For all of the bluster, arrogance, cockiness, brashness, and any of the other attributes that New York Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan demonstrates which can often rub many people the wrong way, Ryan is mostly and quite simply, just about the game of football.
So, when it came down to the Jets finally getting their best and most important player back on the field, it was Ryan, the ultimate players’ coach, who made it about football for star cornerback Darrelle Revis.
A very good thing not only for the Jets and for Jet fans, but specifically for Ryan, after his typical no holds barred attitude nearly prevented the Jets from having Revis back in time for the start of the 2010 regular season.
That’s because this is the year that the Jets, just 28 minutes from reaching the Super Bowl last year, entered their 2010 season with Super Bowl expectations knowing such prospects hinged on whether the defense-first Jets had the NFL’s best cornerback anchoring the strength of their team. In essence, the Jet’s chances for success this season were only as good the game’s best corner being their cornerstone.
However, it was Ryan who was partially to blame for Revis missing the entire preseason this summer because it was the Jets’ head coach who early on in Revis’ 36-day holdout, boastfully claimed that Revis was not only the best cornerback in the NFL, but that Revis’ 2009 season was the best year any cornerback ever had.
He wasn’t wrong (at least on that first one; the second is debatable). But, much like negotiating a car you love with a showroom salesperson, it would have been a lot wiser for Ryan to go against his own nature and keep quiet rather than extol Revis’ virtues. By choosing to do the opposite, Ryan helped to create a drawn out, five-week long saga in which he took much of the Jets’ negotiating leverage away and gave it to Revis’ agents.
Doing so had many Jet fans, as much as they love Ryan’s unorthodox approach, blaming Ryan’s big mouth for Revis’ M.I.A. status this summer. And, had Revis not come back until much later (or not at all this season), and had the Jets failed to make the playoffs without him, it’s not a stretch to say that Ryan would have gone from last year’s lovable leader who changed the Jets’ culture, to the city’s villain in a New York minute.
Without the return of Revis Island, Ryan might have found himself on his own figurative island, cast off by Jet fans everywhere.
But, Ryan more than made up for initially costing the Jets at the bargaining table, with a trip this past weekend, along with Jet’s owner Woody Johnson, to meet Revis in South Florida.
After all of the talk all summer long of Revis wanting to be the highest paid corner back in the league, in line with Oakland’s Nnamdi Asoumugha at $16 million per year, Revis spoke with his head coach and his long standoff with the Jets suddenly became more about Revis doing what he loves to do on the football field for the Jets, and less about money.
No longer was gap between the Jets offering a ten-year deal for $122 million and Revis’ camp seeking $160 million for the same length of time.
No, after talking to Ryan, Revis realized that he didn’t want to miss out on being the difference between his teammates being good — but not good enough without him — instead of the legitimate and perhaps feared Super Bowl contenders that Ryan believes they are.
In the end, Revis accepted less than the roughly $12 million per season that the Jets initially offered, taking $46 million for four years. And, with a potential NFL lockout looming for next season, the Jets’ best player got the security he sought, with the Jets guaranteeing $32 million.
It’s a relative bargain for the Jets when you consider the comparable four-year, $48 million contract with $30 million guaranteed signed last Wednesday by Arizona defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, who while having developed into one of the best players at his position, isn’t quite the game changer that Revis is.
Would Revis have missed football enough to make winning and wanting to be back with his teammates the priorities over money?
Perhaps. But, the chances of Revis’ return increased exponentially with Ryan’s encouragement.
When asked by reporters if Ryan and Johnson visiting him the difference, Revis said “I have no clue, but they did. And, that was good thing.”
In a separate interview, Revis said “When [Ryan] came in, I was just excited. I was just like, I need to get back. Let’s get this done.”
Reading between the lines, it was Ryan specifically, who convinced Revis to get it done, even though he humbly gave all of the credit to Jets’ general manager Mike Tannenbaun and Revis’ agents for dotting the i’s an crossing the t’s.
As a result, everyone wins. Revis gets his security in the form of guaranteed money without missing any of the regular season. Ryan gets the player he desperately needed to make all of his great defensive schemes work. Jets’ management didn’t have to break the bank in terms of total dollars to re-sign that player. And, Jet fans are once again dreaming of a trip to the Super Bowl.
For five long weeks, Ryan’s initial comments were part of the problem. This weekend, the Jets’ outspoken coach guided the solution.
And, Jet fans can now forgive their head coach knowing that Ryan ultimately made it right.