Rex Ryan has been a lightning rod ever since he was hired as the New York Jets head coach in 2009. He has been a sound byte waiting to happen seemingly every week. He epitomizes the saying, “You either love him or hate him.” Except in his case it’s usually you really love or really hate him. He knows how everyone perceives him and he doesn’t care. His bosses adore him, his players would walk through fire for him, and NY Jets fans back his every word. People tuned into HBO’s Hard Knocks just to see what Rex would do next. He even told President Obama to get the White House ready because he guaranteed a Super Bowl victory, something the Jets haven’t done since 1969, when Rex’s father Buddy was their linebackers coach. His brash bravado is the first thing that comes to mind when he is brought up; not his credentials, his weight, and no not even his foot fetish. His Ralph Kramden-like mouth has made him one of the most talked about NFL figures but it has also gotten him into some trouble.
Ryan was brought in to replace fired head coach Eric Mangini after 3 up and down seasons. With the hire of Ryan as the new head coach, a feeling of hope swept through Jets camp. Owner, players, and fans felt Ryan was the man to change the Jets from the “Same Old Jets” to a new, hard hitting, defensive powerhouse of a team. So what’s the verdict on Ryan’s brief tenure so far?
- His first season as head coach, the New York Jets had a 9-7 record (the same record the Jets had in Eric Mangini’s last season before he was fired) but the Jets were lucky enough to back into the playoffs after winning their last two games against teams who played mostly backups. Ryan himself actually believed the Jets to be eliminated from playoff contention in the middle of the season.
- The New York Jets finished the season as the #1 Passing and #1 Overall Defense. They were also the #1 Rushing Offense.
- Although they “backed in” to the playoffs, the Jets earned their keep and won two straight road playoff games and made it to the AFC Championship game. They were up at halftime before Peyton Manning brought the Colts storming back.
- In 2010, the Jets finished the season with an 11-5 record and for the second-straight year, the Jets secured a playoff spot.
- They finished the season as the #3 Rushing and #3 Overall Defense. They were also the #4 Rushing Offense.
- This postseason so far, the Jets exacted revenge against the Colts on the road.
This leaves us at tomorrow’s Divisional Playoff Game against bitter rival and top seed New England Patriots.
As HC of the New York Jets, Rex Ryan is 2-2 overall against the New England Patriots. Usually that’s not a bad place to be against a powerhouse division rival but the last meeting between these two is all anyone remembers. The winner of that game was all but assured the division title, the #1 playoff seed in the AFC, and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Rex Ryan said about Patriots head coach Bill Belichick that he wanted to “kick his ass.” What unfolded was the complete opposite. The Patriots laid a 45-3 whooping on the Jets, won the division title, secured the #1 seed in the AFC, and turned the New York Jets’ once great season completely upside-down. So much so that the Jets had to settle for the last playoff spot in the AFC. With a big road win against the Steelers and an even bigger road playoff win against the Colts, albeit against a beaten and battered Colts team, the New York Jets have regained some credibility but nothing compared to where they were pre-Patriots beat down. So what will this game do for Rex Ryan? With a Jets win tomorrow, the 45-3 mauling will be all but forgotten, the Jets will be in the AFC Championship game for the second year in a row, the Jets will be seen as a powerhouse again, and New York will still be in love with “Sexy Rexy”. On the flip-side, if the Jets lose tomorrow, the Patriots will have established dominance over the Jets, the Jets season will be seen as a failure, and that cushy throne Rex sits on will stop being so cushy and will start to warm up some. Rex has no one but himself to blame because it is his big mouth and bold promises that put him in this position. I think it’s pretty safe to say that this game is the most important in Rex’s head-coaching life. Something tells me though that he wouldn’t want it any other way.
-The Sport Scholar