CORTLAND, N.Y. -- In many ways, Rex Ryan is a chip off the 'ol Buddy, but there was no family resemblance Sunday as he stood before reporters and played the good company man, parroting the misguided philosophy of his general manager.
Back in the day, Ryan's father Buddy Ryan would've torched the place with a verbal assault against management if one of the suits told him he couldn't pick the starting quarterback on his own. He would've sneered at the phrase "collaborative effort," injecting a bleep or two.
Ryan was in damage control, insisting he and GM John Idzik agree the quarterback decision -- Mark Sanchez versus Geno Smith -- should be a group judgment. Ryan went into filibuster mode, trying to convince everyone -- maybe even himself -- it's not "a one-man show" and that the media are trying to stir up a sinister storyline.
"I think you guys are making a mountain out of a molehill," the coach said.
Except we're not.
Something stinks in Cortland, and it's not the occasional manure smell wafting from a nearby horse farm.
By declaring Saturday that Ryan doesn't have the final say on the quarterback decision, Idzik has cast Ryan as a diminished coach. Not only is his waistline reduced, but so is his perceived authority. And perception is everything when it comes to matters of leadership.
Ryan, commenting for the first time on Idzik's curious and headline-making remarks, fell in line with the boss. It's called self-preservation. Ryan is beginning a make-or-break year, working for a GM with whom he had no prior relationship. He's in a tough spot, and Idzik put him there.
The head coach should decide who plays and who doesn't. Period. To paraphrase Hall of Famer Bill Parcells, the GM shops for the groceries, the coach cooks the meal. In Idzik's organization, there are too many cooks in the kitchen.
This was going to be a difficult year for Ryan under ideal circumstances. It just got harder because, by telling the world it will be decision-by-committee, Idzik undercut his coach.
When they get around to picking the starter, people will wonder if it's Ryan's choice or if it came from above. That's not a good message to the locker room. Maybe one quarterback will separate and the decision will be a no-brainer, but what if it's a close race?
"It's always a team decision," said Ryan, sounding programmed. "Obviously, the decision doesn't rest on me or anybody else."
Interesting. Ryan didn't put it that way last season, when he benched Sanchez. That, he said, was "solely my decision."
On June 5, he was asked about the Sanchez-Smith competition, and he replied, "It won't be just my evaluation, but at the end of the day, I guess it will be. If there's a split camp or whatever, then I will make that decision."
Ryan insisted that nothing has changed. He said everything is cool. He claimed his relationship with Idzik is "smooth."
"Don't think for a second I don't feel 100 percent support by everybody in this organization, because I do," Ryan said.
The organization -- read: Idzik -- has a funny way of showing it. A good GM lets the coaches coach. Are they going to have a group discussion on a fourth-and-1? Will they hold a confab to discuss coin-toss strategy?
This is Idzik's first year on the job, so naturally he will take a wide-angle view of the season. Ryan can't afford to look beyond 2013 because he's in a win-now mode. The GM should defer to the coach, especially on a matter as important as the starting quarterback.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who also will be involved in the decision, said the choice could be based on "a gut instinct."
The question is, whose gut are we talking about?