Article first appeared on Blogcritics.
Rex Ryan, Jets head coach and intimidating master of his domain, seems ready for a big fall. It isn't enough that he has negotiated his path with his foot in and out of his mouth going on three seasons, but now all the king's men are not loyal to his service, so even if the big guy falls off the wall, it is unlikely they will all rush to put him together again.
"Controversial" seems to be a word that is always connected with Ryan. He brags about his team, sometimes without thinking, and oftentimes even if he has time to think he still blabbers about things that are potentially damaging to the team. He is like a parent who keeps telling his kid that he is a prodigy, but the kid can barely play the piano and hits all the wrong keys. Then he goes on bragging to the other parents about how great his son plays and puts him in the spotlight, only to see the child fall apart on stage. Incongruously, he learns little or nothing from this and continues to push the child without ever doing the most sensible thing - teach him how to play the piano the right way.
This turmoil on the Jets is nothing new. Ryan seems to enjoy it, even if it is a subconscious pleasure, and manifests situations which continually mix things up. Unfortunately, the big guy is not just a straw that stirs the drink, but rather a blender that has the cover off. But if Rex doesn't like the heat, why does he keep putting himself in the kitchen you may ask. The answer is not because he is looking for a gargantuan snack, but more likely that he is unable to stop himself, sort of like the shark that eats its own intestines after you slit open its belly.
If the things I hear on talk radio on sports stations here in New York are even half accurate, the Jets locker room has more protesters than can be found in lower Manhattan in Zuccotti Park. Many people see this unrest as a key to the team's terrible start (2-3), but the problem is inherent in the culture that Rex has established in the team. Anyone who watched the HBO show Hard Knocks last season can tell you that Rex wants his guys to win and aspire to be a bad boy bunch as they mow down the competition. Sometimes this has worked for him, but now his methodology seems to be imploding.
When questions have been rightly raised about quarterback Mark Sanchez and his throwing problems, suddenly the focus shifts and it's the offensive line that is to blame, or even more specifically offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Derrick Mason complains about the line, and before you can say Gang Green, Mason is traded to the Texans. This goes a long way to qualifying King Rex's rule over his kingdom, as obviously he is ready to banish those who do not show loyalty to him or his minions.
Now we have Santonio Holmes complaining about the offensive line. Apparently Plaxico Burress has also complained, and right guard Brandon Moore is accusing Holmes of being "disrespectful" and causing dissension on the team. Center Nick Mangold has indicated that he has no problems with Holmes, but one wonders how true that can be. Clearly, the writing is on the wall and Rex, not that light on his feet to begin with, is walking a shaky path on top of it.
Rex can say that none of this matters, that his offensive line has "skin like an armadillo," but there is a fear for this Jets fan that this season is on the brink of being lost. I am not at all certain that you can blame the linemen for Sanchez's performance thus far, and perhaps it is legitimate to blame Schottenheimer (but he is not the guy throwing the ball), who says "The team's a family and all families have disagreements." Is Schottenheimer pretending not to notice the jeers of the fans? They and some of the players think it best if he goes, but Rex is standing by his man (at least for now).
So the chicken or the egg question this week is this: is it just that Sanchez is not throwing the ball well, or is it because the line is not giving him enough time to throw it even if he were? The painful process of watching the last three games seems to clarify things for me: poor blocking, the lack of Schottenheimer's "pound and ground" game of running the ball, and no success putting the ball in the air either because of Sanchez throwing poorly or receivers not catching the ball.
In the next episode of the ongoing soap opera that is As Gang Green Turns, the guest star this week is the Miami Dolphins (0-4), coming into the New Meadowlands Stadium for the big Monday night game. The Jets are coming off three losses in a row, and there should be no doubt about the outcome of this one, but right now there is nothing but uncertainty. If the Jets should lose this game, Rex may indeed have that big fall from the wall, and all his horses and all his men are going to run in different directions. If that is the case, Rex will lie there in the hot sun for a long time, and the season may well be over after six games. How do you pick up the pieces after that?
Photo Credits: Ryan - New York Daily News; Sanchez - New York Post