Monday Night Football fans were treated to an embarrassment of a football game. Monday Night is probably the NFL’s single most-viewed game of the week (What else is there to do on Monday nights?). It has a prestige and cachet similar to Thanksgiving Day football that stretches back to the days of Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford. From its iconic opening music to a history of great match-ups, Monday Night Football is a national tradition.
This week that tradition suffered an ugly black eye, as fans were treated to a horrible match-up between one team struggling to rebuild, and another drowning in feckless mediocrity. Of course poor games happen, and Monday Night’s slate of competitors is no guarantee that the play will be memorable. However, most teams find a way to rise to the national spotlight and at least turn in a solid effort, win or lose. Not so last night.
Clearly, the New York Jets are a franchise in full tailspin. They are a talented, proud franchise, but they have lost their focus, their confidence and apparently their faith in the coach. It would appear after Monday Night’s hapless four-interception debacle that the last bit of confidence in their quarterback has finally dissipated as well. Mark Sanchez has seemingly hit the developmental wall, not being able to lead his team through adversity to the next level of play. Yet he remains their coach’s choice as weekly starter.
The affliction of the Jets starts at the top. The ownership has rewarded Rex Ryan’s steady decline over the last three seasons with more marquis players and reaffirmed its confidence in his leadership, in spite of increasingly poor results.
Last night’s game was a model in mismanagement at the coaching level, as analyst and retired QB Trent Dilfer pointed out in a very animated post-game critique. Ryan’s coaching staff stalled their team’s only momentum of the evening, by substituting Tim Tebow at quarterback during the one stretch that Sanchez was actually in a rhythm and hitting his receivers. They failed to respond to the progress on the field, lest it deviate from their precious game plan. That kind of unimaginative inflexibility loses football games for coaches and wars for generals.
The Jets ownership has stuck by Rex Ryan, who has not produced since his early seasons in New York. His behavior and decisions are bizarre, yet he remains. Ryan in turn has stood by his quarterback, who has perhaps already taken his pro career as high as it is going to go. Sanchez is getting worse than his early years, not better. That’s a bad sign. The rest of the coaching staff and players are sliding down the same slope of diminished expectations and the resultant mediocrity. Yet nobody has lost their job security.
The Jets are a microcosm of our nation. The owners (voters) have settled for mediocrity and empty promises from “leaders” who know nothing of leadership. We continue to elect and re-elect unimaginative drones that produce the same low quality of governing that has brought us to the brink of disaster. If you reward mediocrity and underperformance, you get more of it. When you tolerate self-indulgence, it grows to horrific proportions to fill the requisite space.
The “leaders” we’ve been electing have resulted in a trickle-down effect of government bureaucracy that is bloated, supremely inefficient and entitled to an increasingly fatal portion of our earnings. It reminds one of the ridiculously inefficient management of Bill Lumbergh at Initech in the hilarious Mike Judge satire “Office Space“ … except it’s not funny in real life.
Our politicians have taken the most important page out of Rex Ryan’s playbook, namely talking a good game rather than producing one. But Rex has run out of words, and we have run out of ideas.
The Jets organization needs to clean house, starting at the top. The ownership needs to evaluate themselves and make the necessary changes to overcome their deficiencies. If this means bringing in top management and delegating authority to them, they should do it. This coaching staff needs to get the gate, along with the director of player personnel.
Lastly, they need to cleanse the roster of all players who’ve demonstrated that they cannot produce at a higher level. This will be the shortest and easiest task, as the great majority of these players are proud professionals eager to show what they can do under real leadership. Nobody likes to lose, but under poor leadership it becomes a culture.
America needs to clean house as well. We need to fire the party hacks and knee-jerk automatons, investing in leaders who are willing to say what we need to hear and do what needs doing. We need to stop accepting mediocrity and demand better results from our government. This means we have to look in the mirror and be willing to require more of ourselves. Humans crave a challenge to rise to. It’s in our nature to overcome adversity and produce at a high level.
Every major sports team that turned things around after lengthy spells of failure started at the top and worked down. Often it has taken a change of ownership for this transformation to happen, as long-suffering New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox fans can attest to. When it finally comes, everything gets better.
Voters, it’s Monday Night in America, and we are the owners. It’s time for change, and time to quit rewarding failure.
Image: Head Coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets; 23 October 2011; source: Flickr; author: Marianne O’Leary, cropped by Ruhrfisch; Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license