Barely a month after the Summer Solstice, NFL training camps are now open. The end must be near, right?
It's really hard not to love summer. For many of us it begins on Memorial Day... not because of the holiday itself, but rather the long hours of sunlight as warmth gives way to heat... steamy, sultry heat that, at least among the youthful, inspires thoughts of skinny-dipping or even running buck-naked through a strawberry patch full of fireflies. The calendar gives us three weeks of such "early summer" weather before the Summer Solstice makes it official, and then two more until the 4th of July brings us to the heart of the season, when autumn seems to be way over the horizon.
Notwithstanding autumn's gorgeous foliage and crisp, cider-like air, the season itself represents death... the death of summer, the end of everything we love about it. I personally love autumn, but I don't like to think about it while we're still enjoying summer... still wearing shorts and flip-flops and slurping Gazpacho.
But noooo! Right smack in the middle of this glorious summer... halfway between springtime's final frost and autumn's first crimson maple leaf... the Buffalo freaking Bills have started training camp about four miles from my back porch in preparation for the 2023 NFL football season. This must mean that summer's almost gone...
This song says it all.
This way premature indication of autumn has befouled my mood, so I'll harness that and take the opportunity to air my official 2023 rant about football.
Every NFL season begins with a number questions that cry out for an answer: Will Aaron Rodgers take the NY Jets to the playoffs? Will Jimmy Garoppolo stay healthy for a full season with the Raiders? For me, the most urgent football question of 2023 is this:
Is former NFL head coach Rex Ryan a genius?
This surely seems like a completely crazy question to just about everyone even remotely interested in the game. After all, Rex Ryan is a legendary knucklehead; surely I must mean New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, right?
Rex Ryan (Left) and Bill Belichick (Right) in the minds of many NFL observers.
NO, I really do mean Rex Ryan. As always, stay with me here.
Coach Bill Belichick was anointed a genius by the slobbering, self-abasing sports press back when he and his team started winning Super Bowls with unprecedented regularity. For the record, Belichick has won SIX as a head coach and Rex Ryan has won ZERO. However, after all-time-great QB Tom Brady's ugly departure from the Patriots, the big question was whether he or Coach Belichick was more responsible for the half-dozen Lombardi trophies they won together. In the minds of many, Brady decisively won that debate by winning a seventh personal Super Bowl in his first year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
And that, Dear Readers, got me thinking.
I love statistical analysis, for two main reasons– 1.) It helps us make sense of the world around us; and 2.) One can use it to make just about any point imaginable. With the latter in mind, I took a deep dive into the career records of Coaches Ryan and Belichick, and what I found might shock some people–
Rex Ryan, certifiable buffoon that he is, actually has a better regular season won-lost record WITHOUT TOM BRADY (61-66, 48%) than Bill Belichick has WITHOUT TOM BRADY (77-85, 47.5%.)
So if Belichick is a genius, then so is Rex Ryan. Let the games begin, if we must.
Going into this season, Coach Bill Belichick sits 20 wins away from the all-time record for regular season wins. I have two predictions about that: 1.) He will first break the record for all-time LOSSES; and 2.) He will set the record for wins with a team other than the New England Patriots. Indeed, he is rapidly wearing out his welcome in Boston, where he has long been famously difficult with reporters... often impatient, condescending, and even, on occasion, downright rude to them. A coach can get away with that when they're winning... however, the Las Vegas oddsmakers expect Genius Bill to go 7-10 this year.