Behind the Bench, Sports

Third man in: Rooting for Rex

In the world of professional sports, it’s easy to find athletes whose behaviour is unpredictable, bizarre, or downright obnoxious. In the NBA, MLB, and NFL, it is commonplace to witness multimillionaire athletes doing and saying outrageous things. It’s a little more challenging to find that same type of individual in the professional coaching ranks. But when these people do crop up, they deserve to be applauded rather than condemned. Rex Ryan, rookie coach of the New York Jets, has broken the NFL coaching mould this year, becoming the antithesis of the stoic, hard-nosed, and impenetrable coaches that typify pro football. Most people hate him, but I love him.

Football fans: here is your everyman. Coaching in arguably the toughest city in America, Ryan has imposed his personality over his players, the media, and other teams. It’s great to see a coach who is willing to show his true colours so boldly, for better or for worse. Ryan is loud, brash, and honest, and while his audacity may bother a lot of people, I find it refreshing. The league is too stuffy and secretive, and it’s about time the game has been given a coach who’s actually willing to show emotion. Without further ado, here are some reasons to love Rex.

Swagger: At the beginning of the year, Ryan left phone messages for every single season ticket holder, telling them that he didn’t come to New York “to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings.” He wasted no time in making his presence felt. Ryan was quick to claim at the start of the AFC playoffs that the bottom-seeded Jets should be favoured to win the Superbowl. Before the playoffs even started, he handed out playoff itineraries to his team that detailed every practice until the Superbowl, ending with plans for the victory parade. He has confidence in spades, and that has rubbed off on his team and brought them together.

He trusts his players: Ryan has let his young players learn from their mistakes, which is exactly what a young offence needs in order to grow. Rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez showed signs of brilliance and incompetence, but clearly has absorbed Ryan’s intense, win-at-all-costs attitude. Also, victories don’t lie: the Jets’ unlikely 5-1 finish to the season, coupled with key wins over playoff teams like the Patriots, Colts, and Bengals show that Ryan is doing something right.

A sense of humor: After a tough loss in Jacksonville this year, Ryan broke down in front of his team and the media, openly weeping about the team’s future. He later made fun of his blubbering by bringing a box of Kleenex to a press conference after the following game. Bill Belichick would never, ever have done that.

The Jets’ defence is unreal: Ryan came over from Baltimore looking to bring a defensive intensity to New York and replicate the Ravens’ legendary defensive unit. The Jets gave up the fewest total yards and fewest total points all season. Ryan is the only rookie head coach in the history of the NFL to achieve this feat.

Playoff football is about emotion and momentum, and Ryan has given his team both with plenty to spare. With Saturday’s victory over Cincinnati, New York is two wins away from the Superbowl, and the future is bright in Jets land. Up to this point, it seems as if the only thing Ryan hasn’t been able to do is teach Braylon Edwards how to catch a football.

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