J-E-T-S feeling the usual h-e-a-t
It's been a fun couple of years for the New York Jets. Rex Ryan, their head coach, keeps yapping, sucking all the air out of the room and keeping his players and the notoriously prickly Big Apple media entertained. And his team keeps winning, having appeared in two straight AFC Championship games to become the toast of football fans in an area once dominated by the now less-than-scintillating Giants.
But with the 2-1 Jets coming off a disheartening 34-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders and preparing to face the Ravens Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, Big Rex is now taking heat from an unexpected source: Jets legend and Hall of Famer Joe Namath.
In an interview with a New York radio station Monday, Broadway Joe basically ripped Ryan for telling his players how great they are, saying this distracted them from focusing on the constant need to improve in the NFL.
"It's rather alarming," Namath said. "It starts at the top. Coach Rex Ryan, he's been doing a great job, getting us to two conference championship games. But there's one thing about the athlete: you keep telling him how good he is, he's going to start believing it, to the point that he may not be preparing quite the way he should."
As you might imagine, Ryan was less than thrilled to hear he was being criticized by a member of the Jets "family."
And he basically told Namath to go pound sand.
"The great thing is, I'm confident with our football team," Ryan responded, according to news reports. "There's no question about it. I've never gone into a game I didn't think I would win. I'm not going to change who I am because Joe Namath said something. Namath can come in here, and if he can still throw, we'll have him as a backup quarterback.
"But you know what? He doesn't know our team. He's on the outside. Even though he's a Jet, and once you're a Jet you're always a Jet, but he's on the outside. He's not in these meetings. I think if he was, he'd be shocked at the preparation."
Understand, this little dust-up with Namath isn't going to distract Ryan and the Jets as they get ready for the Ravens. Ryan has taken plenty of shots in his two years in New York and basically shrugged them all off.
But it's indicative of the kind of potential distractions a head coach has to deal with in the media capital of the free world. Little things become big things in that kind of pressurized environment. And soon enough, even a harmless -- if impolitic -- comment by a legendary quarterback gets blown out of proportion.
John Harbaugh ought to get down on his knees every day and be thankful he coaches in Baltimore, where the much-smaller media pool is far less critical.
If he wants to know how good he has it, all he'd have to do is sit in when Ryan talks to reporters after a loss.
It might really open his eyes.