The New York Jets are headed to a conference championship game for the second year in a row, which means that the team’s blunderbuss of a coach, Rex Ryan, will have another opportunity to endear himself to the team’s fans and alienate just about everybody else connected to the National Football League. That’s a good thing–it’s been a long time since so many people cared so much about the Jets.
Mr. Ryan is an outsize personality operating in the nation’s most outsize media market, which means that no discussion of the team can begin without beginning with the coach. That is how it should be, for Mr. Ryan, in just his second year as a head coach, has emerged as one of those sports figures who can teach us non-players a few lessons about leadership and teamwork.
The Jets started the season as an amalgam of relative novices (quarterback Mark Sanchez), bad boys in search of a second chance (receivers Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes), over-the-hill outcasts (running back LaDainian Tomlinson) and disgruntled superstars (cornerback Darrelle Revis). Skeptics wondered if Mr. Ryan had the right stuff to turn this patched-together lineup into a legitimate contender.
It turns out he does. The coach pushed all the right buttons, persuading his players that they were as good as he said they were. The team’s road playoff wins against Peyton Manning’s Colts and Tom Brady’s Patriots show that when teams put aside their differences for a common goal, anything is possible.
Maybe Mr. Ryan’s next pep talk should be in Albany, where the players still would rather fight each other than work together.