- Johnette Howard, ESPN.com columnist
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The problem with head coach Rex Ryan becoming the latest member of New York Jets management to get sucked into the theater of the absurd that's sprung up around the Darrelle Revis contract holdout is, you don't answer one circus by suggesting you hold another even bigger circus.
But that's basically what Ryan did Wednesday at his midday news conference.
First, Ryan unloaded a few novel ideas on how he'd settle the stalemate between Revis and the Jets. Then, he called the assertion by Revis' agents that his Jets bosses were guilty of "blatant" lies a "blatant joke."
"This is what I would like to have happen," said Ryan, whose screed was premeditated. "Everybody put their cards on the table. Have Darrelle come here with anybody he wants. We'll have [Jets owner] Mr. [Woody] Johnson here. We'll call off practice. We'll have our whole team there to meet. That way, there's no he-said, she-said. Let's work it that way. Maybe that's how we'll get a solution."
Here's a better suggestion than some town hall-style meeting: It's time for the Jets management to go underground on these negotiations already, the way they usually do. Just shut up. Quit trying to win the battle for the hearts and minds of people who side with Revis on this, because you're not going to. And take a look around.
While Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has said all offseason long that he intends to make Peyton Manning the highest-paid player in the league, and New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft is out playing golf with Tom Brady, skewering those reports that Brady is fuming about the pace of the talks regarding his new contract, the Jets are in a silly, public slap-fight with their franchise defensive player and his agents, Neil Schwartz and Jon Feinsod, whom they have a recurring history of problems negotiating with.
No good can come from the public way the Jets are handling this. Ryan's comments on Wednesday came on the heels of the media blitz Johnson did on Tuesday, bouncing from a team rally in Times Square to 1050 ESPN Radio to an "E:60" TV interview with Jeremy Schaap to an SNY telecast of a Mets game. The Patriots, especially, have to be watching this and laughing their sides sore. They've always sniffed and thought the Jets' love of talking was not just premature, but a sign that the Jets just don't understand some things about what it takes to be winners. Now it looks like "I told you so."
There's nothing wrong with Johnson wanting to be an out-front owner, an enthusiastic owner, an owner willing to spend money on a new stadium or suddenly bring in more big-name free agents than anyone since the Washington Redskins' Dan Snyder. But the sight of Johnson repeatedly declaring that his gut feeling is Revis won't be back this season doesn't help move unsold PSLs at the new stadium. And it sure as heck doesn't resonate with a fan base that is viewing this as arguably the most anticipated Jets season ever, and just wants Johnson to pay Revis already because Revis' talent, his value to the team, his work ethic -- none of that is in question.
The sight of Johnson launching into an unsolicited tutorial about "the beauty of contracts" in the "E:60" interview was a gaffe, too.
Maybe Johnson's intent in the interview was to take a hard-line stance that would ripple through the Jets' locker room. But the way Johnson came across was at times condescending, as if he was lecturing Revis and his agents on the finer points of doing business or how things really work. And Johnson's version of what Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum said to Revis' agents the day after the 2009 season ended was different than Tannenbaum's assertion, for weeks now, that he approached Revis' representatives that day and they agreed that Revis' contract "needs to be addressed."
"I don't think [Revis] was promised anything, as far as I know," Johnson insisted. "And the wonderful thing about a contract is that verbals don't mean anything because that's the whole point of writing something down. So if somebody inadvertently said something -- which I don't think they did -- it really has no merit."
Think about that for a second: Having a boss who says "verbals don't mean anything" and really have "no merit" isn't exactly as trust-inspiring as "I'm a man of my word," now is it?
A lack of trust is part of the stalemate here. The bickering over what exactly was said to Revis -- this whole "he-said, she-said thing" that Ryan muttered he was tired of on Wednesday -- brings back memories of similar accusations about the Jets' negotiating style by Pete Kendall, Chris Baker and, to a far lesser extent, Leon Washington before he broke his leg. It's important to note Kendall and Baker were represented by the same agents who represent Revis. Griping about broken promises seems to be part of their M.O.
Fine. There's still no reason why the Jets should get baited into these public slap-fights.
They'd have been better off Wednesday to just sit back, shut up, and let all the people who have urged Johnson to pay Revis chew on the Jets' contract-offer numbers that were leaked on Tuesday -- funny how that happens -- showing that the Jets made a highly credible 10-year, $120 million offer to Revis which he rejected.
If Revis had been satisfied enough with the amount of guaranteed money included to accept the offer, it would've ranked as the richest contract in league history -- at least until Brady and Manning's new deals are done.
That would've been something worth talking about -- not Ryan taking potshots at a couple of faceless agents, or Johnson waxing on TV about the art of the deal as Revis' holdout dragged into Day 11.
Just tell us when Revis' deal is done.
Enough with all the talk, Woody and Rex. Just get Darrelle Revis signed, now.