Rex Ryan’s new book “Play Like You Mean It” could have been titled “Say It Like You Mean It.”
Part autobiography, part leadership self-analysis, the always jawing Ryan produces a surprising number of gems, perhaps not entirely shocking given the Jets head coach’s penchant for quote-ability. But rather than sugar coat things, the Doubleday published book gives some limited insight into the mind that is Ryan. The man that two years ago admitted to breaking down and crying in front of his team and who last offseason got into a war of words and a middle finger of fury with some Miami fans.
Ryan in hardcover is perhaps not quite as abrasive or shocking, but he’s still got plenty to say.
After discussing the Sal Alosi “Trip Gate” scandal last fall where the team’s former strength and conditioning coach tripped a Dolphins player in full flight down the field – a situation Ryan called, “wrong, it was stupid” – he then launches into why he was so frustrated about the situation. While conceding his disgust at the incident, Ryan’s concern with his team comes to the forefront when he realizes the Alosi incident was distracting from his team’s offensive woes and his concerns for the play of quarterback Mark Sanchez:
“We got all these questions from the league and from the media. But the other issue that’s going on, the one that’s really more important to the whole team at this point, is that our quarterback was struggling. When I say that Mark Sanchez was struggling, I mean he was sh—y. For the past two games, we couldn’t move the ball at all.”
Not surprisingly, Ryan handles some of the sticky issues from last season very early in the book, pushing them aside to focus on his more favored topics of his father, wife and of course, his vision of the winning formula. Somewhat gingerly, Ryan tiptoes around the incident surrounding Azteca TV reporter Ines Sainz, who claimed harassment upon visiting the Jets practice facility last September to conduct an interview.
He takes umbrage with the headline grabbing media reports that the Jets were a ship without a captain or had an “Animal House” mentality. HBO’s “Hard Knocks” convinced many people that the Jets were “all play and no work,” Ryan writes. Throw in some alleged whistles, leering and a subsequent complaint by Sainz, and Ryan was at a loss:
“It was, honestly, killing me. It was a poor reflection of our football team, and I knew we were just the opposite of that. We always said we wanted to some real bada–es on the field and gentleman off the field – and that’s what we had. That’s why this whole thing made me madder than hell.”
The Sainz allegations and the Week 1 loss to Baltimore seemed to fade the next week as the Jets dominated the second half to beat rival New England. Just when Ryan seemed to think that “Animal House” was perhaps boarded up, wide receiver Braylon Edwards was pulled over and charged with a DUI. The whole affair played out as perfect back page fodder.
Writing that he was “pissed” to learn about the incident, Ryan took the opportunity to make a statement to his team that enough was enough.
Ryan remembers his thoughts in the book:
“I was so tired of the Jets carrying around this stigma that we’re just a group of thugs. I had worked long and hard since my first day on the job to improve what people thought of the Jets. I wasn’t going to let the carelessness of a few guys ruin it, and I made sure they knew that.”
Under previous head coach Eric Mangini, three Jets players were arrested in as many years. Ryan’s claims of trying to clean up the image of the Jets is true as Edwards represents the only arrest during his tenure as head coach.
But while he writes about the Edwards situation and “the carelessness of a few guys,” Ryan doesn’t talk about his own personal carelessness. A couple weeks after the Alosi tripping incident once again smeared the Jets, a video of a woman who resembled and is reported to be his wife Michelle appeared on the Internet. In what can best be described as a foot-fetish video, Ryan, who never appears on camera but whose alleged voice and hand are heard and seen, engages in risqué banter about feet.
The woman in the video appears barefoot and her feet cozy up to the camera throughout the brief footage leaked.
Ryan repeatedly said it was a “personal issue” in the news conference after the video went viral, and he touched on the issue in cursory fashion and just once in the book:
“Like I said at the time, this is a personal issue, so I’m not going to talk a lot about it. Unfortunately, this thing got out and it’s everywhere. All I’ll say is my wife and I have a great marriage and we love each other very much.”
Ryan’s choice of “Unfortunately, this thing got out” is the closest admission on his part to being involved in the home video. There is plenty of insight in “Play Like You Mean It” for Jets fans and haters alike, in particular the moving parts on his father Buddy Ryan’s impact on the field and off of it, that makes the book a compelling read.