3:44 pm Jun. 8, 2012
A weekly column about what the Jets are up to when they're not playing football.
Rex Ryan appeared spry and svelte on "Costas Now". Two years after gastric lap band surgery, he’s down from 340 pounds to 256.
During the interview, he touched on several topics, among them his admission that he “lost the pulse of the team” last year. This strikes me as yet another example of confusing symptom and cause, inventing a pat narrative explanation for why the Jets were a disappointing 8-8 last year that doesn't have much to do with nuts-and-bolts football.
On disappointing teams, there’s naturally more discontent and backbiting out of view of the coach than on winning teams. The Jets didn’t disappoint because the coach lost track of all this. Rather, it was the other way around.
Player safety and football’s concussion crisis also came up during the interview. Ryan said, “Ya gotta applaud the efforts” of Roger Goodell to make the game safer by penalizing helmet-to-helmet hits on defenseless players. Of course, mounting evidence suggests that what makes the game unsafe isn’t the dramatic knockout blows that occur once or twice a game (if that), but rather the repetitive, sub-concussive blows that players endure play after play.
Apropos of the Saints bounty scandal, Costas brought up Ryan's father Buddy, who was once accused by Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson of placing bounties on Cowboys players. At the time, it was pretty much laughed off, but we’re obviously in a different place with this stuff 23 years later. Rex didn’t exactly strenuously deny that his father would have done it, but he did say that in two years of coaching under him, the idea of a bounty never came up.
Buddy Ryan was a fascinating character: If he had ever won a Super Bowl as a head coach, it’s likely he’d be on the short list of the most celebrated football figures of the past few decades. (He was the defensive coordinator of the 1985 Chicago Bears, and was famously carried off the field after the Bears annihilated the Patriots in Super Bowl XX.)
Nonetheless, he inspired some brilliant football literature in the form of Mark Bowden’s brilliant 1994 book Bringing the Heat, which chronicles the 1992 Philadelphia Eagles season. Here’s Bowden on Ryan as a high school football coach in Gainesville, Texas, in 1957:
Here was the essence of the Game, grasped intuitively by the twenty-six-year-old former army master sergeant embarking on his life’s work. He was entering the Pigskin Priesthood, the underground fraternity of coaches devoted to football for its own sake, as a pursuit of manly perfection. … Out here, football wasn’t just a game, it was a cult. It was part initiation, part religion, a way for roughneck young men to vent their last wild gusts of pure testosterone meanness before settling for the tamer pastures of adulthood and civilization.
THE TEASER ON THIS ARTICLE IS "TEBOW TO ATTEND Sanchez's passing camp.”
I must admit, I misinterpreted it the first time I read it: I thought that “Sanchez’s Passing Camp” referred to an instructional clinic that Sanchez ran, and that Tebow was participating as a camper.
It's not implausible: Tebow’s been trying to overhaul his throwing mechanics for years now.
As Ben Shpigel wrote in the Times earlier this year, “He adjusted his throwing motion at least twice at Florida, once more with a team of quarterback gurus before the draft and again with the Denver Broncos, who, unconvinced of his long-term viability, sent him to the Jets, who almost certainly have their own thoughts on the matter.”
Despite all these tweaks, his throwing mechanics were basically the same last year as they have been since America first became aware of his existence; his motion is still too long and unwieldy. (There’s also the related issue of his inconsistent placement of his plant foot, but I'll leave that one to the experts.)
This motion presents two problems for a quarterback: It telegraphs where he’s throwing his pass, giving defenders an extra moment to react, and it makes him inaccurate. Hence Tebow’s 46.5 completion percentage, the worst for an N.F.L. quarterback since 2000.
People can talk all they want about how the quarterback position can be studied and mastered, but anyone who’s ever played dodgeball can tell you that throwing is one of the most intrinsic athletic skills. Sure, there are cases when a guy tweaks his mechanics enough to bring them up to adequacy, and other cases where a guy’s unconventional mechanics are overblown. But Tebow is an extreme case: He just doesn’t throw like other N.F.L. quarterbacks. He throws he always has, and likely always will.
BRIAN COSTELLO'S PIECE IN THE NEW YORK POST REVEALS that Aaron Maybin is eating between 5,000 and 6,000 calories a day this offseason, and has bulked up from about 230 pounds to 250 in the hopes of becoming a more complete linebacker.
Maybin was very effective as a pass-rushing specialist last year, but rushing the quarterback was pretty much all he did: According to Pro Football Focus stats, of the 239 plays for which he was on the field last year, 210 were passing plays. Of those 210 passing plays, Maybin rushed the passer 197 times, or 94 percent of the time.
“They wanted me to play every down [this year],” Maybin told Costello, presumably meaning that the coaches at least wanted him to be capable of playing every down. “Feasibly, somebody that’s 228, 229, it’s hard to do that. It’s not impossible, but when you’re going against guys that are 330, 340, 350, you get to play 40, 50 [percent] of the game, it’s tough.”
Rex Ryan, quoted in the piece, said he wants Maybin to at least be capable of spelling the starters in running situations.
“I think there’s some things we can do with him. Maybe it’s some base situations as a backup that we can use him also,” Ryan said.
THE JETS AREN'T DOING "HARD KNOCKS," which is too bad. Ryan and the Jets were really an order of magnitude more engaging than the teams that did the show before. That’s likely to be the case with the Miami Dolphins, who have been pretty consistently nondescript since Dan Marino left town.
Woody Johnson explained: “Our season wasn’t where we wanted it to be last year, so I think we had a responsibility to, as much as we can, focus on that. This I don’t think would have been a huge distraction, but still.”
NICE PROFILE BY MANISH MEHTA OF THE DAILY News on Tony Sparano, the Jets’ new salt-of-the-Earth offensive coordinator from New Haven.
I wasn’t aware of this, but the reason Sparano wears sunglasses all the time, even indoors and even at night, is because he burned both of his eyes while working at a fast-food restaurant in his youth when a fry machine exploded in his face. He’s consequently very sensitive to light, and he suffered migraines for years before sunglasses solved his problem.
JORDAN WHITE, THE JETS' SEVENTH-ROUND draft pick who tore both of his ACLs in separate incidents in college, broke his fifth metatarsal last Saturday, which necessitated surgery.
In my draft recap, I spotlighted White as a player whose poor 40-time (4.72) caused him to drop in the draft, but whose polish and production in college made him a good candidate to impress in preseason games. (White led the nation in both total receptions and yards as a senior at Western Michigan University last year.)
The Jets say they expect White back for the start of training camp training camp, but the typical timetable for a broken metatarsal, a trendy injury these days, is around twelve weeks, which would place White’s return on August 25th, one day before the Jets’ preseason game. Maybe this discrepancy owes to a diagnosis specific to White’s injury. Or maybe it owes to the fact that White needs to be on an accelerated timeline if he stands any chance of making the team.
A TOTAL NON-STORY, OR SANTONIO BEING SANTONIO? (Or both?)
Santonio Holmes removed himself from practice on Thursday because he was tired from the number of reps he had received. He told reporters he was scheduled for 35 reps, but after a goodwill trip to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, he was bushed after about 20 to 25.
Connor Orr of the Star-Ledger, who was observing Holmes, said he “seemed to be visibly frustrated with the workload,” and that he “also lingered with a team trainer during the latter portion of drills and walked gingerly to the locker room, but did not say he was hurt.”
A few things that might point toward giving Holmes the benefit of the doubt here:
1) He had just gotten back from a goodwill visit to soldiers,
2) It’s the offseason, at voluntary workouts, and his professional obligation to be in shape really starts when training camp starts (or, if you’re old–fashioned, when the games start), and
3) If you watch an athlete with the presumption that he's a high-maintenance shithead, you'll probably find the evidence you're looking for.
More by this author:
- Gary Cohen, the anti-Michael Kay, also broadcasts during his time off
- Blue blood: The harsh logic behind the cutting of Bradshaw, Canty and Boley