Successful NFL coaches build mansions out of dirt. Meanwhile, those who fasten wall studs with masking tape don’t get to build more residences. Craftsmen are unable to make excuses if they’re given proper building materials. Personnel can make any coach look like a genius or bumbler. Even those seemingly capable of performing miracles with thin rosters can only get so far without a committed owner and competent general manager. Credit is shared by as many people as blame is.
Coaches are expected to build the puzzle with what’s in the box no matter how many pieces are missing. As with every other man who holds his job, Rex Ryan can’t fault results under his watch on lack of talent regardless of the claim’s validity. Anyone making excuses should start job-hunting. The Buffalo Bills have a coach known for dealing with his circumstances instead of lamenting them. He didn’t point out the scarce resources under his charge when he lost his last job, so at least he’s not prone to whining.
Coordinators will tell you that the first step to success is being handed amazing players. You may have to buy them some cocktails before they answer honestly. A good plan often happens to include one of the game’s best players. By sheer coincidence, Ryan’s last team declined once Darrelle Revis was no longer available. The ability to singlehandedly take away a good portion of the field was a convenient part of making the Jets’ scheme work.
The fortunes of New Jersey’s junior squad coincidentally plummeted once they were denied visas to Revis Island. The Bills aren’t allegedly and perhaps vainly pursuing the intimidating corner for simple nostalgia: the thought of being able to cancel out a top receiver with a single defender is obviously appealing to coaches who know the easiest way to look good. If you want to get rich, start with a million dollars.
Ryan has already learned a lesson Buffalo has fully internalized, namely that quarterback shopping is not the time to seek bargains. Teams with weak passing games wonder whether inadequate depth or poor supervision kept them grounded. It’s a full-time hobby for the Jets. Buffalo’s eternal rival has fielded legitimate quarterbacks such as Joe Namath and… well, the list of starters over the years is only fun to peruse if your football attire contains no green.
Even Broadway Joe finished one game under .500 for a franchise nearly continually mocked since his guarantee. There’s nobody presently on their roster who seems likely to buck the trend. Ryan hoped to teach a young passer how to be a pro who can act like a leader as he plays with confidence. Then the front office gave him Geno Smith.
It’s easy to ask why Ryan’s offenses weren’t better. But football isn’t exactly like chess beyond how tackling pieces in the latter is discouraged. In contrast to a chessboard, the bishops and rooks on a gridiron may not be of equal value. Unlucky coaches are stuck with knights who can’t jump over other pieces, much less execute an L-shaped move. Good players make the game unfair before setting up the pieces. Manage a football team correctly, and you’ll be able to move in any direction on the board regardless of the lowly pawns in your path.
By contrast, Ryan had many kings in the Jets’ lineup, at least in the sense that they could only move one space at a time. He should’ve been like Phil Jackson and put in the equivalent of Michael Jordan or Shaq and Kobe. Short of being canny enough to have Hall of Famers on the bench, he did what he could with players like Mark Sanchez. Issues with quality should be brought to the front office’s attention.
Can Ryan help a quarterback added while the coach was at his last job? With his new team, the present plan seems to be firing EJ Manuel from the pistol to help him and his friends overwhelm defenses with options. Grinding out low-scoring affairs might be the best way for Ryan to use his assets.
We’re no closer to settling the eternal debate between how much a coach is responsible for player performance and the importance of innate skill. The pessimist could wonder if a squad underperformed because of a thin roster or the inability of a feeble coach to add bulk.
Ryan has the last guy’s example to avoid. Doug Marrone defied hopes many of us placed in him by coaching to not lose while using a shellshocked offensive line in a manner not suited to their abilities. Some of last year’s starters may not be Pro Bowl candidates, at least not this early in their careers. But he could’ve at least had them face the right way.
Buffalo’s defense has shown why the employee with the greatest impact on a coach’s success is the general manager. Deploying different schemes in consecutive years with a similar cast and results demonstrates why the playoff push begins long before the opener. The game day staff’s most important job is motivating players while making sure they’re positioned to put that enthusiasm to good use. Ryan’s appeal lies in ensuring intensity is not the issue.