There are defensive coordinators who would be chastened by the fact that their unit blew fourth quarter leads two weeks in a row and put their team at serious risk of missing the playoffs.
Rob Ryan is not one of those defensive coordinators.
In one of the more entertaining press conference performances you could hope to see, Ryan admitted that the defense needs to do a better job over the last three weeks of the season without giving an inch when it came to his opinion of himself. How confident is Ryan in himself? Donald Trump aspires to have the same self-confidence, that's how confident.
"It’s on me. It’s my watch. But the simple fact is, and I know no one believes it, but I know I’m the best coach or the best defensive coach. I’m sure Dom Capers never had to face all the criticism I will, but I really don’t care. Teddy Roosevelt had a big line on critics. I know you know it, but I don’t. I don’t give a crap. The bottom line is I tell my players I’m Sugar Ray Robinson. That’s who I am. I’m the champ, and I always know I’m the best. I do. Now maybe nobody else in the media believes it, but I know the guys in the locker room do and I do. So whatever it is, hey, I’m the man who is in charge. I’m the man who will fix our problem. All right? And I will get it fixed."
The Roosevelt quote that Ryan references, but doesn't know, is probably this one, which you might also know as the "Man in the Arena" quote. Roosevelt had plenty of quotes about the moral failings of critics compared to those who who try and fail, but that's the most famous one.
If we're talking about famous Rooseveltisms, we might as well mention the one about speaking softly and carrying a big stick. That's one that Ryan clearly finds less appealing and, judging from his brother and father, it might not actually be one that ever crossed his path while he was coming up in the world. The Cowboys need to swing a much bigger stick defensively down the stretch, regardless of what is coming out of Ryan's mouth.
That's not to say there's no value in Ryan's current course of action, though. There's a short shelf life for this rhetoric, but it can be a boost to a beleagured unit over the final three weeks of a season. The danger comes with not being able to keep selling it if you fall short, but that's a tomorrow problem when today is the only thing that matters.
In the short term, though, standing up and making it about yourself plays well in the locker room. It has been Rex Ryan's successful modus operandi in New York and consistently putting himself in the line of fire has led to some inspired Jets performances when the team's backs were against the wall.
The Cowboys need nothing less than that over the last three weeks. If they fall short, Ryan might well find himself hearing a lot about another famous saying. This one's from F. Scott Fitzgerald.
"There are no second acts in American lives."