Jets head coach Rex Ryan is in the final stages of a nightmare season, with questions arising about whether he will be the coach next season, who will be his quarterback, and if his team can ever actually reach it’s potential.
Former Ravens and Jets defensive tackle Trevor Pryce is quite familiar with Rex Ryan the coach and the person. Pryce writes a guest column for the New York Times on occasion, and recently wrote that “the nice guy Rex Ryan impedes the success of the coach Rex Ryan.”
If every team had the exact same talent level on its roster, and commanding an N.F.L. sideline involved nothing more than X’s and O’s, Ryan would be one of the more revered coaches in sports. He is a brilliant strategist, a man who works to the point of exhaustion and possesses a passion for and knowledge of football that is unmatched. Combine that with the fact that no coach in the N.F.L knows how to get more out of less, and you have the makings of a perennial championship contender.
Sadly for Ryan’s fans and friends, being a head coach these days has very little to do with X’s and O’s and more to do with your personality. And the two personality traits that are stopping him from being a great head coach are the same two that make him a great human being: He is loyal to the point of defiance, and he cares enormously about the people around him.
Ryan somehow winds up with players nobody wants and then talks about them as if they are Pro Bowlers in order to build their confidence. In some cases, he is right, and the player ends up being a contributor for years. Bart Scott is one of the most successful examples. But in way too many cases Ryan is wrong, and that reality eventually becomes painfully apparent. The examples of defensive end Aaron Maybin and all of his current quarterbacks come to mind.
No one ever said Ryan was not a tough coach or a competitor. He is. It’s the reason he used to record the fights in practice and took the Jets to two AFC championship games in a row. But these days being tough is not quite enough. In today’s world of access and social media, a head coach also has to be cold and calculating.
The day is going to come when his player and coaching decisions will be made with the same cutthroat efficiency that you find in places like New England, Baltimore and Philadelphia. Ryan will realize he has no choice but to develop that same poisonous “him or me” attitude that permeates almost every other head coach in the NFL. And on that day the Jets will gain one of the better head coaches in the league. At the same time they will lose one of its better human beings.
Pryce delivered some ether to Ryan but also spoke some resounding truth from a perspective only a few can relate to.
Here’s hoping Rex takes his advice.