Two things in pro football excite the media (especially the rabid New York media): a brash, garrulous head coach, and a sexy, high-profile quarterback. The 2009 New York Jets offer both. The coach is longtime NFL assistant Rex Ryan, one of the most respected and creative defensive innovators in today’s game. The quarterback is No. 5 overall pick Mark Sanchez, a polished though inexperienced Southern Cal star.
The effusive Ryan has already shown the type of personality that makes one think he could be introduced at press conferences by Ed McMahon. (Heeeeeere’s Rex!) So far, Ryan has called out the New England Patriots. He’s engaged in an amusing war of words with Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder.
He said to Sports Illustrated that what happened when Brian Billick passed him over for a defensive coordinator position in 2002 was, “Basically, I got f*****.” Words are to Ryan what sprinkles are to children: colorful and something to be used prodigiously. You can’t help but love the guy.
Sanchez has been equally as publicized. Weeks after getting straddled by bikini-donning supermodel Hilary Rhoda in GQ Magazine, the 22-year-old signed the richest contract in franchise history. (Kudos to Sanchez’s agent, David Dunn, and Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum for the expediency.)
First-year coaches and rookie quarterbacks enjoyed astounding success in the NFL last season. Mike Smith and Matt Ryan led the moribund Falcons to the playoffs. John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco carried the Ravens to the AFC Title game. The Jets are much better off than either of those two clubs were, having just produced a 9-7 season. However, it was a season remembered for a dreadful 1-4 finish. And it was not without a scapegoat.
(You didn’t think Eric Mangini got fired simply for being an “anti-Rex” with the media, did you?) The team’s coaching and chemistry were iffy, though many blamed New York’s December meltdown on an aging Brett Favre. (The 39-year-old quarterback was not the only Jet who ran out of fuel, though.)
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