New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, left, talks with...

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, left, talks with Bryan Thomas (99) during the second quarter. (Aug. 21, 2010) Credit: AP

To give you an idea of just how unusual it is for a coach to swoop in at the 11th hour, hop on a plane to visit with his star player who’s holding out in a contract dispute, and then turn out to be the spark that gets the negotiations jump-started and ends up with a deal, consider this:

The last time I’ve heard of such a thing was … um … never.

Oh, sure, there have been contract squabbles in which the coach has somehow interjected himself as a third party to help move things along. But a coach jumping on a plane with the team owner and spending the weekend cajoling a player, his agents and family members in a last-ditch effort to get a deal done?

Never saw it until Rex Ryan just pulled it off with Darrelle Revis.

The Jets’ second-year coach has as good a relationship with his players as any coach you’ll ever see, and he used it to his advantage in flying down alongside team owner Woody Johnson to meet with the Revis camp in South Florida .

Under ordinary circumstances, Ryan would have been back at the team’s training complex, finalizing the 53-man roster with general manager Mike Tannenbaum and looking ahead to next Monday night’s regular season opener against the Ravens. But Ryan went with his gut instincts and decided to try his powers of persuasion to end a contract dispute that had stretched to 36 days and threatened to drag into the regular season.

With most coach-general manager relationships, there’s a strict line of demarcation in these matters, and the coach rarely treads onto the GM’s territory when it comes to contract negotiations. But Tannenbaum did the right thing by allowing Ryan a chance to use his formidable influence to at least get things moving in the right direction.

Eventually, after two days of intense meetings, the negotiations resume late last night, and Tannenbaum and Revis’ agents, Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod, found common ground to reach a deal.

In the end, they agreed on an extension that will last the next four seasons and will pay Revis $46 million, with $32 million guaranteed. That’s not quite the money Revis had been demanding; he was looking to get quite a bit more than the three-year, $45.3 million contract earned by Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

But this turned out to be more about guaranteed money than overall compensation, and Revis agreed to a more modest deal, one with more cold, hard cash up front. Revis gave some; the Jets gave some. In every good negotiation, each side can claim both victory and defeat, and this was the perfect example.

Revis won the right to earn more guaranteed money while giving up the possibility of a larger long-term deal. The Jets won by not succumbing to Revis’ demand to get Asomugha money, but gave up more in guaranteed money than they’d hoped.

Bottom line: The deal is done, and Revis is back. And now Ryan can game plan against his old Ravens team knowing that he has the best shutdown cornerback in the game, something that he’d been hoping for all along.

Little did he know that he’d be the one to break the impasse and get the negotiations back on track.

“Those guys going down there was a huge step,” Tannenbaum said of the Ryan-Johnson travel junket. “I really wasn't optimistic, I really wasn’t. It was a hard set of dynamics. I’m optimistic by nature, but gosh, this was really hard. There was a lot of heavy lifting. This honestly and truly was really, really hard.”

Tannenbaum said it wasn't until around 11 p.m. last night that the two sides achieved what the general manager called “a breakthrough.” But it was only a matter of about an hour or so that he and the agents found what Tannenbaum referred to as a “landing spot” for a final agreement.

Tannenbaum described Ryan’s exuberance about the new deal this way: “I think I had to medicate the head coach.”

 

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