Lack of Team Unity, Not Ryan’s Mouth, The Jets Problem

By Jason Klein 

Originally Written For JetsTwit.com – 1/3/12

Rex Ryan needs to keep talking a big game.

Ryan is a lot of things: he’s blusterous, boisterous, and at times, obnoxiously confident.   But, he is not the problem.

The New York Jets sputtered to the end of an underachieving 8-8 season Sunday in Miami, and now a long offseason littered with difficult decisions looms larger than Ryan’s ego.  Their performance down the stretch was uninspired and their lack of team unity was embarrassing, but the blame shouldn’t rest entirely at Ryan’s feet (no pun intended).

Rex Ryan & The Jets Finished at 8-8 in 2011

Sure, as head coach, Ryan is responsible for a lot of what goes on.  He certainly made his share of mistakes in 2011, but his overzealous approach with the media is not one of them.

All NFL coaches believe they are capable of leading their team to a Super Bowl.  Ryan just chooses to consistently communicate it to the world.  What’s wrong with being confident and letting people know about it?

What should he do?  Lie and tell the press that he doesn’t believe in his team and they’d be lucky to win 8 games?

It’s possible that his big mouth pins big expectations on the backs of his players, but the attention he deflects away from them is also invaluable.

In his first two seasons in New York, his methods were successful, allowing the players to just focus on football and get within 30 minutes of the Super Bowl…twice.  There’s no doubt, 2011 was a setback, but it shouldn’t define Ryan, or the Jets.  Instead, how they rebound in 2012 will serve as a better barometer.

Those begging for Ryan to tone it down next year should take a second look at what the real problem is: team unity.  Extracting selfish players like Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie would be a good place to start.

Holmes has been nothing but a liability since signing his 5-year, $45M contract in the offseason, bringing shame upon himself, and the captain’s “C” he wore on his chest this season.  His childish antics on the field, in the locker room, and in front of the media fractured the team, destroying all the harmony built during Ryan’s tenure to date.  His spat with Quarterback, Mark Sanchez in a recent team meeting was also counterproductive and harmful.

Cromartie’s inconsistent play proved detrimental to both the defense and special teams in 2011.   His selfishness as a player, and immaturity as a person also became very apparent with his damning post-game comments on Sunday, openly questioning the efforts of the offense in front of the media.

Santonio Holmes Mopes on the Sideline Sunday

The Jets can do without both Holmes and Cromartie moving forward.  Instead, they need to focus on taking care of true team leaders, respected veteran players who are passionate about their team, their job, and let their play on the field do the talking.  Letting go of former Jets like Kris Jenkins, Tony Richardson, Shaun Ellis, Thomas Jones, and Alan Faneca proved costly.  Current guys like Ladainian Tomlinson, David Harris, and Nick Mangold now fit the bill.

Importing prima donna players like Holmes and Cromartie threatens team unity, creating a dysfunctional group of players rather than a strong unit fighting a common battle together.  Ryan has always prided himself on his ability to coach even the most insubordinate players.  Perhaps it’s time for Ryan to check his ego at the Florham Park doors and build his team around good players with even better backgrounds and attitudes.

Some players are describing the Jets locker room this season as a “zoo.”  It didn’t get that way because of the culture Ryan creates with his rants.  Everyone loves playing for Rex, but not everyone can handle the freedom and player-friendly atmosphere he creates.

Rex Ryan’s mouth is not the problem.  His words are harmless, intended to fire up his players and deflect pressure.  Instead, the Jets must worry about finding more high quality individuals this offseason, guys who will play hard for 60 minutes each week and leave all the talking to their head coach.

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