Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Jets Blog: Revisiting the Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez Regime

By Adam Maher

One of my favorite lines in Hollywood history is from the 1994 classic, "Little Giants." Becky "Ice Box" O'Shea is having a heated argument with the new kid on the block/best 10-year-old football player of all time, probably on steroids, Spike Hammersmith, and proceeds to give him a good old fashioned, "You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?!"

In regards to this Jets season, there was a two-part thinking sequence that led me to remember this quote.

Part one: It's safe to say the New York Jets embody the label "Little Giants" more-so now than Becky and the gang could ever have dreamed - in the literal interpretation of the title, of course.

Part two: Nobody, and I mean absolutely nobody, talks more talk and walks less walk in the entire sports industry than New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan.

Disclaimer: I want to make it clear that I am indeed a Jets fan. And I want you to consider this read a parallel to the fact that you may call your sister ugly, but nobody else can.

Now let's get down to it.

In year one of the Sanchez/Ryan regime, coming off the fun-loving Brett Favre dick-pic saga, the Jets were able to get to the AFC Championship game without their captain, Leon Washington. Leon got hurt in October that year and missed the rest of the season. Thomas Jones and then-rookie Shonn Greene took his place. Fun fact: Greene rushed for 144 yards and two TDs the day Washington got hurt against the Raiders - so much for foreshadowing a career of success. Moving onto year two of the Sanchez/Ryan regime, another leader fell victim to injury and missed the rest of the season - All Pro nose tackle Kris Jenkins. Kris Jenkins was the key to the Jets defense, just like Revis is now. Without him, the defense is still good, but Super Bowl good? No way. And who could forget all the extra-curricular activities from 2010? Sal Alosi tripping a Miami player from the sidelines? Or Braylon Edwards rocking that "beard" to court, answering for DUI, and then shaving it off the next day? Antonio Cromartie forgetting the names of his children on Hard Knocks? Or Bart Scott acting like the Jets won the Super Bowl after a divisional playoff win – bearing in mind that everyone paid attention to the “can’t wait” quote, when really, Bart’s whole rant before that was completely overzealous hyperbole and the epitome of being too happy before the final deed is done. Nonetheless, the Jets would reach the AFC title game for the second consecutive year. Unheard of territory for a rookie coach/QB combination with star player injuries. They can win with Sanchez no matter who gets hurt. Oh how the confidence was brewing in Rex Ryan's belly, like a bag of Rutt's Hut on a Sunday post-game.

By year three of the regime, 2011-2012, the Jet engines were at best akin to a Cessna. Rex’s promises were clearly not coming to fruition, and management blunders began to take full effect. Both Leon and Kris, the team leaders from the two previous years of promise, had been either released or traded months before, given up on because of age and injury, and Darrelle Revis was, yep you guessed it, holding out for his big contract. That left third-year QB Mark Sanchez in the leadership role ready to seize his destiny. And despite another promised Super Bowl run from Rex Ryan, the Jets failed to make the playoffs, finishing the regular season 8-8.

Things were clearly getting out of hand in 2011, as Rex Ryan was consuming more hot dogs than offensive schemes and Mark Sanchez dazzled, excuse me, embarrassed American sports fans across the globe with perhaps the most undeserving GQ cover of all time, not to mention Kate Upton denying that he was her boyfriend on national television… ouch.

So what do the Jets do to turn things around in 2012? Slap me silly and call me a monkey's uncle, Mike Tannenbaum trades two mid round draft picks for Tim Tebow. At first, I liked the move because for the first time Sanchez would have some pressure to perform, and heck, if he didn't, Tebow was coming off a great resurgent year at Denver - not to mention one of the classiest college football careers this generation has ever seen. I mean, the guy won a playoff game – his first ever playoff game - against the Steelers – Demaryius Thomas doesn’t catch a 60-yard TD pass in OT by himself! The Broncos got rid of the guy to replace him with Peyton Manning for Christ's sake! That’s got to say something. And just when things were actually looking good in NY, Tannenbaum shoots every Jets fan in the foot and signs Sanchez to a new franchise deal, thus rendering any idea of a QB competition moot. 12 weeks later, Tebow still hasn't been used, Sanchez is easily the worst tenured QB in the league (unless you count Cassel, who got booed off the field by his own fans after being concussed this year...nice, Mark), and guess what? I have tickets to the Pats vs. Jets game on Thanksgiving, sitting in row five, right over the tunnel.

Then disaster strikes.

Just when it literally could not get any worse, the Patriots absolutely stomp out the Jets on their home field, on Thanksgiving, right in front of my innocent family, causing millions of dropped jaws, and one man by the name of Fireman Ed to quit his weekend warrior gig. Sitting at the game, I didn't know what to do with myself. It all happened so quickly - Tom Brady and his keebler elves, Woodgate, Welker and Edelman, snap, crackle and popping the Jets inflatable dignities like a bowl of Rice Crispies mixed with lava. I happened to be wearing a Mark Sanchez jersey from 2010 that my little brother bought for me, but I had to take it off. I ended up turning it inside out and putting it back on so I could properly take part in the Tebow chants, but not before someone a few rows back offered to buy me a new jersey of my choosing if I burned it. By the way, FYI - Sanchez jerseys look great inside out.

Since the beginning of last season, the Rex Ryan/Mark Sanchez regime has been tough to watch for Jets fans. And though countless injuries, layered with faults in management cannot be controlled by the head coach and starting quarterback, it's time both Ryan and Sanchez left town. Anyone who has spoken with me on this issue knows I've been saying this for weeks - after the great win in Week One against Buffalo this year, things were looking OK, but the perpetual losses of Santonio Holmes, Darrelle Revis, Mark Sanchez's intelligence and Rex Ryan's mojo have been too much to bear. This past week we barely beat an Arizona Cardinals team that lacks for identity more than the Gaza Strip - Greg McElroy threw a game-winning touchdown pass, but really, the Jets are still the losers of the NFL.

It’s sad, really, that I am comparing a professional sports team full of grown ass men, who worked harder to maintain their athletic physic every day most likely than I will in my entire life, who have all gone through so much to get to where they are in life, to a pack of powder puff, washed-up Hollywood kid stars named the “Little Giants.” But really, at the end of the day, at the end of the season, as we approach the end of the Sanchez/Rex Ryan regime, isn’t that who the Jets are? The Little Giants? Perhaps if Rex had been able to walk the walk as well as he talked the talk he wouldn’t be thought of at the same time as Becky “Icebox” O’Shea, but then again, if Rex Ryan was never head coach of the New York Jets, they might actually be a good football team.

My brother, father and I pre-game at the Jets/Patriots match up on Thanksgiving 2012. What a game! Not. Still had a great time.