Rex Ryan has a unique tradition of appointing team captains for individual games based on whether any of his players previously played for the opposing team, or if there is some sort of symbolism associated with the opposition.
This time, though, he has gone too far.
A few weeks ago, he had the entire offensive line go out for the coin toss against the Jaguars in London because former Bills coach Doug Marrone now coaches for Jacksonville. In September, he had former Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, a central figure in a bullying scandal two years ago, join former Miami players Dan Carpenter and Charles Clay as team captains for a road game against the Dolphins. On Sunday, he appointed the same captains when Buffalo hosted the Dolphins.
In poor taste? Yes, especially because Incognito caused such a national uproar regarding his behavior toward former teammate Jonathan Martin. Incognito himself has been chastened by the experience and appears to be a more mature individual, but there still was no need for the gratuitous reminder. Especially because this is Incognito's first season back since being suspended in 2013.
But Ryan's latest decision to appoint IK Enemkpali the team captain for Thursday night's game against the Jets at MetLife Stadium has crossed the line of decency, and the coach needs to grow up and change his mind.
Enemkpali is the player who blew apart the Jets' locker room on Aug. 11, when he got into an argument with quarterback Geno Smith over a $600 airline ticket and promptly slugged the third-year quarterback in the jaw. Smith, who was Ryan's quarterback in the coach's last two years with the Jets, has not started a game since, with Ryan Fitzpatrick taking over and leading the Jets to a 5-3 record heading into Ryan's first meeting against his old team.
What a terrible show of sportsmanship from the former Jets coach. Disgraceful, in fact.
Smith's career may never be the same because of what happened that morning at the Jets' training facility, and for Ryan to so willfully and cavalierly anoint Enemkpali for the ceremonial captaincy is an affront to common decency. It also is a right to the jaw of the NFL's latest efforts to address domestic violence and workplace harassment.
The Enemkpali-Smith altercation is surely a violation of the league's workplace regulations and goes against the very essence of what the league is trying to accomplish in raising awareness about inappropriate behavior. As such, Enemkpali was banned for the first four games of the season. This after Ryan claimed him on waivers the same day the linebacker punched Smith.
Ryan deserved to be called out for bringing in Enemkpali so soon, and he was rightly criticized. And he deserves more outrage by naming Enemkpali a team captain.
"I'll get ripped, whatever," Ryan said in divulging that Enemkpali will be a captain. He added that tight end Matt Mulligan, who used to play for the Jets, also will be a captain. "For them to be out there, you recognize their former teammates," he said.
Baloney. It's a cheap ploy to motivate his team, and in this case, it's a bush-league move.
While he's at it, Ryan might as well appoint one more former Jet as a captain for Thursday night's game: himself. After all, that's who this is really all about. — Newsday