The Rex Ryan show is now in its fourth year of existence down in New York, and by this point one thing is clear: Ryan, and by extension the Jets teams that he coaches, absolutely revel in controversy. After making it to the AFC championship game in his first two season at the helm of the team, it’s easy to make the argument that it’s been a successful strategy, foot fetishes, quarterback controversies and Super Bowl guarantees included.
However, the brawls that the Jets recently engaged in point to the inevitable — this mode of operation is also a ticking time bomb, and any coach and team that is so oft-criticized and analyzed for locker room and off-the-field behavior cannot thrive for any extended period of time.
In short, the best coaches and managers are generally the most boring. As entertaining as it is to hear someone like Ryan boast of future victories or, say, Ozzie Guillen go off on another profanity-laced tirade, these instances don’t serve the long-term interests of the team.
Bobby Valentine's recent, seemingly spur-of-the-moment decision to shout "I'm not trying to get fired!" during a cameras-rolling segment being record by Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy falls into this category. The controversy surrounding Valentine's job was already out there for public consumption, so why bother adding fuel to the fire and attract extra attention during an already tense time?
Like Ryan and Valentine with the New York Mets, Guillen initially had a great deal of success with the Chicago White Sox, winning a World Series in 2005 — his second year on the job — after earning a contract extension earlier in the season, just a year-and-a-half into his tenure. However, that relationship would turn out to be ill-fated as Guillen, quite frankly, wore out his welcome in Chicago, with the former shortstop engaging in a very public feud with general manager Kenny Williams — previously one of Guillen’s most ardent supporters.
The safe bet says Ryan’s stay in New York ends similarly, with some extracurricular controversy or another — of his own creation, probably — ultimately bringing him down and forcing Jets management into presenting Ryan as their sacrificial lamb.
Conversely, if you want a crash course in how to properly run a professional sports franchise, the Jets have to look no further than a couple hundred miles north to New England, where Bill Belichick may be the least-quotable man ever to grace the sidelines or dugout, but it’s on that foundation of a steady-as-she-goes mentality that the Patriots have thrived over the long term.
Basically, Ryan raises the Jets’ profile on the media radar and invites upon his team all the extra questions and criticism that comes with it every time he opens his mouth. Every time Belichick speaks, people usually tune it out because he rarely has anything candid or even particularly insightful to say – and that’s absolutely by design.
Coaches like Bill Belichick and managers like Terry Francona or Los Angeles’ Mike Scioscia will never, ever throw a player under the bus. They will never give away more information than they absolutely need to. They will never bring undue attention to themselves or the team — at least not intentionally.
Conversely, every time Ryan guarantees a Super Bowl victory or Guillen compliments a despotic dictator, it invites negative attention. And despite the theory that these managers are deflecting attention away from their players and onto themselves, in the case of Ryan he’s completely manufacturing news that doesn’t even need to exist.
Protecting your player is what Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy famously did when he engaged in his infamous rant. That was a situation that was already out in the media, and Gundy did everything he could to take the pressure off of his player and onto himself.
No one makes Ryan or Guillen open their mouths. They choose to do so willingly, and for who knows what reason — it’s hard not to speculate on narcissism. But whatever the impetus, their actions don’t deflect attention, they invite it. And their players are the ones who have to deal with the fallout.
And, in the case of the Jets, they’re apparently beginning to mentally crack under the pressure.