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Rex Ryan is certainly not a bashful man. He thrives on attention. He believes it takes the media's attention away from his players, and most players seem to express gratitude for it.
He garners respect from his players, even veterans who have seen every song-and-dance out of a coach. LaDainian Tomlinson, a former Jet brought in at the tail-end of his career, called Ryan a “master motivator.”
In his first two years in New York, Ryan brought the Jets to two AFC Championship games. In the playoff run of 2011, the Jets beat a New England Patriots team that, approximately seven weeks prior, embarrassed the Jets 45-3 on Monday Night Football.
That same year, Ryan was the leading vote-getter in a “who would you most like to play for” players poll.
Ryan, however, now possesses a red flag on his resume: his handling of Mark Sanchez this preseason. Now, every quarterback who works with Ryan will have in the back of their minds whether Ryan genuinely has their best interest.
What is even worse about the situation is Ryan has yet to apologize to Sanchez, at least to the best knowledge of the media.
A bond between a head coach and his quarterback is sacred. It is immensely important for the two to have a trust and understanding of one another. Without trust or understanding, a team cannot succeed.
Former NFL executive Bill Polian, who worked for the Buffalo Bills during their Jim Kelly era and the Indianapolis Colts during their Peyton Manning era, said on the matter, “You cannot win a championship without a winning quarterback. He doesn't have to be a Hall-of-Famer, but he's got to know how to win. And you can't win a championship without a coach who can teach a team how to win.'' Ryan, however, has taken this idea too far.
Anyone who has a cable subscription and watches ESPN has heard the story a thousand times. There was an ongoing quarterback competition in Jets' camp this summer between former general manager Mike Tantembum's franchise quarterback Mark Sanchez and new general manager John Idzik's franchise quarterback Geno Smith.
The pot began to brew early in Jets' camp when Idzik said the final decision on the starting quarterback would be a “collective opinion,” which basically meant Ryan was no longer in control. When the preseason began, Sanchez started the first two games as Smith was hindered from playing at all due to an ankle injury.
Then the third preseason game took place. Smith started the game, and seemed to play himself out of the starting job. Until Ryan decided to throw Sanchez into the game in the fourth quarter, down by four points and with the third-string offense.
Sanchez wound up taking a vicious hit and tore the labral in his throwing arm. This led to a lot of finger pointing at Ryan. After the game, Ryan stood by his decision and asserted that they “we're trying to win the game.”
The preseason means a lot of different things to a lot of players. Some players are trying to make a living by making the team. Others are trying to mature into the best players they can be, and most are trying to perfect their team's system.
But, even though most players or coaches will not admit it, winning in the preseason is not a top priority. No one on the Jets or Giants will ever care about winning the “Metlife Bowl,” especially someone like Ryan.
And, if Ryan actually wanted to win the game, then that it is perfectly fine. But, no one will believe Ryan because if he really wanted to win the game, he would have put his entire first team offense on the field.
Most people speculate that Ryan wanted to make a statement. He wanted to show that it was still his team. That Sanchez was still the franchise quarterback, and that he can and will shine. If it means attempting to pad his stats against a third team defense, then so be it.
The media and fans seemed to forget about the situation after Smith won the first game of the season. That is until today, when the news came out that Sanchez may miss the rest of the season. Dr. James Andrew's is recommending season-ending shoulder surgery for him, but Sanchez wants to rehab his shoulder in hopes of playing later in the season.
Either way, Sanchez's blood is now on Ryan's hands. If Sanchez comes back from this injury with any limitations, any at all, than his career may be in jeopardy. Many people already believed Sanchez's career as a quarterback were numbered. Not just as a Jet but as a starter in the NFL. Now NFL analyst LaDainian Tomlison said a few days before opening day, “I don't think Mark [Sanchez] will be a starter again in the NFL,” and later noted, “I think there's certainly potential for him to be a backup.”
But, imagine if Sanchez comes back with any restrictions in his arm. That, along with his reputation, teams may not touch him with a ten-foot pole, even as a backup. After all, a backups job is to be ready to play at any given moment, and some people could not stand the idea of Sanchez being a starter when he was completely healthy.
Today, most fans, and some Jets' fans, have no empathy for Sanchez. They ridicule him for his infamous “butt fumble.” They constantly bring up his turnover ration. However, this is also a player who went to two AFC Championships in his first two years in the league.
He may not have led the team, but he played an intricate role in the run. He is also still a pretty young quarterback, who was in a brutal offense that lacked any threat from their skill players. Who knows? Maybe he just was not in the right system. He was given a lot to handle for a young quarterback. Maybe a fresh start is all he needs. But, again, this opportunity of a fresh start may have been compromised due to a bonehead decision by Rex Ryan. One of the last people he thought he could trust.
Then there are other fans who say “Sanchez got his money, what does it matter if he plays again.” It is true, the Jets were over affectionate towards Sanchez. They gave him a three-year contract extension after they fell out of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes.
This brought Sanchez a total of $58.25 million over five years with the team. Also, Sanchez will make $8.75 million this year, which is more than Robert Griffin III, Russel Wilson, Cam Newton, and Colin Kaepernick combined.
That is absurd, but not his fault. What is he going to do, turn down money? What people need to do is think about Sanchez on a personal level. This is a young man who played football his entire life. It is his job. It is his passion. It is his life; and it may have been ripped away from him due to a costly mistake by his head coach. How would you feel if one of your passions were put in jeopardy because of your boss?