Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Has Rex Ryan Failed?

In their first 49 seasons of play, the New York Jets reached the American Football League or American Football Conference Championship game only 3 times: In 1968, 1982, and 1998.

In their next 2 seasons, 2009 and 2010, the first 2 seasons in which they had Rex Ryan as head coach, they made it to the AFC Championship Game both times.

However, it should be noted that, while the Jets, under head coach Wilbur "Weeb" Ewbank, did beat the Oakland Raiders in the 1968 AFL Championship Game, and went on to beat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, they have never won an AFC Championship Game.

Under Walt Michaels, they lost the 1982 game to the Miami Dolphins, in the "Mud Bowl" at the old Orange Bowl, the very stadium where they won their only Super Bowl. No shame there, the Dolphins were a very good team and led for much of the ensuing Super Bowl XVII.

Under Bill Parcells, they led the 1998 game over the Denver Broncos at the half, at Denver's Mile High Stadium no less, but lost. No shame there, the Broncos were 14-2, and were defending Super Bowl Champions, and went on to make it back-to-back titles in Super Bowl XXXIII.

Under Rex Ryan, the Jets advanced to the last 2 AFC Championship Games. In 2009-10, they gave the Indianapolis Colts a tough game in Indy before losing.

And last season, following emotional Playoff wins over the Bengals in Cincinnati and the New England Patriots in Foxboro -- the team's greatest achievement in 42 years -- they showed up far too late against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. My sister sent me a text message during that game, saying, "Arggggh the Jets!" I responded, "It ain't over til it's aw screw it it's over."

Still, getting to back-to-back AFC Championship Games is good, right? Of the 16 current AFC teams, 5 have not done it: The Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs -- and of those, the Begnals and Chiefs have been around for the entire life of the AFC. Make it 7 teams if you count the Tennessee Titans as being separate from the Houston Oilers.

On the other hand, how many teams have lost back-to-back AFC Championship Games? The Oakland Raiders (3 straight, 1973-75), the Oilers (1978-79), the San Diego Chargers (1980-81), the Cleveland Browns (1986-87)... and the Jets.

(In the NFC, there's been the 1970-71 San Francisco 49ers, the 1972-73 Dallas Cowboys, the 1974-76 Los Angeles Rams, the 1980-82 Cowboys, the 1992-93 49ers, and the 2001-03 Philadelphia Eagles.)

Well, so what? The Buffalo Bills won 4 straight AFC Championship Games... and lost 4 straight Super Bowls as a result! Does that mean that their coach, Marv Levy, failed? Actually, yes.

But while the Bills went into their first 2 Super Bowls rather cocky, it was nothing like what Rex has done with the Jets.

Like Joe Namath in January 1969, he has been predicting, even guaranteeing, that the Jets would win a Super Bowl.

They've gotten within 2 games of achieving that, twice... but haven't done it.

This season, he was predicting it before the season. Results? So far, the Jets are 5-5.

If the Jets run the table, they'll be 11-5, which is nearly always enough to at least win a Wild Card. If they go 5-1 the rest of the way, they'll be 10-6, which is often enough to reach the Wild Card, but not always. If they go 4-2, not a bad stretch by any means, they'll be 9-7, and the Playoffs would still be possible.

Their remaining games? Home to Buffalo this Sunday (tough one, even if they did beat the Bills in Orchard Park not that long ago), at Washington (should be a win, the Redskins are terrible this season and Landover is as bad a home-field advantage as RFK Stadium was a good one), home to Kansas City (the Chiefs got pounded by the Pats last night but were a Playoff team last year and I don't expect them to roll over), at Philadelphia (who knows which Eagles team is going to show up), officially a "home game" against the Giants on Christmas Eve afternoon (and the Giants have been hard to figure as well), and closing at Miami on New Year's Day afternoon.

None of those games will be easy, not even the last: We all know that the Jets, since January 12, 1969, anyway, have had trouble playing in Miami. On the other hand, all of these games are eminently winnable, if the Jets can avoid serious injuries and Mark Sanchez doesn't throw interceptions. The Jets are fortunate that the 3 hardest games of the season, the home-and-away with the Pats and the visit to Baltimore (all losses), are already out of the way.

But even if the Jets do win at least 5 of their last 6 and make the Playoffs, what then? After 2 AFC Championship Game losses, anything less than a Super Bowl win would mark this season as a failure.

The only question left is whether it marks Rex Ryan's tenure as a failure.

This may be the most talented Jets team ever. Indeed, I think they're every bit as good as Namath's 1968 team; the 1982 team that had Freeman McNeil, Wesley Walker, and the defensive line known as the New York Sack Exchange; Parcells' 1998 squad that came within 30 minutes of a Super Bowl trip; and Herman Edwards's never-say-die "play to win the game" AFC Eastern Division Champions of 2002.


But Rex has raised the bar too high. And it seems like every time he opens his mouth, he puts his foot in it.

Oh, was that a double-entendre?

In his column in Sunday's New York Daily News, Gary Myers spells it out.


Rex Ryan made a promise he will not be able to keep. He guaranteed the Jets were going to win the Super Bowl this season, which is going to be hard to do without making the playoffs.

Broken promises. Two years ago, he said the Jets should be the favorites to win it all. He didn’t guarantee anything, but was certainly implying the Jets would finish with the trophy in their hands.

Last season he declared the Jets “soon to be champs.” Soon, as in right away. He left no room for interpretation this year...

“I believe this is the year that we’re going to win the Super Bowl,” Ryan said in February. “I thought we’d win it the first two years. I guarantee we’ll win it this year.”

Ryan became a cult hero to Jets fans craving a championship. But there’s only so many times you can make a promise, not deliver, and then expect anybody to still pay attention...

Realistically, the Jets just completed a five-day stretch that puts an end to their dreams for 2011. There is nothing they’ve shown the first 10 games that would make anybody believe they can sweep their final six against the Bills, Redskins, Chiefs, Eagles, Giants and Dolphins.

They are 5-5, the essence of mediocrity. Their five losses are more than the Patriots, Bills, Steelers, Ravens, Bengals, Texans, Titans and Raiders have. The Broncos are tied with the Jets but own the tie-breaker. Right now, the Jets are in 10th place out of 16 teams in the composite AFC standings. Taking the four division winners out of the battle for the wild cards, the Jets would have to jump over four teams to get to the second wild-card spot. All five of their losses are in the AFC, which hurts, and they would lose the tie-breaker to the Ravens, Raiders and Broncos because they fell to each to them...

This was the defense Ryan has bragged about for three years? It couldn’t stop Tim Tebow? All he can do is run and he carved them for 57 yards on the ground on the final drive. I have never seen an NFL quarterback be as inept throwing the ball as Tebow...

Back in March, I was talking with Ryan on the street right outside the hotel in New Orleans where the NFL was holding its annual meetings. It was about one month after he had issued his Super Bowl guarantee. I mentioned he would lose credibility making statements like that if he didn’t deliver. Kind of like the boy who cried wolf.

Instead of showing concern about his words losing impact, Ryan compared himself to Babe Ruth, but only after first invoking the words of Teddy Roosevelt. It was an interesting way to express his confidence.

“They talk about walk softly and carry a big stick. I love that. I agree with that 100%,” Ryan said. “But I guess I feel more like Babe Ruth. I’m going to walk softly, I’m going to carry that big stick and then I’m going to point and then I’m going to hit it over the fence.” ...

There is no joy in Jetville. The Mighty Rex has struck out... How many times can Ryan guarantee the Super Bowl? Broken promises.


Joe Namath guaranteed a Super Bowl win in 1969. He delivered, and the Jets were World Champions.

Mark Messier guaranteed a key Playoff win in 1994. He delivered, and the Rangers went on to become World Champions. To my everlasting dismay and disgust.

Jim Fassel guaranteed a Playoff berth in 2000. He delivered, and the Giants got all the way to the Super Bowl before losing.

They succeeded.

Patrick Ewing guaranteed an NBA Championship for the Knicks a few times. Not until 2009, when he was an assistant coach with the Orlando Magic, did one of his guarantees come true (beating the Boston Celtics in a Game 7). As a Knick, he failed.

Rex Ryan has to lead the Jets to a Super Bowl. If not this season, then the next. If he doesn't do it in either one, then he is no longer helping this team, as he once did.

If, as we go to bed on February 3, 2013, the New York Jets have won neither Super Bowl XLVI or Super Bowl XLVII, Rex Ryan needs to be fired. For cause. For failure.

Because, as things stand right now, he is a failure.

Sure, Tom Coughlin of the Giants is more likely to lose his job first... but he is not a failure. He won a Super Bowl for a New York team.

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