The year couldn't have started out any better for Rex Ryan.
After needing all kinds of help to make the playoffs damaged his considerable mojo at the end of 2009, his team rolled through the Bengals, the Chargers and the first half of the AFC Championship Game against the Colts before Peyton Manning snuffed out the magic. The pain of the loss was greatly mitigated by the fact that it seemed like brighter days were ahead.
Things got even better over the summer when Ryan became a fixture in homes around the nation thanks to "Hard Knocks," showing off the blend of humor and confidence that made him so popular in New York during his first year on the job. The gig raised the stakes for the Jets season and it raised the stakes for Ryan, but it was all good because everything still pointed to brighter days ahead for the Jets.
That would make the season finale of "Hard Knocks" the moment in the rise and fall story where the main character can't see that things aren't getting any better for him. The season opening loss to the Ravens made it clear that it was going to be tougher sledding than Ryan promised all offseason. Week after week, even as the Jets won a lot more than they lost, Ryan's big talk was shown to be nothing but hot air as his defense regressed and his team barely squeaked past weak opposition.
Nothing cowed Ryan, though, not even the humiliating back-to-back losses to the Patriots and Dolphins. He kept on talking big, kept on pushing chips into the middle of the table and kept leaving himself open to looking like a horse's rear end if things didn't play out with a trip to the Super Bowl.
And then, pardon the pun, the other shoe dropped. Last week's revelations about the coach's tastes in fun with his wife caused the first press conference in his career that wasn't brimming with confidence. There was no bombast and that continued straight through Sunday's loss to the Bears. When news came that the Jaguars lost and the Jets were in the playoffs, relief crossed Ryan's face and he seemed thrilled that he'd get a week off from big questions and probing questions.
No such luck. Now more photos have surfaced that figure to lead to more questions just as the Jets should be celebrating a second straight playoff berth for the fifth time in their history. So it goes in a year where every upswing for the coach has been met by a drop that left heads spinning.
Only Ryan knows if he's learned any lessons from all the chaos, but it doesn't seem like a recipe that can sustain itself over the long term. The last two years have felt like six or seven, a pace that can't be kept without losing something in the process.