Baltimore Sun

The cowardly behavior of a Jets assistant coach, and what it means for Rex Ryan

New York Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi committed one of the most cowardly acts we've seen in the NFL in recent years Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, sticking out his knee (clearly on purpose) and tripping former Maryland cornerback Nolan Carroll as he ran down to cover a punt.

The NFL said Monday it's investigating the incident, and it's going to be interesting to see if Alsoi keeps his job. Take the worst thing James Harrison has done this season, multiply it by 10, and it still doesn't rank up there with what Alsoi did. Someone on the sidelines should never interfere with the action on the field, and Alsoi is lucky Carroll didn't blow out his knee. Almost immediately after the game, he admitted in a statement released by the team that the trip was intentional.


"I made a mistake that showed a total lapse in judgment. My conduct was inexcusable and unsportsmanlike and does not reflect what this organization stands for," Alosi said.

What happens to Alsoi, however, is sort of irrelevant. The bigger problem is, it's starting to feel more and more like Rex Ryan's critics were right.


What does the organization stand for? This kind of cowardice?

I dislike admitting this, because if there is one thing I loathe in sports, it's a Righteous Scold. There are people in my business who make millions of dollars a year playing the role of Righteous Scolds, and their act is usual as phony as it is cliched. I want sports to be fun and charismatic and interesting, not rigid and narrow and stuffy. But there is a certain level of professionalism that is still necessary, even for the colorful characters in sports. I don't care about Ryan's bluster and bravado. But evidence is clearly mounting people in his organization can't handle the freedom he's giving them to "be themselves."

Rex Ryan didn't trip a defenseless defensive back on Sunday, and he certainly didn't encourage Alsoi to do so. But is responsible for the culture of the New York Jets, and when you add together everything that's happened this season -- the incident with a female Azteca reporter, Braylon Edwards DUI, this sideline trip -- you have to ask: Does he possess the maturity to be the face of what is essentially a billion dollar company? Can he control his own employees?

It's hard to put into words just how difficult it is to be a NFL head coach. The pressure is immense, and it requires a tremendous amount of patience to deal with fans and the media even in the best of times. You can see the strain on John Harbaugh's face whenever the Ravens lose. You can hear it in his voice as he tries to keep his composure when he fields a question that he deems critical.

But for the most part, he seems to understand he's representing more than just John Harbaugh every time he's in front of a microphone, or when his team takes the field. He's representing the entire organization, and in many respects, his city. That's one of the reasons he got the job here in Baltimore and Ryan did not. I wondered at the time if it was the right call, and I think the jury may still be out on that decision. But if the Ravens strength and conditioning coach ever committed a cowardly act like the one Alsoi did on Sunday, I'm pretty certain Harbaugh would have the Ravens pack up his things that night. He is big on defending his people, but only as long as they behave like professionals.

What will Ryan's decision be?