Rex Ryan sure does talk a lot. In case you havenít noticed. But what really matters here is whether Ryan is helping his team, hurting his team, or doing neither.
Iím going with option one.
Here in New England, we believe in doing things one way, Billís way, and with good reason. In this season as much as in any over the last 11 years, Billís way works. During his tenure as coach of the Patriots, Belichick has rebuilt a crumbling Super Bowl team, constructed a dynasty, and rebuilt again. The Pats went 14-2 this year. New England speaks softly (if at all) and carries a very big stick, and Belichick has never really thumped his chest because, well, actions always have spoken louder than words.
And so now Ryan is at it again, with more jabs at Tom Brady, more bluster about himself, all of which will make for an entertaining week as the Pats and Jets prepare for Round 3 in what is rapidly becoming one of footballís more intriguing matchups. The old-money Patriots against the nouveau-riche Jets. Multiple title holders vs. hopeless wannabes. Old school vs. no school.
But does that make the Jets stupid?
Or does it just make them different?
"This is about Bill Belichick versus Rex Ryan," Ryan said on his weekly radio show in New York. "Thereís no question, itís personal. Itís about him against myself. Thatís what itís going to come down to."
Say this about Ryan: heís not afraid to put himself out there, be it on YouTube or ESPN. Maybe there is a method to his madness or maybe Rex just canít help himself. Whatever the case, most everyone believes that Sundayís AFC playoff game between the Patriots and the Jets will be won on the field, where Belichick and Ryan will attempt to execute their respective game plans.
Already, there is evidence to suggest that Ryanís bravado sometimes gets the better of him. The Jetsí last visit to Foxborough is a good place to start. Against the explosive Patriots, Ryan had Mark Sanchez operating a no-huddle offense in the early part of the game. Everything in the meeting screamed for the Jets to slow the pace of the game, as they did Sunday in Indianapolis, and yet Ryan opted for an up-tempo approach that delivered a clear and obvious message.
Weíre not just going to win.
Weíre going to beat you at your game in the process.
Of course, the Jets got throttled by a 45-3 score in a game that wasnít nearly as close, and Ryan (as well he should have) took complete blame for the loss after the defeat. In part, the ramifications of that defeat required the Jets to play last week in Indy Ė and it requires them to visit Gillette Stadium now.
But Ryanís talking wasnít really the problem. His game plan is what hurt the Jets. New York looked completely overmatched and ill-prepared in Week 13, and the Jets paid dearly for it.
Still, donít make the mistake of thinking that Ryanís talking somehow hurts the Jets by putting pressure on them. Since he arrived in New York, Ryanís whole modus operandi has been built around the idea of building organizational self-esteem, of getting a downtrodden franchise to change its way of thinking. Since winning the Super Bowl with Joe Namath in January 1969, the Jets have the ninth-worst winning percentage in the NFL. At various points, they have been a virtual laughingstock. The simplest psychoanalysis would tell you that Ryanís bluster is a sign of low organization self-esteem.
Doesnít anyone get it? Ryanís mouth and attitude are precisely why the Jets hired him. The Jetsí problems with their own image are hardly the coachís fault. In Ryanís two years in New York, the Jets have gone 20-12 during the regular season and 3-1 in the playoffs. Their only postseason loss came in the AFC title game at Indy last year. In four games against Belichick, Ryan is 2-2, both victories coming in the Meadowlands, both losses coming in Foxborough.
For the Jets, in some ways, this game means every bit as much as the Super Bowl. A New York victory this week would certainly threaten the Patriotsí reign in the AFC East, the regular season be damned. A Jets win would mean that the Jets have advanced further in the playoffs during both seasons of Ryanís tenure. It would also eliminate a great deal of the self-doubt that has existed in the New York organization for the better part of the last four decades.
If you are a Patriots fan, you undoubtedly find Ryan to be a blowhard and a buffoon, if for no other reason than the fact that he talks too much. And maybe youíre right.
But when you get right down to it, itís not you that heís talking to.
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