Giggles flared up in the back of the room. In the front, a hand went up as another smart-assed question flew. The room's chatter made it too loud to hear the question, but the words were lost anyway once Mr. Jones (name changed to prevent future heart attacks) unleashed a meltdown. Spittle flew and swear words punctuated a rant that lacked all outward logic. Our junior high social studies class was officially off the rails.
A similar scenario unfolded on Saturday night when New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan improvised an awkward dance routine to say something about America and his freedom of speech. He was being asked about his quarterbacks and their knack for self-inflicted wounds. It was uncomfortable to watch.
NFL head coaches make roughly 100 times more than teachers, but they share a similar DNA that goes beyond a penchant for pleated Dockers a size too small and an inch too short. Both bridge a generation gap with guidance and instruction. Sometimes the distance results in mutinous spitballs fired at the back of the head -- literal spitballs when you're a teacher, figurative spitballs in the form of rumblings delivered by the media for coaches.
Rex Ryan's had problems in his locker room before. It's actually possible to trace the roots of the Jets' current problems to the 2011 season, which ended with those problems boiling to the surface in the New York tabloids.
The Jets' problems are more than just a battle between a bad quarterback and one who clearly isn't ready. Ryan's being asked to steer a ship with no charted course. Owner Woody Johnson and first-year general manager John Idzik have laid out a vision as clear as Tony Sparano's offense.
Mark Sanchez's contract extension got the last general manager, Mike Tannenbaum, fired. And the deal made it impossible for the team to cut bait on the former fifth-overall pick this season. So they drafted Geno Smith, a very raw and talented quarterback. One's not ready to start, and the other never will be.
Add to that the Darrell Revis deal. It seemed like Ryan, still a defensive coordinator at heart, was not pleased about losing the league's best cornerback and the team's most talented player. That's understandable for a coach who's working with a thin roster, especially on the other side of the ball.
And then there's the question of why Ryan's still the team's head coach.
Like an embittered junior high social studies teacher, Ryan's caught in the middle. The players he's in charge of shaping lack cohesion. The administration drifts forward with a vague goal of improvement its only vision. They don't seem especially committed to the coach, either -- just hesitant to do anything but tie him to a new set of stipulations.
When it's all added up, the Jets are sinking faster than public schools still training kids for factory jobs. Eventually the Jets will change course, but not before another frustrating season.
The Jets have already lost Fireman Ed. Won't someone please think of the children.
Organizational drift in Oakland
The Jets aren't the only team we saw this weekend in a free fall. Quarterback Matt Flynn delivered another ugly preseason performance. On Friday against the Bears, Oakland's now former starting quarterback threw for a grand total of 19 yards. He completed just three of his six passing attempts and, as a bonus, tossed a pair of interceptions. In a preseason game.
Terrelle Pryor took over, completed seven of his nine passes for 93 yards, threw for a touchdown and ran for another 37 yards to open up the previously settled Raiders' quarterback competition all over again. Al Davis' last draft pick will get another chance this week in the preseason finale as the team's starting quarterback.
Oh, and Flynn's hurt. He's got a sore elbow, the same injury he struggled with at this time last year when he was losing a different starting quarterback job.
Flynn was Oakland's answer to the question of who would replace Carson Palmer, dealt to Arizona to unburden a miserable salary cap situation. This weekend's news reopen the question of just why general manager Reggie McKenzie thought Flynn was an acceptable fill-in in the first place.
In the spring, the Raiders still had the possibility of drafting a quarterback. They opted for University of Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden with the 12th pick of the draft instead (He's hurt now too, by the way). For a quarterback, Oakland took University of Arkansas product Tyler Wilson in the fourth round. He's since dropped to fourth on the depth chart.
But the biggest tell that Oakland may be headed for disaster came via Twitter, of course.
For what it's worth, Mark Davis wanted to draft @MattBarkley. Wonder if Raiders would make a run at him again.— Sam Farmer (@LATimesfarmer) August 24, 2013
We'll see how the relationship between Davis and his general manager proceeds over the course of the season. Given the sudden departure of team CEO Amy Trask this spring and the firing of the team's public relations guy, all with a stadium issue on the road to nowhere, the future doesn't look so bright for the Raiders.
On the bright side
850 words on teams spiraling downward is enough. How about a few bright spots from the second-to-last weekend of preseason football?
- Crazy people on the field in San Francisco. We had a streaker in Cleveland last week. Is this going to be a trend in the NFL this year? I really hope so.
- Andre Johnson is feeling spry at 32. The Texans wide receiver was in midseason form this week, piling up 131 yards on seven catches against a woeful Saints secondary.
- Jacksonville isn't going to the playoffs, but the Jaguars aren't going to be so easy to pick on this season. The combination of Cecil Shorts, Ace Sanders, MJD and Justin Blackmon -- once he returns from a suspension -- should be marginally effective in spite of the quarterback situation.
- Ryan Tannehill is going to see a lot of pressure thanks to Miami's tackle situation, but he handled it well on Saturday. If he can keep it up this year, he should take a nice step forward.