It goes without saying that every NFL team and every NFL coach enters each and every season with the hope of winning a Super Bowl, but for the past three years, Rex Ryan has been the only one who feels the need to actually say it. In doing so, for three years, he's made the Jets look awfully bad.
Those Super Bowl predictions from the summer have a way of popping back up at the end of the season, which for the 2011 Jets looks to be coming on Sunday afternoon. Barring an absolute miracle, the Jets will not make the playoffs, meaning of course, that the Jets will not win the Super Bowl.
Now, for 31 teams, that is also the case, but only for the Jets is it a point of embarrassment. For that, they can thank their coach.
It's the same coach who is largely responsible for the team's success and the team reaching the AFC Championship Game the past two years despite a subpar quarterback — a feat even more impressive in today's pass-happy NFL. If he were the head coach of almost any other team, he'd be getting lauded for the work he's done.
He's a great football mind and he can get players to play, but at the same time, he sets that bar impossibly high. That bar is so high that when it's not met, people laugh and point, and newspapers run back pages with the giant headline, "Shut up, fat boy."
The problem isn't that Rex is confident; it's that Rex writes checks that his players have to cash. And no matter how good some of those players may be, it's simply hard to get that done on a consistent basis.
The most astute commentary came from Brandon Jacobs (which is an alarming sentence that I'd never thought I'd ever write).
"I do think them as players are put in places they don't really need to be by their coach," the Giants running back said of the Jets. "He needs to shut up. He's a great coach, I take nothing away from him. He comes from a great coaching family. But he needs to shut up."
It's more blunt than most of us would probably put it, but it's dead-on.
There's a reason that Bill Belichick, Mike McCarthy, Sean Payton, Tom Coughlin, Mike Tomlin or Mike Shanahan (the only active head coaches who have actually won the Super Bowl) don't roll into training camp every year declaring they're going to win the Super Bowl. It's because it's hard to do. It's because it distracts the team from the task at hand — next week's opponent. It's because there are no guarantees in any sport, but in football especially.
It's because nine times out of 10, no matter what, they're not going to win the Super Bowl. That's life in the NFL, and they know it.
So when Rex Ryan came rolling in prior to the 2009 season, talking about winning the Super Bowl and not kissing Belichick's rings, it was refreshing. He was bucking the trend and breaking the mold and all those other cliches. He was different.
But he wasn't, really, because his team wasn't different. His team was one of 32, meaning his team had a long, hard road ahead of it if it wanted to win a Super Bowl. For what looks to almost certainly be three straight years, they've failed to reach that goal.
It puts the Jets in a precarious position. Do you fire a coach that's led you to a 28-19 regular-season record and a 4-2 postseason record? That wouldn't seem too smart.
Do you neuter the guy and tell him to dial back the bravado? That seems almost worse.
No, the Jets are indeed married to Rex. They've stuck with him through foot fetish scandals, through a profanity-filled few weeks on Hard Knocks and through moments when he's stated his team was mathematically eliminated from the playoffs even though they weren't (whoops!). For better and for worse, he's their guy, and that means he'll continue to create distractions that will ironically get in the way of his team ever accomplishing what he says they'll do.
You can only thump your chest for so long until people start demanding you actually win. With Rex, the latter just never seems possible.