The feud between the New York Daily News and Jets head coach Rex Ryan has been one of the more entertaining subplots of the preseason, adding a new layer of absurdity on top of one of the biggest circus acts in sports. Combative press conferences, newspaper front pages, state Governors weighing in, and even the ridiculous notion put forth by NYDN sportswriter Manish Mehta of firing Ryan in the preseason.
Now the feud has taken a bit of an ugly turn with Metha writing a Labor Day column bashing Ryan for having the gall to attend his son's football game on Saturday. Ryan's son Seth plays for Clemson and the Jets coach traveled to South Carolina to watch the Tigers' Top 10 showdown against Georgia. Normal parenting, right? Well, for Mehta, it was an excuse to carry out his and the paper's vendetta even further:
"He shirked his professional responsibilities for personal ones, Dead Coach Walking in Death Valley, furthering the perception that he’s nothing more than a figurehead patrolling the Jets sidelines these days.
It was the exact wrong move at the exact wrong time for a man supposedly fighting for his head coaching life.
Ryan’s decision to skip cut-down day, regarded as the most important 24 hours in pro personnel departments across the league, to watch his son, Seth, a freshman walk-on wide receiver at Clemson, face Georgia in South Carolina revealed how much the head coach has been marginalized."
But Mehta wasn't done there. In fact, he was just getting started. This is less of a hit piece and more of a character assassination of the Jets head coach. Included are various anonymous sources (shocking for a piece about the Jets) confirming Mehta's starting theory that Rex Ryan is a dead man walking as head coach and watching his son play football is a sign of his lack of leadership. But it's not enough to bash Ryan as a football coach, Mehta has to step up his game and question Ryan's priorities by putting his fatherhood ahead of the Jets:
"By all accounts, Ryan has been a great dad, but sometimes the job must take precedence. Ryan, a football lifer, understands the inherent sacrifices of being a coach, which made this decision that much weirder."
If Mehta's endgame in all of this is to make Rex Ryan a sympathetic figure who we're all rooting for, then he's doing a great job of it. When you start taking shots at a guy supporting his kid, that's when you cross a line from "ridiculous media feud" to "being a giant jackwad."
It's not like Rex Ryan attending a Clemson game is an extraordinary step. Reasonable people know fathers seeing their sons play football games is actually quite a normal activity:
Rex Ryan going to son's college game at Clemson? Good for him. He was not only HC who did that on Saturday.
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) September 3, 2013
And yet, since it's become personal between the Daily News and Rex Ryan, anything is fair game for Mehta. It's unfortunate because now this feud reflects poorly on Mehta and the Daily News. It's one thing to be combative, it's another to become completely biased in your coverage without an ounce of professionalism.