It might not have been the couth way to get his point across, but that’s why we love Rex Ryan.
He’s had his fair share of controversy and misfortune, including flipping off a heckler in Miami two years ago during a UFC event leading up to the Pro Bowl, but it seems that the Jets head coach makes a headline every week for some bold, preposterous statement or outlandish comment. This time around he’s issuing an apology, but at his core, it’s a non-issue.
And deep down inside, there’s a little piece of us rooting for Rex.
While walking into the tunnel for halftime of Sunday night’s blowout loss to the Patriots, the Jets head coach was seething. His team was only down 13-9 but had just displayed poor clock management late in the second quarter, leading him to tell NBC’s Michelle Tafoya that the team burning their second-to-last timeout was “the stupidest thing in football history.” So it wasn’t the best time for a heckling fan to lean over the railing and tell Ryan that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick “is better than you.”
Ryan’s response of “Shut the [bleep] up” left little to the imagination and has already drawn criticism from the media and, most likely, will garner a fine from the NFL. But Ryan’s ability to call it like it is, to look squarely into the face of an obnoxious fan clearly trying to get under his skin and to answer back, is him at his very core.
At no point did Ryan’s brain tell his mouth to hesitate for a moment. As that four-letter word rolled off his lips, Ryan was doing what we all want to do everyday to the bullies we face — look them dead on and tell them exactly what we think of them.
The message may have been anything but G-rated, but it’s the type of response we all have inside of us in a moment like that one. Rex embodies a raw emotion that endears him to his players and Jets fans. You may not have agreed with what he said, the words he chose or even how he said them, but chances are you love the fact that he did say it.
In his apology, Ryan seemed contrite and understood that his response was not appropriate for someone who is an ambassador of the game.
“I know I represent the Jets and I know it was a mistake. I apologize for it, Ryan said. “It’s who I am sometimes. I made a mistake. I’m about as big a competitor as there is and at that time I was in no mood to hear anything, but I also understand that I have to handle that better.”
Handle it better, yes, but change who he is? Not a chance.
This is, after all, the ball coach who openly cried before his team in 2009 when he thought their chance at the playoffs was gone. The same man who a year later in Foxboro was flagged for excessive celebration when he raced into the end zone to celebrate a touchdown with his team. The coach who, two weeks ago in Buffalo, lifted his hefty frame into the air to give wide receiver Santonio Holmes a chest bump along the sidelines after a touchdown is just acting on pure, unadulterated emotion.
Ryan is either a buffoon to those who hate him or an inspiration to his adoring, green-clad fan.
Either way, he’s just being Rex Ryan.
Follow Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.