Let's face it, Rex Ryan and his twin brother, Rob, are easy to poke fun at. They set themselves up for ridicule with their bombastic predictions and larger-than-life personalities. They're overweight, so their critics can take the low road in that department if so desired. The words "class" and "dignity" rarely find themselves in the same sentence with the Ryan brothers. And when they are wrong (which is often nowadays), they rarely back down from their previous pronouncements. They've become cartoon characters, with eye rolls now automatically employed with every utterance by the pair.
Leading up to the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game, Rob made this very Ryan-like statement on bringing his family to New York with him: "I want them to be there when we win the East." Well, we know how that turned out. In the two most important games of the season for both teams, his Cowboys gave up a total of 69 points to the Giants. Not the stuff of bragging and boasting. Rex has made one Super Bowl prediction after another in his three seasons as head coach of the New York Jets, and we also know how that has worked out. Neither will ever make a living as a soothsayer or fortune teller. But neither will ever stop trying, it seems.
The chorus that has been sung during Rex's tenure with the Jets has gone something like this: "He's a player's coach, whose team would run through a wall for him." He's been the winner of polls on which players want to play for which coach in the NFL. He builds his players up, infusing them with the same swagger that runs through his veins. Who wouldn't want to play for him? But now his team is out of control. The defense is pointing fingers at the offense. Some offensive players are blaming Mark Sanchez. There has been in-fighting all year long. Everyone in the tri-state area blames Brian Schottenheimer. And now the Santonio Holmes benching is the last snapshot we have of the 2011 Jets. Naming Holmes captain was a shaky proposition in the first place, and foisting leadership skills on someone who doesn't possess them completely backfired. And was Rex in control, front and center when his pet project blew up in his face? Here's his answer: "I looked out there and was wondering why he wasn't out there myself. I did not bench Santonio. Maybe you'll have to ask him."
Having villains in sports is always good. Of course I mean a fun sports villain, not a real Jerry Sandusky-like villain. Besides a hero to root for, we need that loathed counterpart to make the winning all that much sweeter. So both Ryans are filling a need. Defeating the Jets and Cowboys is twice as much fun (or three times when it comes to Dallas if you take Jerry Jones into account). And for Jet fans and Cowboy lovers, when their team wins, there's nothing wrong with being the bad guy who comes to town and stomps on their opponents' dreams, like the Jets did to the Patriots last year and Peyton Manning and the Colts. If a player or coach or general manager in professional sports doesn't have full confidence in himself, he'll get eaten alive. So believing in oneself is a must in their business. But it's always better to have a quiet confidence. And one doesn't have to look far to see exhibits A and B in Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning. Not everyone can be Joe Namath or Muhammad Ali, and if one's guarantees go bad, the harder the fall will be. And on Sunday, the Ryan twins fell with a pronounced thump.
When Rex Ryan signed on with the Jets, he brought the circus to town with him. At first, it was a fun, entertaining circus, but now that circus is a little bit scary, with the clowns frightening onlookers and the ring leader losing control of his charges. Rex and Rob were both humbled big time on Sunday (not to mention the previous Sunday as well). But do they even realize it? Probably not. Here's Rex after the devastating end to his season: "I believe we will win the Super Bowl. I will believe it for the next 15 years. So you can get all the articles out there. That's fine and dandy. For me, I'll find a way to make this team better. I will." And the beat goes on.