Trying to figure out a solution to the increasingly strident negotiations with holdout cornerback Darrelle Revis, Ryan suggested calling off practice and arrange a meeting with all the interested parties - Revis, his agents, team owner Woody Johnson, general manager Mike Tannenbaum, and even the players. "We'll have our whole team there and meet," he said, eliciting plenty of newsroom chuckles.
But Ryan insists he wasn't hamming it up for the media, or for the HBO crew of "Hard Knocks," which debuted last night. "Absolutely serious," he said, without a trace of a smile.
Ryan then went on to vigorously defend Johnson, who was accused of uttering a "blatant lie" by one of Revis' agents about whether Johnson was rebuffed over an invitation to a negotiating session at an upstate diner last Friday. Ryan called the accusation "a blatant joke."
So here we are, not even two weeks into the most contentious Jets contract situation since the Pete Kendall fiasco in 2007, and it's a free-for-all, with the owner, the general manager and now the coach getting involved in an effort to force Revis to come to an agreement on a revised contract.
An interesting dynamic, to be sure, but I'm coming to the conclusion that it might actually be the best way for the Jets to bring this to a head. Sure, it's unusual to see such a public discourse, one that even sees the coach getting involved. But I'm convinced a combination of factors has prompted the Jets to become more aggressive and more public in these negotiations.
When Kendall complained loudly and often during 2007 about a revised contract promised to him by general manager Mike Tannenbaum, it turned into a major distraction during training camp. Tannenbaum remained largely silent, and then coach Eric Mangini was similarly reluctant to get involved. It got the Jets nowhere: In the end, Kendall was traded to the Redskins.
A year later, tight end Chris Baker accused the Jets of lying on a promise to revise his contract. Again, Tannenbaum remained mum. Again, it didn't work: Baker was released. Both Kendall and Baker were represented by the same agents who represent Revis - Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod.
Last year, running back Leon Washington demanded a new deal worth more than $6 million a year, similar to the one signed by Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew. One big difference: Jones-Drew is an every-down back, while Washington was a third-down back and kick returner. The Jets offered him $5 million a year, and Washington decided to play on a $1.8-million restricted free- agent contract. Bad move. He suffered a season-ending leg injury last October and was traded to the Seahawks.
Now that the team's most important defensive player is engaged in a holdout going on two weeks, Tannenbaum has taken pains to let it be known that the Jets are willing to make Revis the richest player in Jets history, and the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL in terms of overall compensation, a deal in excess of $100 million. Johnson has reinforced Tannenbaum's position, making it clear the Jets are willing to pay up, but not simply on Revis' terms, especially with three years left on his current contract.
And now Ryan takes the bully pulpit and presses the issue in his own inimitable style. Even if the idea of a meeting involving the entire team is a pipe dream, at least Ryan said his piece and put the Revis camp on the defensive.
Will it get a deal done sooner? Only time will tell, but at least it was worth a shot. Especially given the track record of the negotiations with Revis' agents, who also represent another high-profile player currently embroiled in a contract dispute, wide receiver Vincent Jackson of the Chargers.
So what's next? Silence. At least for a while.
With the acrimony out in the open, it's time to take a breath, reassess, and then get back to the negotiating table to hammer out a deal and meet somewhere in the middle. That means Revis' agents willing to talk about more realistic numbers in terms of total compensation. And it means the Jets willing to get to the nitty-gritty of guaranteed money, which is what Revis is most concerned about.
Now it's time for both sides to start talking to each other again - not through the media - and reach an agreement. Too much is at stake for a deal not to happen.
Time to get it done, fellas.