Rex Ryan: This Generation’s Jerry Glanville

The Jets go to Foxboro this week to play the Patriots.  Judging by the press releases so far, the circus has already begun.

Within the last week alone:

  • Tom Brady has been called out on Twitter by Seahawks DB Richard Sherman for having a “gimmicky offense“, and Brady’s “look at the scoreboard” comment in the Pats’ 24-23 loss.  (I know this has nothing to do with the Jets, but it’s worth mentioning)
  • The Jets have announced that they might use Tim Tebow at running back.
  • Jets’ linebacker Calvin Pace as suggested that the Patriots’ offense is “borderline illegal“.
  • Jets coach Rex Ryan has announced that he “wants the Patriots to know that he thinks the Jets will beat them

Do you notice a trend here?

None of the above comments have come out of the sound-proof war room known as Patriots Camp.  If you want to get a halfway-decent quote from the Patriots’ side, you have to talk to Rob Gronkowski’s dad.

It seems like everyone who makes brash comments or guarantees thinks they are coming off sounding like Joe Namath, but they usually end up sounding like Lomas Brown*.  Rex Ryan has basically become the Jerry Glanville of this generation.  To the Wayback Machine!

Jerry Glanville took over two downtrodden franchises, the Oilers and the Falcons, and took them to the playoffs.  Both of these teams developed a new attitude under his tutelage, and developed strong defenses who weren’t afraid of the occasional late-hit flag or any other occasional personal foul.  Glanville was eccentric.  He left tickets at the gate for James Dean, Elvis, and any other famous figure who was deceased and from the city in which his teams were playing.  He wore black to all of the games, even though black is not one of the Oilers’ colors.  He talked a big game and liked to antagonize his opponents.  Both teams improved greatly during his years there, but hit a ceiling that fell short of the Super Bowl or a conference championship game.

Most of all, Glanville essentially declared war on his divisional opponents at both places, most notably the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, and San Francisco 49ers.

When Glanville took over the Oilers in 1986, their AFC Central rival Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t that far removed from their Super Bowl era, and they had just been to the AFC Championship game two years previously (losing to Miami 45-28).  He started a feud almost immediately with Steelers coach Chuck Noll, which resulted in a very uncomfortable handshake at midfield following a game, and Glanville getting pummeled by snowballs while running into the tunnel at Three Rivers Stadium in 1989. Noll did get the last laugh, beating the Oilers 26-23 in the 1989 playoffs.  That game was Glanville’s last as coach of the Oilers.  As poetic justice, Rod Woodson’s fumble recovery that would end up sealing the game, was right in front of the Oilers’ bench, and only a few yards from where Glanville was standing.

Bengals coach Sam Wyche ran up the score to 61-7 against Glanville’s Oilers.  After the game, Boomer Esiason referred to the Oilers as “bullies”, and said that it was like when you finally hit them back, and the bully runs away.

It would be hard to characterize the Oilers of the late 80’s as being better than their divisional opponents.  Cleveland went to three AFC Championship games (’86, ’87, and ’89, all losses to the Broncos) during Glanville’s stay in Houston.  Pittsburgh beat the Oilers in the ’89 playoffs, and Cincinnati went to the Super Bowl in ’88 (and was 39 seconds away from beating San Francisco).

Glanville took the Falcons job in 1990, and promptly instilled his philosophies in Atlanta.  His players talked a lot, got flagged often, and were very self-promoting.  MC Hammer was a fixture on their sideline in 1991.  If you want to see something hilarious, watch the NFL Films Year in Review for 1991, and watch the team dancing to “2 Legit 2 Quit” after beating the 49ers.  The Falcons went to the Playoffs that year with a 10-6 record despite losing to four playoff teams (Kansas City, Washington, New Orleans, and Dallas) by an average of 19 points.  They narrowly beat out the 49ers for the Wildcard playoff spot when the two teams had identical 10-6 records (in a year when Joe Montana didn’t play because of Leonard Marshall’s hit on him in the NFC Championship the year before, and Steve Young missed five games due to injury).  In one of those games against the 49ers , Atlanta won 17-14 on a Hail Mary.  Atlanta went to the playoffs and beat New Orleans, who would not win the franchise’s first playoff game until 2000, and got beaten 24-7 by the Redskins at RFK in a game that was not nearly as close as the score was.

The Falcons took a nose-dive the next two years, with consecutive 6-10 records, and Glanville was let go after the 1993 season.

To his credit, Glanville did make every team that he was a part of better than when he found it.  The problem was, that improvement was only to a point.  His teams never got past the divisional round of the playoffs, and they lacked discipline.  He helped build the statistically best defense in NFL history (he was the Defensive Coordinator of the 1977 Atlanta Falcons who only gave up 9.2 points per game).  It just always seemed to be more about the gimmicks and the personality than the football.

Back to Rex Ryan.  His career and personality mirrors Glanville’s in a lot of ways.  He was a defensive coordinator before becoming a head coach.  He took over a team that hadn’t seen a lot of success in recent memory.  He has a brash personality, and isn’t afraid to challenge his opponents publicly through the media.  He had an instant positive effect on the team that he took over (two AFC Championship appearances in his first two years).  He hit a speed bump once he reached that peak.

I see the advantage of making an immediate impact and changing the culture of of a losing franchise.  Once you’ve been losing for so long, a sharper focus and change of attitude is needed, but positive thinking just isn’t enough to carry a team all the way to the Super Bowl.  Press clipping can be helpful in energizing the fan base and get people excited about your team, but no team has ever won a Super Bowl based on something said in a newspaper (’68 Jets don’t count.  They were still a good team, and they were not carried solely on Namath’s Guarantee).

In his fourth year with the Jets, I would think Rex Ryan would be past the point of trying to gain an edge on his opponents through the media, especially the Patriots.  What does he think he is going to gain by throwing these barbs at Bill Belichick and the Patriots?  Borderline illegal offense?  I’m sure that is going to keep them up at night this week.  Tim Tebow may play running back this week?  I’m relatively certain that the Patriots were aware that the Jets traded for Tim Tebow during the offseason, and that his duties might possibly include running with the football on occasion.  Remember, the Patriots beat Tebow last year in two games by a combined fifty-three points, and the Jets in two games by a combined thirty points.  I’m pretty sure the Patriots know what they’re in for in this game on Sunday.

It might just be time for the Jets to start focusing on the football side of their operation, and cool it on the PR for the time being.  You win Super Bowls by building a roster and by playing sound football, not by making the front page or giving the best quote.


*Lomas Brown was an offensive for the Detroit Lions during the 90’s.  He guaranteed that the hot, high-scoring Lions would win their 1995 Wildcard playoff game at Philadelphia.  The Lions were losing 51-7 halfway through the third quarter, and eventually lost 58-37.  The only guarantees in life are death and taxes.


I do appreciate other viewpoints, so please comment

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