Ed Reed Update: Rex Ryan's "Big Strong Man"
If you watched the sitcom Wings back in the mid-'90s, you probably remember the episode with Big Strong Man.
(NOTE: Wings still gets my vote for "most underrated sitcom." If you look, it shared virtually the same chronological footprint as Seinfeld, the duration of the '90s, on the same network. If Seinfeld was Magic Johnson, then Wings was James Worthy, a great complementary show in the NBC lineup that would've stood on its own in a different time or on a different team. There, I said it.)
Big Strong Man was a TV superhero from the childhood days of Lowell Mather, the dopey mechanic who worked at the Nantucket airport where the show took place. In Lowell's childhood years, Big Strong Man was a crime-fighting Adonis. However, when the actor who played Big Strong Man showed up on Nantucket in costume (for a supermarket opening, of all things), he was a fat, out-of-shape dud in his mid-'60s, a drunk, pathetic, borderline homeless mooch.
Well, Big Strong Man spent the entire episode loitering around the airport, and not surprising, the only one of the regulars who would give this decrepit version of Big Strong Man the time of day was Lowell, who still saw him as the superhero from his childhood days and even let Big Strong Man crash on his couch, eat his food and empty his liquor cabinet.
Everyone else on the island saw Big Strong Man for what he was -- a taker, a parasite, a drunk, a broken-down con man. Not Lowell. He worshipped the ground Big Strong Man walked on, unwittingly to his own detriment.
Why am I bringing up an obscure episode of an equally obscure '90s sitcom? Because it's the best analogy I could come up with for New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan's inexplicable hero worship for this dilapidated "Big Strong Man" version of Ed Reed that is bumbling around in his secondary each Sunday.
When Reed was with the Houston Texans earlier this season, he openly blamed the coaching staff (specifically defensive coordinator Wade Phillips) for not putting him in position to make the types of plays that will one day send Reed to Canton. Now, anyone with a brain and a working set of eyeballs could see that Reed's complete lack of impact had everything to do with a diminishing set of skills and a speed gas tank that was on "EMPTY." It had next to nothing to do with the game plan.
After being let go by Houston, Reed claimed he just needed a change of scenery, and Jets head coach Rex Ryan (Reed's former defensive coordinator during a chunk of his Baltimore days and an unabashed Reed lover) agreed. After being dumped by the Texans following the loss at Arizona, Reed was quickly picked up by the Jets and immediately inserted into their starting lineup.
The results have been ugly, to say the least. Since Reed's arrival in New York three games ago, the Jets have allowed six touchdown passes, all of them longer than 26 yards. Specifically and most memorably, there was Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones's 66-yard bomb over Reed two weeks ago, and this past weekend there was a 31-yard touchdown by Miami's Brian Hartline in which Reed's missed tackle led to the big play.
More important, the Jets are now 0-3 since Reed's signing, losing the three games by a combined score of 79-20. If you're scoring at home (and if you're a Texans fan not only are you scoring at home, but you're probably also openly rooting against the Jets), Reed's team is now 0-10 this season in games for which he suits up.
Somewhere, the Detroit Lions are planning to invite Ed Reed to be the keynote speaker at their 2008 team reunion.
Despite Reed's embarrassingly poor play, according to ESPN.com's Rich Cimini, Rex Ryan is undeterred in his inclusion of Reed in the starting lineup each week:
"He's going to be starting unless he's injured," said Ryan, who coached Reed during their years together in Baltimore. "I think Ed gives us the best shot."
"If you look at it from a statistical standpoint, I can understand the question," Ryan said. "We all saw him miss the tackle on Hartline's touchdown. But Ed did his job, I don't think there's any doubt."
Unlike Lowell Mather, Rex Ryan is no dummy. However, his unabashed love for Ed Reed has him
hallucinating seeing a player none of us are seeing. When Ryan gazes at Reed, he sees the ball-hawking game-changer wearing number 20 in a Ravens uniform.
On the other hand, when the rest of us are watching Reed, we see reality. We see this rickety number 22 in a Jets uniform, and we wonder how in the hell Ryan doesn't see what we see.
Put simply, Ed Reed is Rex Ryan's Big Strong Man, a sad shell of what was once a proud superhero who is now mooching a payday off of the only person left who believes in him.
The only thing left for Reed to do is crash on Ryan's couch and empty his liquor cabinet.
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