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By now you’ve seen the video of Jets coach Rex Ryan dressing up like his twin brother and placing a bounty on his head before the Jets play the Browns. There was also this fantastic profile of the two brothers done by the Times earlier this week that featured the quote, “His bat’s tardy,” which is great on at least two levels. When you get Rex Ryan, you get a little extra showmanship for your dollar.
Now, we media folks are often deluded into loving any coach or player who has a personality and gives us fun things to write about. We’re willing to overlook their defective qualities because we just LIKE them so very much. Lord knows Matt Millen got off light from the likes of Kornheiser and Wilbon because he was buddy buddy with them.
But Rex Ryan is different. Ryan personality isn’t just some ruse designed to distract you from criticizing him. I’d argue that his personality and willingness to make an idiot of himself are part of what makes him a great coach.
Conversely, I think Bill Belichick has kind of ruined coaches for the past decade. Coaches see Belichick succeeding with a stoic demeanor and virtually no traces of any human qualities, and they assume that is how EVERY coach has to act in order to succeed. Don’t get cute. Don’t give the other team things to work with. Don’t make yourself a target.
What I like about Rex Ryan is that he has deliberately gone the other way and spit in the face of those conventions. You CAN say what’s really on your mind. You CAN occasionally goof off. You CAN be something more than a humorless coaching android.
And you know what? It worked. He’s beloved by his players, and the Jets are clearly now one of the best teams in the AFC. Ryan has screwed up plenty this year – a bad time management sequence against Minnesota, that bizarre fake punt by Steve Weatherford that he apparently was free to try – but he’s admitted as much. He hasn’t given overly elaborate and dopey explanations, as Mike Shanahan did when Donovan McNabb got benched.
He’s been, frankly, human. And it’s a quality I think many coaches lack, often purposefully, as if being human is somehow an impediment to success (Hi, Josh McDaniels!). With Rex Ryan, we may be on the verge of a whole new generation of great coaching characters in the NFL. I can’t wait.