This weekend and beyond, most of the football talk will be about teams that win.
That is as it should be. The two teams that don't lose this month will face each other in the Super Bowl, about which no hyperbole is excessively hyperbolic, and which every real American will watch, or at least bet on.
[sidebar title="Bill Littlefield Interviews Rex Ryan" width="290" align="right"] In 2011, Rex Ryan published his autobiography, Play Like You Mean It. The book covers Ryan's family's NFL lineage, his battles with his weight, and his 'feud' with Tom Brady. Hear Bill's conversation with Rex Ryan. [/sidebar]But before the frenzy leading to the Nation's Single Most Glorious Day becomes overwhelming, let us consider a team that didn't win.
Lots of teams qualify for that distinction, but only one, the New York Jets, is coached by a guy who promised in the pre-season that his team would win the Super Bowl. New York Head Coach Rex Ryan did that. It's just who he is.
Then the Jets didn't make the playoffs. They finished the season 8-8. Coach Ryan wept briefly and acknowledged that his prediction had failed to pan out, which everybody already knew. Shortly thereafter, Greg McElroy, the team's fourth-string quarterback, told an audience of radio listeners in Alabama that the Jets' locker room had been infected by a "corrupt mindset." Mr. McElroy was in an excellent position to observe the alleged corruption, because he missed the season with an injury. Free of the distraction that playing football would have presented, he noticed teammates failing to "buy in" to the Jets' system. Maybe they were also cheating at bridge.
This is what happens when you lose.
Another thing that happens when you lose is that your coach gets fired, if he is lucky, because the coach who gets fired immediately finds another NFL job in a city where nobody has anything against him. If he doesn't get fired, he's lampooned, savaged, and ridiculed, especially if he announced over the summer that his team would win the Super Bowl. This week, in a column headed "Doesn't Take Rookie QB To See Rex Is Done," one writer solemnly intoned "it's the end," because Rex Ryan had "lost control" of the Jets, who would never win while he was in charge.
I wasn't surprised by those conclusions. Teams that fail to win are coached by guys who lose control. "Corrupt mindsets" often fester in the locker rooms of clubs that fail to live up to their promise, whether or not that promise is explicitly made by the coach. Or so I read…every season.
This segment aired on January 7, 2012.