TJ Rosenthal gives a closer look at what the New York Jets need from their head coach in 2012. Make sure you are following TJ both here and here. And if you didn’t read them yet, check out his interviews with Evan Silva and Connie Carberg.
For three seasons Rex Ryan thumped his chest. Guaranteeing Super Bowls in restaurants, at Knicks games, and hockey games, and probably even supermarket aisles to whoever would listen to him. He’s flipped off fans, and cursed out others at offseason events and halftime tunnels. After an 8-8 crash though, Ryan had to swallow the bitter pill that came from understanding that even WITH two AFC Championship appearances on his resume, some things had to change. Embracing a new emphasis on the value of toning the bravado down while doing a better job of taking the temperature of his own players, that second chance has now arrived. Training camp kicks off in Cortland today for the New York Jets. Few if any in the entire organization can help this franchise by bouncing back from a down year more than Ryan can.
Jets practices over the next two months will be a rock star gathering each and every day but will also be a place where many will be seeking redemption for their performances and behavior last year. Like Mark Sanchez. Wayne Hunter and the entire offensive line. The rushing attack. Santonio Holmes. The pass rush. The list goes on, but nobody’s personal turnaround may be more vital to the Jets success than Rex Ryan.
Last season’s disappointing results should not be seen as the fault of one player or coach. In the NFL though, much of both the success and struggles of a club are seen through the lens of the head coach. Right or wrong. For Ryan, the buttons he was able to push in his players when he had to came more easily in 2009 and 2010 than they did in 2011.
The son of Buddy Ryan, whose apple clearly fell inches from the tree, now owns the task of having to reinvent himself as the team’s leader. One who must trim the edges in places yet remain the same guy that he has been for three years. Loud. Confident. Cocky. A believer in his system, players, and an organization that didn’t believe in itself the way it has since he barreled through the Florham Park doors. Declaring that he didn’t sign on to kiss anyone else’s rings.
As the Jets face the challenge of imparting a new “old” look on offense while adding more variety on defense, as they work Tebow into the mix as a flex player, they will have to lean on the guidance of Ryan. Especially early on.
A tough schedule awaits the Jets in September. The potential for a divisive quarterback controversy looms during that period as well. Especially if the club doesn’t take a stand with how they feel about Sanchez. Both hurdles call for an improved Ryan to be on the top of his game. On the gridiron and at the podium.
Rex has to get his team, still with a core nucleus that can help him thanks to names like Revis, Scott, Harris, Mangold, Ferguson and such, out of the gates and alive in October. Not buried at 1-4 like many naysayers predict.
Ryan has to be firm if and when Sanchez struggles, so as not to play into any media games that will attempt to make as big of a story out of the Sanchez Tebow thing as humanly possible.
Finally, Ryan has to monitor himself. The line between confident leader and entertaining showman can’t be crossed the way it was in 2011 when Ryan hurt his own club by empowering some of the other opponents at times. Like the Giants for example, who made it known after their Christmas day victory in the “Battle of New York,” that covering trophies and Ryan’s smack talk motivated them in the most pivotal game of the year for both teams.
Ryan’s ability to grade out well in those key areas may mirror the Jets ability to be in position to grow into a club that truly can back the words Ryan once used to love to spew. Even if he keeps those thoughts more to himself at times this year.