Somebody check on Rex Ryan. The former New York Jets and Buffalo Bills head coach was flayed open by retired NFL quarterback Alex Smith for, in essence, letting Tom Brady and the New England Patriots walk all over him for almost a decade in the AFC East division.
Smith was responding to Brady’s recent take about how he sees a lot of mediocrity in the NFL, and called into question much of the GOAT’s entire legacy.
Alex Smith just made excellent points about Tom Brady’s “the NFL is worse” take while side-swiping two former Patriots and accidentally obliterating a former head coach of the Jets AND Bills. Immaculate television. pic.twitter.com/WsCBx9Y58b
Obviously Smith didn’t go into this segment with ill intentions of trying to figuratively body slam Sexy Rexy from the top rope. It just played out that way. Here’s most of what Smith said regarding TB12’s very recent seventh Super Bowl win with the Bucs, and the relative cakewalk Brady’s Patriots enjoyed during their two-decade dynastic run:
“I love Tom. The GOAT… but first off, he hasn’t been retired that long. He was just playing. He just won a Super Bowl in the current game like… is he discounting that one?
And then my biggest complaint with this, and no offense to you guys — or all three of you guys — he played in the most uncompetitive division, I think, in NFL history.
I mean, you come out of training camp…the biggest cupcake division, you’ve got a ticket to the playoffs right away! Talk about mediocre!”
I could dissect this for a solid day and write 3,000 words about how bang-on Smith is in many respects. Will do my best to be succinct.
Yes. Brady’s first season with the Bucs was in 2020. They had a pretty loose culture under cocktail-loving Bruce Arians’ watch. Tom Terrific tightened up that pirate ship to say the least. Tampa Bay slogged its way to a 7-5 record and lost three of four before a late Week 13 bye. Mind you, this was in the midst of COVID restrictions and the weird reality of not playing in front of fans.
From there on out, Brady’s Bucs won eight straight and blew out Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs 31-9 in Super Bowl LV.
You can hear Smith at the end of this raw-recorded ESPN clip begin to explain how Brady was referencing the declining quality in coaching, and how player safety-based rules changes have allowed bad habits to creep into football.
The fact that Brady could move from one team to another, build a new culture in Tampa on the fly and guide his team to a Super Bowl kind of reinforces all his points about mediocrity. That’s what Smith is pointing out here, at least as far as I can tell.
Barry Sanders’ response to Brady’s “mediocre” remarks was interesting, too. Poor guy had to be on the Lions:
Barry Sanders on Tom Brady decrying the mediocrity of modern football: Maybe he's watching the teams he played for, not the team I played for. https://t.co/rA4tpw0MIj
Brady was lucky to land in New England. He and Belichick were the perfect match. Few epitomize how much of one’s NFL fate is tied to where you land and who you’re coached by more than Alex Smith. He was a No. 1 overall pick and part of a mess of a 49ers organization.
A revolving door of play-callers and awful talent sabotaged Smith’s early pro career. Jim Harbaugh showed up, and what do you know? Turns out dude can play.
Then, Smith went to Kansas City and thrived under Andy Reid’s watch. It took the only guy who might challenge Brady as the GOAT in Mahomes to force him out of town. Unfortunately, he chose to go to the perpetual sh*t show that is the Washington Commanders franchise, where he suffered a life-threatening leg injury that effectively cut his playing days short.
OK but the bigger point about Smith’s epic monologue and the stray Rex Ryan caught is also worth diving into further. While Brady and Bill Belichick built a Patriots dynasty, the rest of their division couldn’t get their sh*t together. Only in 2020 did Bills QB Josh Allen finally start to come into his own. He’s the first legit non-Brady franchise quarterback in the AFC East in many years.
Haters will say the Patriots dominated everyone. While true, how much easier would life be if you could just be on cruise control for 37.5% of your games in every season?
Ryan was dealing with the likes of Mark Sanchez for his first four years in New York. He won four playoff games with him! Come on now! Right on the heels of the Sanchize’s time as a starter, the Jets brought John Idzik aboard as general manager. Idzik is objectively one of the worst GMs in modern NFL history. Is that on Rex, too?
Buffalo didn’t have Josh Allen walking through that door when Ryan came to town. It was a whole lot of Tyrod Taylor, with three starts by first-round bust EJ Manuel and a Matt Cassel cameo sprinkled in there. To record a 15-16 record under those conditions in a division with Belichick and Brady?? IDK. Rather impressive in my estimation.
This is a pseudo-plea to get Rex Ryan back into coaching in the NFL. We need him out there. He’s a Hard Knocks legend who never had the benefit of an above-average quarterback. He’s more qualified than so many of the nincompoops who get head coaching gigs these days. Sexy Rexy can’t be confined to a TV set for the rest of his days around football. Get him back in the league, somebody!!