It hasn't taken long to realize that Rex Ryan revels in getting under other people's skin. It was about five minutes into his introductory press conference that he made it clear that he was going to do things his way, a way that includes making bold predictions and speaking his mind about topics big and small. It was inevitable that it was going to rub some the wrong way, especially in the increasingly bland NFL landscape, and there are going to be points where he leaves himself open to ridicule when his team can't back up his big talk.
And he'll deserve it when it happens. He doesn't deserve the column that Michael Ventre of NBCSports.com turned in about the Jets this week, however. And Jets fans certainly don't deserve to be turned into collateral damage just because a guy doesn't appreciate Ryan's bravado or, as he calls it, "boorish behavior. Ventre doesn't wait long before going after the fans, which shows he's not against boorishness when it suits his purpose.
Fans of the New York Jets have a unique place in the hearts of America. Of course, congenital defects, clots and LDL cholesterol also fit that description.
The typical Jets fan is male, about 26-35, built like Weeb Eubank, and has been wearing the same No. 12 jersey since the sixth grade, a garment that usually has been spared the indignity of repeated machine washings. The most important day in the life of a Jets’ fan is Draft Day, when he and his brethren gather inside a New York ballroom or arena to greet the franchise’s selections with catcalls and language that would make a Merchant Marine drop anchor so he could cover his ears.
Take that, you ill-mannered Neanderthals! This is football, not monster truck racing! Ventre is actually performing an amazing public service here. Nine out of 10 cardiologists will tell you that knowing three Jets fans is the same as eating a half-pound bacon-cheeseburger every day for 15 years. Bet you didn't know that. If that wasn't enough, you also didn't know that the Titans, Falcons and Chiefs were supported by fans who were female, 19-24, built like Adrianna Lima and wearing Armani evening gowns that are lovingly cleaned by teams of munchkins specially trained in the art of getting stains out of garments. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.
But, wait, there's a savior in the midst. Mark Sanchez has arrived to give this woeful group of pathetic human beings who root for the Jets a chance at making something of their sad little lives.
The arrival of the gifted and chronically upbeat Sanchez, coupled with the installment of Rex Ryan as head coach, sent tremors through Jets Nation. No longer would Jets Fan have to comfort himself with a 24-ounce draft and a chili-covered knish, although he certainly left that option open. The team’s fortunes were on the upswing. Joy to the %$#@! world. ... The USC product is supremely confident without being abrasive. He is so appealing that Jets Fan has to resist the temptation to put cheese and onions on him.
So there's some hope, but just remember that Jets fans are fat. And drunk. And use profanity. And mistake quarterbacks for hot dogs. That's what caused Vinny Testaverde's Achilles to blow in 1999, you know. A Jet fan mistook him for a Hebrew National and took a big bite out of his ankle and ruined the whole season. Fight that urge, you disgusting fiends!
While Sanchez is confident without being abrasive, his coach is the opposite. Ryan is everything wrong with football.
Ryan has instilled a positive attitude in his players. Unfortunately, he also placed chips on their shoulders and apparently has encouraged them to act like MMA promoters. ... Actually, the rest of the NFL, the fans and the media will ultimately decide [if the Jets are respected], Rex. Right now you should concentrate on the fact that your team has only played two games, and you’ve already used up 16 games’ worth of chutzpah.
Chutzpah! Well played, sir. You see there are a lot of Yiddish speakers here in New York and they will certainly be put off by a football coach who has chutzpah. Lord knows that Super Bowls are never won by arrogant teams with chips on their shoulder. Why, I recall that before Super Bowl III these very Jets had some long-haired hedonist playing quarterback for them who had the temerity to suggest that he'd win the game despite widespread feelings that his team didn't have a chance. How'd that work out?
It’s just that the Jets have a chance to build a legacy of football excellence, but they’ve chosen to get there by crawling through a mud wrestling pit. And that’s too bad.
Did Ryan run over this guy's poodle with his pickup truck? The Jets are trying to build a legacy of football excellence on the back of an agressive, attacking defense and a rookie quarterback they think can lead their offense efficiently and effectively. Sound familiar? It should, since its the blueprint followed by the Steelers, Giants, Patriots and most of the other teams that have won the Super Bowl. You'd think the Jets signed Josef Mengele, Pol Pot and O.J. Simpson.
It goes on and on from there. Look, it is totally fine to be rubbed the wrong way by Ryan's approach and totally fine to point out its drawbacks. Making it seem like arrogance or a lack of humility is somehow antithetical to coaching football "the right way" is patently false, however. How much humility has Bill Belichick shown over the years? Or Bill Parcells? Was Jimmy Johnson a shrinking violet?
You see what we're getting at, here. Whether his players act like MMA promoters or PTA members, Ryan's success or failure is going to be decided by how much his team wins. Maybe he will be hated throughout the NFL, but only if he wins. If he loses, he won't be hated. He'll be ridiculed and fired and used as a cautionary tale for future coaches. Believe me, Ryan will take being hated any day over the other options.
Mistaking the NFL for some genteel tea party isn't the worst thing about Ventre's column, however. It's the repeated attacks on Jets fans for daring to be happy about the direction of their team and the fact that they've won two games to start the season. Leaving out the absolutely irrelevant attacks on the way they look, what football team's fans would be feeling any differently?
The whole piece engages in far more mudslinging than the Jets are accused of and falls well short of a convincing argument of why Ryan or Jets fans should be embarrassed about anything that's going on.