be decided by having a bit of a pre-season competition between Smith and Sanchez.
He said: “I’ll make that call. I don’t have to answer a question. I’ll answer it the way I said and from day one I said we will make the announcement on our starting quarterback when we think it’s the appropriate time. Not when you, not when this person or this person or this person…(Ryan then indicated to the back of the room) now maybe that person but that’s about it.”
As reporters tried to butt in with more questions, Ryan stepped up the pace. “I can say anything I want. That’s the beauty of this country. I answered it. I can answer it a hundred…” (at this point, he turned his back to the reporter who had asked the last questions and then continued… “I’ll stand backwards…I’m going sideways.” By now he was standing side-on to his audience and started to imitate himself answering the previous question. “‘At the appropriate time we’ll make the announcement when I think it’s the appropriate time’. Yes Brian.”
The press conference then returned to some sort of normality. Or at least, Ryan turned face-on to his audience again, even if the questioning and answering remained a little prickly.
It was a bizarre performance that was reminiscent of Mike Ditka in his prime. It had some crazy Eric Cantona tones to it. Or perhaps it was just Ryan taking a leaf out of Jose Mourinho’s playbook and making sure he deflected enough of the attention away from his players and on to himself, leaving people to talk about the wackiness of Rex Ryan and not the storm brewing in his 2013 plans when it comes to having a quarterback skilled enough and fit enough to engineer success.
Sanchez tried to be as diplomatic as possible after the game, nursing his throwing shoulder in a sling. He said: “I’m not here to second-guess the coaches. If they call you to play, you better be ready to play. And I was.”
He may claim he was ready to play but judging by his reaction when he got the call, he was not expecting it. And recent history would suggest he shouldn’t have been thinking about playing that late in the game. No projected starting quarterback has played the fourth quarter of a pre-season game for any team in the last three years.
Matt Simms and Greg McElroy are battling to be the No.3 QB at the Jets this year and at least one should see some action this week, with Smith starting and Sanchez out of action. In fact, depending on the long-term prognosis on Sanchez’s injury, Ryan may be forced to sit Smith out of the game completely to make sure he has a starter fit enough for the season opener.
Whatever happens, the questions and controversies surrounding the Jets and Rex Ryan will not be abating any time soon which should mean plenty more entertainment from the colourful coach. It may not be a comforting thought for Jets fans but in a league with enough robots and company men already in its ranks, he is a welcome breath of fresh air.