Winston Churchill is perhaps the most popular leader in British history. He helped lead them to a victory in World War II. At home, he helped set up a government coalition to unite and move to achieve great mobilization during the war period. Churchill was a brilliant war strategist who knew not only how to motivate, but how to go about winning battles he was in, especially when he had the sudden backing and weapon of the United States following the Japanese Pearl Harbor attacks.
So why did this strong and popular leader suddenly lose an election in 1945, just months after one of the biggest victories in the history of mankind – the ending of the Second World War’s phase in Europe?
It is the case of the Wartime General, someone who is fit to lead during times of battle, but may not be the right person in times of peace…and rebuilding.
While Churchill was at war, he was ignoring some of the most basic needs of his people at home. When the war wound down and his public was ready for the normal life again, he still was looking to Asia, or in more simple terms, looking for any way to keep the status quo and what he knew how to do best.
In peacetime, Churchill was not the leader Great Britain needed and soon dispatched him as soon as he seemed redundant and unnecessary.
In the year 2012, the Jets have a less worldly, but similar decision to make with their head coach.
Like Churchill, Rex Ryan possesses many similar strengths. He is a great motivator, able to build up and push his players to achieve great things. He is a great strategist, always having top defenses that shut down the enemy and helping to set up the offense. He knows how to be conservative and aggressive, looking at his offensive and defensive strategies. And when properly armed, he can be dangerous and win a lot of important battles.
But this is not wartime anymore for the Jets. Many of the Jets Nation of fans are weary of the status quo. Now the Jets have to make a decision: do they go back to war, or is it time for rebuilding; and if you are rebuilding, is Rex a capable peacetime leader?
Some may not believe so. If we look back at the beginning of the season, we can see one of the tactics Rex uses as detrimental. He was quieter in the preseason, but at one point lost that cool and declared that this team had the best talent he had ever collected while Jets coach.
Rex the motivator putting a foot in the mouth of Rex the leader.
This was not a team with the most talent around. The wide receivers had been known to be weak for 2 years; this year replacing their most viable red zone threat with a raw and accomplished rookie, in Stephen Hill. Their offensive line was still patchwork – only ridding themselves of Wayne Hunter shortly before the season started for the new and only slightly better Austin Howard. Their linebackers were healthy, but old, and were depending on a career bust, in Aaron Maybin, to be a major contributor. They were still running out Shonn Greene at running back; the very definition of average. He had a defensive line that, yes, had talent, but no, still had not proven it.
And finally, he had a quarterback whose numbers were rising, but flaws were as well.
Rex’s loyalty, like a general to his troops, became a deterrent to success for the Jets. At a time that Mark Sanchez looked helpless, Rex did not have it in him to go to the bench and find a new option. As a players coach who is so positive and believing in the guys around him, Ryan could not part with the guy that had brought him so much success, even if he was derailing the season in a brutal off-year that may or may not be what he is.
If the Jets are rebuilding, Rex will have to let go of those he trusts, so many of those men he entered battle with four years ago. Can he find a way to rely more on his own mind and strengths to find new players to help him, or is this phase of football not for him?
Luckily for Rex, the NFL has parity, which in itself is a machine that prevents much “peacetime” from season to season. While a team might rebuild, sometimes it takes much shorter than in any other league. Just a quick look at the Colts or Redskins shows that a few young or new players can help turn a basement team into a playoff contender.
So Woody Johnson and whoever the new GM is need to weigh the positives and negatives of Rex Ryan and speculate on what their future holds. Will they rebuild? Will they try to piece together new players to fit the big holes they possess all around their team? Is it worth getting rid of a guy who is so proficient with his defensive strategy for the great unknown of a new coach? Are his faults too strong to wait until his need is there again?
Will the Wartime General be able to survive any time of peace?