When Rex Ryan walked to the post-game podium on the night of Jan. 23, 2011, his voice was tinged with sadness and optimism, a strange blend for a man whose bravado had captivated the NFL for two years. The Jets’ miracle playoff run dubbed “Mission: Impossible” by their fearless head coach was over.
They had beaten Peyton Manning and Tom Brady before being stopped by the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game. For the second consecutive season, Ryan and his young quarterback, Mark Sanchez, had come within one game of reaching the Super Bowl.
“It cuts your heart out,” Ryan said that night in Pittsburgh. “It’s supposed to hurt. I’m going to keep swinging. We’re going to get through this thing eventually.”
Less than two years later, Ryan’s icy stare as he walked by Sanchez last Monday night after a crushing loss eliminated his team from playoff contention for the second consecutive season told an altogether different story.
How did the Jets fall from their perch so quickly?