The assignment landed in my email inbox and I chuckled.
Will Rex Ryan's schtick ever get old, came the question from my editor.
Shtick is a Yiddish word that means an act or gimmick, a routine to get a laugh or draw attention to oneself. Pay close attention to the Jets' coach, and you realize his style is not an act or a gimmick. Ryan is calculated. He knows when everyone needs to be talking about him instead of his team, and vice versa. He's a master motivator. He might not be conventional, but he's pretty darn effective.
It is time to see past the façade and look at Ryan's results. Two straight appearances in the AFC Championship Game is no shtick. It's winning football, which is what Ryan and the Jets are all about.
As he enters his third year with the Jets, compare Ryan to some of the more successful coaches to walk the sidelines (see table, right). Ryan is 20-12 in the regular season and 4-2 in the playoffs. Unless there is a total collapse, Ryan will have a better record over his first three years than all of these coaches.
That table should tell you two things about the reality of coaching in the NFL: 1) Most coaches are bound to coach multiple teams; 2) Getting off to a fast start at the first stop is very tough. Ryan will probably coach two or three teams before he's done because other owners are going to want what he has.
Ryan has done a masterful job of things beyond motivation. As he told me when he took the job in New York, "I will take the attention and keep the focus on me while my team develops." It turned out to be a brilliant plan for the only team that shares a city and a stadium with another NFL team (Giants). I worked for the Jets for close to 10 years and know how hard it is to be in that market. Ryan had an image issue to deal with and he attacked it. Seven other Jets coaches from 1990 until Ryan's arrival in 2009 never figured out.
Ryan is more than a promoter and a big talker, though. He has the trust of his players, and his ego is not the type that makes him want to be the general manager as well as the coach. Ryan's entire focus is on coaching his players and he gets results. He is 3-2 against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, for instance. That gives him more creditability than his bold predictions, his tattoo or any miniseries HBO produces.
Ryan also has done a masterful job quickly developing Mark Sanchez, who had only one year of stating experience at USC. Sanchez now has four playoff road wins, with nine touchdowns and three interceptions, in six postseason games. As for the rest of the offense, Ryan does what every coach says he wants to do -- run the ball effectively. In 2010, the Jets ran the ball on first down 64 percent of the time (most in the NFL) and they were fourth in the league in first-down runs of four-plus yards. As for Ryan's defense, it is as bold as the coach himself. The Jets blitz more than anyone, they led the NFL in three-and-out drives and the defense walks around with Ryan's swagger.
People wonder if the colorful Ryan and his style will ever get old. Sure it will. It's a fact that coaches have a shelf life in the NFL.
But when evaluating Ryan, don't forget the fact that he flat-out wins. Players want to play for the guy, not because he's fun and entertaining but because he wins. In the NFL, that, more than anything, is the key to longevity.