There has to be a sinister Microsoft Word macro running amok on all media laptops, a trigger that changes every "Jets" or "Rex Ryan" into a misguided and idiotic COLUMN full of inaccuracies, mischaracterizations, and the good old one-sentence paragraphs that punctuate the ineptitude. I hope that to be the case, because the alternative leaves us with the idea that a good chunk of well-paid scribes lack the ability to process information critically. Here's one auto-generated column for you, written by Kevin Manahan at USA Today.
Central premise of the article? Rex Ryan lacks the genetic capacity to be an intelligent head coach. I kid you not; Manahan believes that Ryan's DNA prohibits him from head coaching success. He ignores some pretty simple, easily Googled facts here. Rex has 4 playoff wins in his first years. He went to two consecutive AFC Championship games with Mark Sanchez as his starter. His career winning percentage through his first four years is .531, tops in Jets history. He is not, and never has been, some woefully underqualified bumpkin struggling to get 5 wins.
Yet, once you've taken this inaccurate and oddly phrenological position, you have to follow that road of idiocy all the way to its misguided conclusion. For Manahan, this means that Rex must be fired immediately for the audacity to continue a position-battle and play his second-string quarterback with other backup players. Pre-injury Mark Sanchez was a bottom-five starter in the league; post-injury Sanchez has somehow morphed into Tom Brady with a Fu-Manchu and a headband.
Manahan takes this injury and projects it across Rex's entire coaching career. He writes "Some guys can't handle the pressure of the top spot. Ryan has shown that. Some guys can't see the big-picture perspective of a franchise (which includes the offense). Rex has shown that, too. Some guys, like Ryan, are not a steady hand on the wheel." Once again, the Jets are .531 under his helm with back-to-back AFC Championship appearances. The "circus" season that everyone clings to as an example of the Jets' ineptitude? They finished 6-10 after losing their best player on offense and defense, good for the 9th worst record that year. Yes, big funny moments like the butt-fumble and everything Tebow ever did come to mind, but the season as a whole is textbook mediocrity.
Next on the hackenyed checklist is the ever-present little brother characterization. On the fateful night of SHOULDERPOCOLYPSE!, the Jets happened to play the Giants. Manahan explains that these are the very Giants that "despite having an often-crotchety, always-lousy-quote head coach -- have three healthy quarterbacks, too. (And a reputation as one of the most respected franchises in the league.)" I'm not sure the point here. Does Tom Coughlin's lack of personality keep his quarterbacks healthier? Is sternness the force that keeps Eli upright, and not his insistence on breathing solely through his mouth? He wanted to take a shot by evoking the Giants, had no ammo, and just tossed up a random collection of words hoping it would stick.
Here's where Manahan displays a fundamental lack of research on the situation. He explains that after Geno's poor showing, "Sanchez had won the job by default. It was the result Ryan had wished for – because Sanchez, for all his faults and hairbands, would have given the Jets the best chance to win in 2013 and would have given Ryan the best chance to save his job." This is absolutely incorrect. Sanchez's poor play led Rex into this predicament in the first place, and he spent most of last season rightly derided for his inability to bench Sanchez. Rex needs to distance himself completely from Sanchez if he wants to escape with his job, cutting the ties on that dead weight and show the capacity to run a team with a capable quarterback.
Manahan then adds "Because, for all the bluster he brought to New Jersey -- for all the promises of world championships and top-five defenses – Ryan is a guy who has been making boneheaded decisions for the past three seasons, and not little ones, either." According to Football Outsiders, the Jets D has ranked 1st, 5th, 2nd, and 9th in DVOA in Rex's four years. How does a nationally syndicated columnist not fact check this nonsense?
We're reaching critical mass now. Manahan makes the claim that Sanchez finally pieced everything together, a belief that flies in the face of his pick-6 in the first preseason game, his interception in the red zone during the second preseason game, his inability to manage the clock at the end of the first half in the second game, and the broad failure to improve his decision-making. He explains "And now, just when the Jets appeared to have rehabbed Sanchez into at least a serviceable starter who could get them through at least part of 2013, Ryan screwed that up, too." This sentence is masterful. It manages to contradict the entire argument preceding it- how can Rex rehab his quarterback if he's a know-nothing idiot who lacks the fundamental brain power to be a head coach?
And that, very neatly, is the entire problem with the media characterization of Ryan and the Jets. Rex is an idiot who can't coach, but he's also capable of rehabbing a broken quarterback into a serviceable starter. They're the laughingstock of the league, but they're above .500 under Rex with two championship games in four years. Beat writers attack the team for not knowing their starting quarterback, but the Bills can start an undrafted rookie with nary a peep from ESPN.
One writer calls the Jets a circus, the next attacks the team for being a circus, and the self-fullfilling cycle continues forever, a parasite surviving on the very waste that it produces.