Kentucky has as good of a shot of landing Ryan as tennessee has of landing Gruden. The only difference is, UK fans are realistic about it.
Aim for the stars, Kentucky.
Sure, Rex Ryan is a loudmouth. And he’s a foulmouth. But his mouth draws plenty of attention and that’s something UK will need if it’s ever going to bring in top-name recruits from outside the talent-poor Commonwealth.
The rumors been out there that Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart might take a flier on Ryan, but it’s believed to be a longshot. We said as much yesterday. But, hell, why not just take the longshot? To put it in basketball terms for hoops-crazed Big Blue fans, why not fire up a halfcourt buzzer-beater and hope it drops?
Now, here’s another question that plenty of people will ask after reading those first few sentences: Why Ryan, a man who’s seen the fast-talking Jets nosedive on his watch? Because pro success means absolutely zip in the college game. Pete Carroll had been fired twice in the NFL before landing at Southern Cal. Nick Saban had done alright in a short tenure with the Dolphins, but Coach of the Year he was not. Steve Spurrier bombed out in two seasons in Washington before landing in South Carolina and turning that program around.
* Ryan has coached in the college ranks. He started as a GA at Eastern Kentucky. He’s been a defensive coordinator at Morehead State (again, in Kentucky), at Cincinnati, at Oklahoma and at Kansas State.
* His mouth — how long before he promised an SEC championship? — would wow teenage boys looking for a football home. He’s had little trouble talking free agents onto his team in New York. And while he and the Jets braintrust haven’t had a lot of success picking the right free agents and draftees for an NFL squad, the same could be said for all those coaches mentioned above.
* Ryan is a defensive guru and UK needs some guru’ing on defense if its ever to compete for titles. Air-raid offenses are fun to watch and you can win games with them, but you won’t likely capture SEC titles with those types of attacks. Ask Bobby Petrino.
* Ryan’s father — longtime NFL coach Buddy Ryan — is 81, battling cancer, and unless he’s moved in the past few months, still living on a horse farm in Lawrenceburg… just about a half-hour outside of Lexington.
* And, oh yeah, Ryan’s tenure with the Jets could be coming to a close. Team owner Woody Johnson had this to say about the Jets this yesterday:
“We’re a 3-6 team. Are we happy? Are they happy? Are the players happy? I know the fans aren’t happy. The answer is no. We’re not happy. We’re not happy with 3-6. I didn’t sign up for a 3-6 season. We haven’t had one of those in a while. I’m not happy about it, yet I am optimistic that some of these things can be corrected.”
Yikes. Comments like those should make UK fans optimistic that Ryan would at least pick up the phone if Barnhart called him. And Barnhart’s gone down the NFL trail before, attempting to land Bill Parcells and instead winding up with another NFL washout in Rich Brooks in 2003. All Brooks did was lead UK to a record four-straight bowls before hanging up his whistle.
Look, we’re not saying that Ryan would take the job or that he’d be a success. And Wildcat fans would have to be ready for a whole lotta foot fetish jokes from opposing student sections, too.
But if you’re a Kentucky program that’s tired of being irrelevant on the field, why not chase a coach who could guarantee that Cats would at least be relevant for a recruiting class or two off of it? If nothing else, Ryan’s mouth would insure the spotlight would be on the Bluegrass State during basketball and football season. (Whether or not Ryan’s ego would allow him to play second-fiddle to hoops and John Calipari is a legitimate question.)
Ryan’s also not worried about walking into coaching graveyards. When Ryan took his current job, the Jets hadn’t been to a Super Bowl since Joe Namath was quarterback. UK hasn’t had a coach leave town with a winning record since Blanton Collier was — ironically — fired by the Wildcats back in 1961. Ryan probably wouldn’t worry about that as he’s his own biggest fan.
Let’s put it another way, right now about 90% of Tennessee fans believe Jon Gruden will be announced at the Vols’ next head coach at any moment. All because he spent a year at UT as a grad assistant in the mid-80s and his wife is from East Tennessee. And sure enough, there has been contact between Vol representatives and the always-ready-to-flirt Gruden.
Well, if Tennessee can aim for the stars, why can’t Kentucky? Like Gruden to UT, Ryan might have family and historical ties to the Commonwealth that could be used to lure him to Lexington.
We’ll believe it when we see it, of course, but if we were charged with firing up a now dead-again Kentucky football program, we’d at least ring-a-ding ol’ Rex. He looks like he’ll be in need of a lifeline soon enough.