New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan has a combined 14-18 record the past two seasons, with his team missing the playoffs both years. Those losses have put Ryan on the coaching hot seat and now, he appears to be losing his once cozy relationship with the media.
On Saturday night following the Jets' 24-21 overtime win – yes, mind you, win – over the Giants in their third game of preseason, Ryan turned his back on a member of the media. Literally.
What set Ryan off was a question where a reporter called him “irresponsible” for putting last year’s starting quarterback Mark Sanchez into the game in the fourth quarter. On Sanchez’s second drive, he was thrown to the ground by Giants defensive lineman Marvin Austin and injured his shoulder. He left the game and headed to the locker room for X-rays and an MRI on Sunday morning. The latest on Sanchez is that he won't play in the preseason finale and is officially day-to-day.
It is perplexing that Sanchez was put into the game with a second-team offensive line comprised mainly of rookies against a Giants pass rush also filled of young players who were looking to make the roster. The move to put Sanchez on the field clearly backfired and Ryan took a lot of heat for it in the press conference afterwards.
But instead of fighting fire with fire, Ryan instead came off as childish and immature as he was pressed for an answer.
The reporter then followed up his “irresponsible” question with a follow-up about rookie quarterback Geno Smith and how the competition to win the starting job is playing out. Ryan artfully dodged the timetable for naming a starter, even after Smith threw three interceptions on Saturday night in his first preseason start and looked anything but ready.
The reporter, from a New York City tabloid, pressed and asked Ryan, “Is that a yes or a no?” A terse exchange followed that led to Ryan, usually loved by the media for his outlandish quotes and guffaw theatrics from the podium, giving an uncharacteristically angry answer after being pressed a third time for more specifics.
Ryan pulled out the ultimate trump card: the First Amendment of the Constitution.
“I can say anything I want, that’s the beauty of this country. I will stand backwards and answer the question, I will do it sideways,” Ryan said as he turned backwards on the reporter. “At the appropriate time we will make the announcement when I think it’s the appropriate time.”
Then, as if realizing he went too far, he then took the next question an jokingly answered it with his back initially turned. It is enough to make one laugh all the way to the unemployment line, which is where Ryan might be going if he doesn’t win some games this year.
Many critics have accused the media of being soft on Ryan because he is such a quote machine and not pressing him on the many shortcomings of his team the past two years. Entering his fifth year with the Jets, Ryan took the beleaguered franchise to consecutive AFC championship games in his first two seasons in New York but then has failed to even make the playoffs the next two seasons.
Not everyone in the media cares, mind you, but it is likely to create a hostile environment for a coach who needs all the help he can get.
Now with his grip on his job tenuous at best, Ryan appears to have lost the battle of the back pages as well.
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Kristian R. Dyer contributes to Yahoo! Sports and covers the Jets for Metro New York and is on Twitter @KristianRDyer