x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Life in the limelight for Ryan

In the course of one season, Rex Ryan has metamorphosed from just another NFL coach, noticed for little more than his girth, to the most recognised man in the profession not named Bill Belichick.

In the course of one season, Rex Ryan has metamorphosed from just another NFL coach, noticed for little more than his girth, to the most recognised man in the profession not named Bill Belichick.

From the syndicated television special Hard Knocks in the pre-season, which exposed Ryan as a profane and passionate commander-in-chief of the Jets, to the recent unwanted attention pertaining to personal preferences of the quirky sort, he has been a constant headline-grabber.

Ryan's new celebrity has been amplified by its setting, in New York, the media capital of the US.

Ryan is cut from the same cloth - though, given his size, a lot more of it was required - as most coaches. His recurring themes, voiced within the range of microphones, are defence, intensity and loyalty.

He distinguishes himself from peers by conveying unfiltered thoughts, resulting in occasional misperceptions.

This week, responding to a reporter's question about upcoming adversary Peyton Manning, Ryan said, as only he would: "Is it personal? Yes, it's personal. It's personal against him, Reggie Wayne, all those guys."

At first glance, the implication might seem that Ryan feels personal animus towards Manning and Co. Not really. He just wants to win. The desire was expressed clumsily. A subsequent comment about the Colts quarterback drew less attention: "I respect the heck out of this guy."

Asked before the season to sign a bus used by the sports network ESPN, Ryan obliged and added this prediction: "Soon to be champs." He was ridiculed for not keeping expectations in check and setting up the Jets for a Super-Bowl-or-bust year. Which is about right for a talent-rich team.

By reaching the play-offs, the Jets can fulfil the words inscribed on the bus despite several potential distractions, including an assistant coach who tripped an opposing player during a game, an arrest of his best receiver, possible player harassment of a female television reporter and the infamous Brett Favre text-messaging case that, so far, has led to the NFL fining the former Jets quarterback US$50,000 (Dh183,600).

In recent days Ryan's team has, uncharacteristically, been the focus of more positive attention in the form of the heart-rending story of Mark Sanchez, the current quarterback, who befriended an 11-year-old boy suffering from terminal cancer. Sanchez met with the child at the team's training site and exchanged inspirational text messages with him. The child died last weekend, Sanchez broke down while doing a radio interview, and Jets fans love Ryan's team a little more.

Though they staggered down the stretch, the Jets were able to largely stay on point. If it ends this weekend with a first-round loss, might the public see (and hear) less of Ryan next season?

Only if he goes on a crash diet.

 

sports@thenational.ae