I still remember the day Rex Ryan was hired as the head coach of the New York Jets.
At the time I was lost (not literally, but figuratively), living with three buddies, spending my night’s bartending to pay the bills, and passing time during the day trying to figure out any conceivable way to get into the sports writing field. It was the beginning of the newspaper decline, and at the time there wasn’t a single place in the country looking to hire a 23-year-old with a journalism degree.
Back then, just about the only sliver of joy in my life was listening to the Michael Kay radio show on my drive into bartend at night. Kay is great at what he does, a typical stubborn New Yorker, someone who is argumentative almost to a fault, and an eternal pessimist. It made for incredibly entertaining radio, especially when he would bicker with his young 20/20 update girl, some gal named Michelle Beadle.
That’s also why I so distinctly remember the day Ryan was hired: After his introductory press conference, Kay was over the moon for him, swooning like a 14-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.
Now before we go further, there is one thing you need to understand: At the time, nobody talked about the Jets on sports radio. Nobody. Even when the Knicks were missing the playoffs every year, the Mets were irrelevant and the Yankees were in the off-season, it didn’t matter. The Jets were the little engine that couldn’t, the franchise unable to get out of its own way, the team that was everyone else’s punch-line. Even when they tried to do something to grab headlines, it always fell apart in the most Jet-like way possible. Remember, it was that fall when the Jets traded for Brett Favre (yes that happened) and won eight of their first 11 games…only to lose four out of their last five and miss the playoffs. That’s the Jets for you.
It’s also why Rex Ryan’s opening press conference caught everyone off-guard. There was no clichéd coach-speak, no building for the future, or discussion of a five-year plan. The only plan in the future was to win the Super Bowl. Literally. The following is the direct quote that Rex Ryan used in his opening press conference:
"First off, with all the cameras I was looking for our new president [Barack Obama] back there. I think we'll get to meet him in the next couple of years anyway.”
The implication obviously being, “I plan on winning a Super Bowl and bringing my team to the White House.”
Well when he said that, I mean… I can’t express how excited that one comment got people in New York. Really though, those two sentences told you everything you needed to know about Rex Ryan. In essence, he was going to say what he wanted to say and do what he wanted to do, and he didn’t care one bit what you thought of it.
Flash-forward three years and not all that much has changed with Rex. The guy does what he wants, outside opinion be damned. If Rex Ryan wants to sign a guy straight out of prison, trade for a trouble-maker or start a seventh round draft pick, he’s going to do it. Rex Ryan doesn’t care what you think. He marches to the beat of Rex Ryan’s drum. And you know what? For the most part, it’s worked. This was an organization that had made one AFC Championship Game in the 25 years before he got there. He’s gotten to two in three years. Rex Ryan’s a much better football coach than anyone gives him credit for.
Well on Wednesday, Rex Ryan proved once again that he doesn’t care what you think, by doing the most Rex Ryan-ish thing known to man. You’ve probably heard that Rex Ryan looked into the eye of the Tebow-mania storm, and jumped right in.
By now we’ve all had a chance to swallow and digest the trade, the ins, the outs, the ups, and (mostly) downs, and as best I can tell, most everyone hates the trade. They’re still spitting out the same boring arguments they’ve been using for months; that Tebow can’t throw, that the way he plays is not a sustainable way to win football games. They’ve also started talking about his arrival will “stunt” the development of Mark Sanchez, as if the Jets aren’t supposed to have a single other quarterback on their entire roster. Sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.
Of people who support this trade, well it’s a select few. Mainly, the Tebow family, the Jets front office, Skip Bayless and… me.
That’s right, if you’ve read my work before, you know that I not only like this trade, I love it. And I fully expect Tebow and Rex Ryan to make sweet music together.
Why? Well remember that when I wrote about Tebow after the Peyton Manning signing, my biggest key bullet-point was this: Whoever traded for Tim Tebow had to be all-in and fully believe in him. There could be no waffling. No indecision. No uncertainty. Everyone from the head coach to the owner to the guy who sells popcorn on the third deck had to believe in what Tebow was doing. They didn’t have to guarantee him the starting spot, just the opportunity to earn it. That was a luxury that he was never fully afforded in Denver, but one that he will appear to get in New York.
Now, going in the other direction, let’s flip this around and look at Mark Sanchez for a second. As I said in my article on Wednesday, you should never give up on a young quarterback, especially one that’s won as many big games as Sanchez has. He should be the starter until someone jumps up and takes that position from him. Maybe it’ll happen and maybe they won’t.
At the same, let’s pump the breaks on Sanchez here a little bit too. Personally, I don’t really “get” why people are so stunned that the Jets made this move, if only because a few weeks ago they were going after Peyton Manning. Wasn’t that a hint right there that maybe Sanchez wasn’t the quarterback of the present or future in New York?
And while trading for Tebow isn’t the same as signing Manning, it kind of is. You either believe in your quarterback or you don’t, and if you do, you don’t flirt with other guys, whether it’s Manning, Tebow or Johnny Unitas straight from the grave. I mean, isn’t there a reason that Manning never made trips to the Chargers, Texans, Packers and about 20 other teams in the league? Of course there is. That reason is that those teams believe in their quarterbacks. It’s pretty obvious that to some degree the Jets don’t.
And by the way, while we’re on the subject of Sanchez, if you don’t mind me asking, umm, when did he become a young Joe Montana? The way people have been talking about him the last few days, you’d think he was a 10-time Pro Bowler and five-time Super Bowl champ. What I see every time I look at him is an incredibly flawed, incredibly erratic passer that hasn’t really developed in three years in the league. Sure his stats are better than Tebow’s, but then again, isn’t that kind of like saying ‘Two Broke Girls’ is a better show than ‘The Big Bang Theory?’ If they both suck, why does it matter who is “better.”
Speaking of which, Sanchez’s numbers actually aren’t better at all. His completion percentage is better sure, at 55 percent for his career, compared to Tebow’s famed 48 percent. Then again, Sanchez has also thrown 55 touchdowns in his career to 51 interceptions… numbers that I’m pretty sure just made every Jets fan reading bang their head against their desk.
Still, break those numbers down further, and it’s clear to me that Tebow is frankly the better quarterback. Obviously you can’t just compare touchdowns to touchdowns and interceptions to interceptions, since Tebow has basically played a third of the games that Sanchez has. What you can do however is look at it like this: Mark Sanchez has thrown 782 passes in his career, with 51 interceptions, an average of one interception every 15 passes. Tebow? He’s thrown six interceptions in 271 passes, an average of one interception every 45 passes. Well in that sense, which quarterback would you rather have? Even if you don’t think Tebow is a long-term answer, can’t we all agree that Sanchez might not be either? Shouldn’t the Jets at least be considering other options?
They should, and the more I think about it, the more I think that by the middle of next season, Tebow will be the full time starter. Besides the fact that I fully expect Sanchez to wilt under the pressure (of course, there’s no way for me to prove that right now), and besides the fact that Tebow’s game is better suited to do exactly what Rex Ryan wants (mainly, keep the ball on the ground) what reason has Tebow given us to think otherwise?
No seriously, what has he done to make us think he won’t be the full-time starting quarterback? Forget the “all he does is win” crap and just use last year as an example. People remember Tebow passing up Kyle Orton last fall, but what they forget is that there were reports that he entered the season as fourth on the Broncos depth chart. Fourth! That’s right, not only was he Orton, but also Brady Quinn and Adam Weber too, the latter of which might be selling kitchen knives door-to-door right now for all I know. Well, in the end, only one of them was the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos, and only one won a division crown. I think we all know who that guy was.
And finally, there’s Ryan himself.
Look, we’ve all made the foot fetish/Antonio Cromartie/Plax Burress/fat jokes about him, but the guy can coach. Yes, at times he’s maybe too much of a player’s coach, but then again, is that a bad thing? Part of the reason guys love him so much is because there is no non-sense, no politics, no BS. The best player will play, whether you’re a thug or choir boy, literally straight out of jail or a religious freak.
Does that make the Jets the Super Bowl favorite? Of course not. The AFC favorite? No way. Heck, they’re not even the best team in the AFC East. But for the first time in a long time, Tebow has a coach that believes in him, a system that fits him, and a defense (which we didn’t even really talk about) who will make plays for him.
In every sense of the word, Tim Tebow and the Jets are perfect together. They’re a match made in heaven.
And finally if you haven't heard, Aaron Torres has written a new book, 'The Unlikeliest Champion' on last year's NCAA Tournament Champion UConn Huskies. It's available in paperback and on Kindle right now at Amazon.com! )