Lou Holtz wasn’t funny. He would save his best material for Johnny Carson’s couch later on, after he was granted early parole from the Jets after 13 games and three wins, walking out on a five-year contract so he could seek paradise in Fayetteville, Ark., which, Holtz told Johnny, “isn’t the end of the world, but you can see it from there.”
He kept the jokes to himself on Feb. 10, 1976, when he was announced as the Jets’ new head coach at 21 Club. He threw bloody red meat at Jets fans, who were starving after seven years wandering the football wilderness.
“I don’t believe in rebuilding,” Holtz said, with a straight face that bordered on stern. “I believe in remodeling. I want to win now. I am an impatient man.”
Rex Ryan was funny. There is no way of knowing when the now-clichéd term of “winning the press conference” was invented, but those who were at the Jets’ old headquarters on Jan. 21, 2009, will swear it started right there, from the moment Ryan talked about his ideal football player — “We’re looking for Pete Rose … without the gambling” — to the bold declarations that defined who he would be across the next six years.
To Jets fans famished after their sentence in the wilderness had been extended to 40 years, Ryan said: “I think we’ll get to meet [then-President Obama in] the next couple of years.”
The unspoken Jets mandate that Adam Gase should be facing
It was 50 damn years and two days after the…
Now, look: Holtz was an abject failure, overmatched in the pro game and best known for leaving behind the only fight song in team history (Google it, you won’t be sorry). And while Ryan’s teams electrified the city his first two years, his last four were haunted by his regular reminders of his own magnificence. By the end, he would’ve been better off trying to win press conferences every Sunday instead of football games.
But Holtz and Ryan — and, let’s be honest, just about every coach who’s tried to fill Weeb Ewbank’s old shoes — at least had an hour or two when the masses were fed and the words were inspiring, honeymoons of various length that at least offered a modicum, of hope.
It’s hard to say what kind of emotions their first encounter with Adam Gase will engender. It wasn’t just that the Jets’ new coach looked like he was cutting a hostage tape as he spoke from at an auditorium at the team’s still-sparkling modern facility in Florham Park; it’s what he said. Or, more precisely, what he didn’t say.
I just reviewed my notes 10 times looking for the usual press-conference layup that freshly hired coaches usually toss out to their fans. This was the best I could glean:
“Today’s a great day.”
Undoubtedly, that caused an instant clogging of the season-ticket phone lines.
Before this, the lowest impact I’d ever seen at a press conference introducing a new coach or manager was when Mickey Callaway was hired by the Mets and immediately announced that he was going to love his players better than they’d ever been loved before. And that one has probably retired the trophy for weirdest press conference.
Well, put it this way. Given a free swing to not only bring Jets fans on board with a hire that they clearly have — putting it kindly — mixed feelings about, and also to provide his own signature moment during his temporary stewardship of the Jets, CEO Christopher Johnson was asked about his immediate expectations. Now, nobody was expecting 1977 George Steinbrenner to step to the microphone. But …
“There will be no playoff mandate,” Johnson said.
Adam Gase's 'intense' eyes steal Jets press conference
Adam Gase set a record Monday. No, not for clichés,…
That sound you heard was the owner’s words popping a million green balloons, real and virtual and imagined, in every precinct where Jets fans had gathered looking for a reason to believe, desperate for one.
OK, it should be said here: If Gase goes 11-5 next year and leads the Jets to a playoff game or two, nobody will even remember that this press conference was even held, much less what was said at it. Jets fans are inured to the promises of Day 1 from their perennial parade of coaches; it’s what happens from Day 2 through Day 1,000 or so that worries them, as they still search to an exit from that wilderness journey that has now lasted three days past 50 years.
So that’s Gase’s mission. At least there will be no debate about how long his honeymoon will last. Grooms who have brought their wives to Denny’s for dinner after visiting the justice of the peace at lunchtime have had longer honeymoons than that.