Jets Sideshow: Joe Namath & Rex Ryan

Everybody loves a sideshow. Part of what makes the NFL so interesting is all the stuff that goes on when teams aren’t playing.

Since Rex Ryan was hired by the Jets, there have been plenty of sideshows. And they’ve all been funny or infuriating or maybe completely unnecessary, but never dull.

The Jets sideshow this week? Joe Namath and Rex Ryan got into a verbal tiff about the Jets’ preparedness for the Raiders.

Broadway Joe said that Rex has always pumped his team up, and maybe they think they’re a bit better than they are.

"I think these guys might be believing that they're better than they are," Namath told Michael Kay on ESPN’s ‘The Michael Kay Show’ on Monday (listen here). "Rex has been the only coach that we know, in maybe the history of the game that I'm familiar with, that keeps continually telling his guys how good they are. And they have been pretty good - pretty good - but they haven't won a championship yet."

[caption id="attachment_186" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Joe Namath and Rex Ryan // photo by Bob Ellis, the AP."][/caption]

Namath also called Ryan’s bravado “rather alarming,” and went on to say, "There's one thing about the athlete.  You keep telling him how good he is, he's going to start believing it to the point that he may not be preparing quite the way he should. He may be losing some respect for the other team."

Rex Ryan was having none of it.

"I'm not going to change who I am because Joe Namath said something," Ryan said at a Monday press-conference. "He can come in here and if he can still throw, we'll have him as a backup quarterback. But you know what? He doesn't know our team. Even though he's a Jet and once you're a Jet, you're always a Jet, he's on the outside. He's not in these meetings. I think if he was he'd be shocked at the preparation."

Quarterback Mark Sanchez and tight end Dustin Keller both carefully stated their respect of Joe Namath but that they didn’t think that was the case. Cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Jim Leonhard spoke of the team needing to live up to their standards.

And, of course, the New York media has talked all about it.

Brian Costello at the Post says that the Jets rely on Rex’s confidence.

Filip Bondy at the Daily News says that Ryan’s not changing for anyone.

Plus, all the other articles I haven’t bothered to re-find for this piece, and everything that’s been discussed on the radio. Fans seem divided, saying either that Namath is overrated and irrelevant, or that Ryan should shut his trap until the Jets actually win something bigger than a couple of playoff games.

Here’s how I see it: I love Rex Ryan as much as the next fan. He’s the best thing that’s happened to this team in quite some time, making them respectable, making the Jets fun again. I love his wacky antics, and I love watching him coach, and I love listening to him talk because he’s the eternal optimist. He took the Jets stigma of being the Jets, the team that bad stuff just happens to, and turned it on its head. For that alone, he might be the best coach we’ve ever had.

But winning some playoff games hasn’t even equaled winning the AFC yet.

Joe Namath – whether you think he’s overrated or not – is still the only one in town who has won anything in a Jets uniform, so he can say whatever he wants. Listening to the actual interview, Namath doesn’t sound particularly malicious in what he’s saying. It’s more as if he’s speaking from his experience than from any really nasty sentiment he has about Rex Ryan. Does this mean the Jets didn’t prepare well enough for Oakland? Maybe, maybe not. But the Jets do need to put up or shut up. You can’t constantly and loudly say you’re the best and then be average, which is what the Jets have been this season.

And Namath is a Jets fan through and through. It’s not like he’s stating anything any other Jets fan with a sense of history and cynicism isn’t already afraid of – that the Jets aren’t as good as they say they are.

Confidence is a great thing to have. I’ve never seen the Jets or Jets fans believe the team will win games the way they believe they are going to win games under Rex Ryan’s guidance. For the most part, it seems to be working. But there is something to be said for the edge a team has from thinking they’ve got something to prove.

Namath got on ‘The Michael Kay Show’ again Thursday and cleared the air (and jokingly accepted Ryan’s offer to be backup QB! listen here). But Broadway Joe isn't completely wrong. We don't know how prepared the Jets were for Oakland, or how well they prepare for any game. But the Jets still have to prove how good they are. That's just a fact, and everyone knows it.

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