It's been lost in all the discussion of Tim Tebow and Mike Tannenbaum and Mark Sanchez and Greg McElroy and Tony Sparano and Woody Johnson, but this season of New York Jets football began with a strange, strange report: Rex Ryan had lost 106 pounds yet gained a secret "sensei." Wrote the Star-Ledger in July about Ryan's sensei:
The sensei's identity is intriguingly guarded within the walls of the Jets facility. He is male and does not work in the building. He and Ryan speak a few times a month. He offers advice and perspective, and "really has me look at myself," Ryan said. But other details are scarce.
Asked if the sensei is a former coach, Ryan says, "He's a coach of mine." Thurman, one of Ryan's most trusted confidants, pretends not to know about the sensei before jumping up from the interview table. Tannenbaum squirms similarly, offering only that the sensei is a "special person who has bettered all of us."
"After we have the season that we're going to have," Ryan says coyly, "I'll mention his name."
So the Jets have had the season that they were going to have. They went 6-10. They missed the playoffs. Mark Sanchez had the worst year of his career and made fans pine for Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy. Tannenbaum got fired on Black Monday. Is Rex going to tell us who the sensei is?
Maybe! But the Jets press corps will have to find him first! Ace beat man Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports that Ryan has ditched New Jersey on a personal trip, and he'll be back on Tuesday to hold a season-ending press conference with Johnson. That apparently violates NFL media-availability rules—coaches have to speak within a week of the season ending—but the Jets already had fun with that set of policies during the season.
Mehta doesn't know where Ryan is now. We didn't, either, until a tipster wrote in:
My parents (we're all jets fans) were apparently on the same flight as him out of Newark Airport this a.m. and saw him and his wife in the baggage area waiting for bags in the Bahamas. People went up and said hi to them and he confirmed he was Rex. He was wearing a Jets/Titans throwback coat.
My parents are staying at The Cove Atlantis [A swanky-looking resort]. After they got their bags, there was a car waiting outside from that hotel. My dad asked if they were there to pick him up and driver responded "Are you Mr. Ryan?"
The picture above is from the Bahamian airport earlier today. We're still curious to find out who the sensei is, but at least we've solved two other mysteries—we now know where Ryan is, and just who wears those supremely ugly New York Titans throwbacks.
Update (3:50 p.m.): We regret that we missed an opportunity to connect this to Rich Kotite. According to the New York Post's Mark Cannizzaro, writing in New York Jets: The Complete Illustrated History, it was in those very same Bahamas that Jets then-owner Leon Hess was vacationing after the 1994 season when he heard some fateful news: The Eagles had just fired head coach Rich Kotite. What comes next is too comic to rephrase:
Hess got his team president, Steve Gutman, on the phone and said, "Get me Rich Kotite's number."
Hess called. Kotite answered. Kotite later said he thought the call was a prank, a joke. Little did anyone know the joke would be on the Jets.
And so days later Hess, who was otherwise highly reclusive, stood before an auditorium packed with reporters and team personnel and famously declared, "I'm eighty years old and I want results now."
"I've waited twenty-five years," Hess said. "The buck stops with me."
Rich Kotite went 4-28 in two years as head coach of the New York Jets.