FLORHAM, N.J. — Jets coach Rex Ryan offered up a little midweek madness, sporting a makeshift Hall of Fame jacket from his alma mater, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, for his news conference today. If anything, the jacket was taken from the Chad Ochocinco Fall 2007 line, but the coach said it was a sign of how big the matchup with Patriots coach Bill Belichick is this weekend.
“I mean you’re talking about two Hall of Famers,” Ryan said, joking obviously. “Because we know he’s going to have a bust in Canton and all of that — that minor Hall of Fame … It boils down to two Hall of Famers butting heads.”
Ryan opened his media session by reading from a letter he claimed was from SWOSU congratulating him on being chosen for its Hall of Fame. On the SWOSU athletics website’s Hall of Fame page, there is no mention of Ryan.
As a runway project, the jacket was as do-it-yourself as you could imagine, with a “HOF” patch on the back and the school’s cartoonish bulldog logo on the left breast. And even though Ryan was clearly making light of Belichick’s status in the game and his own, he’s taking the coaching matchup between the two division rivals seriously going into this week’s matchup at Gillette Stadium.
“Part of is your coaching staff vs. their coaching staff,” Ryan said. “He’s the best coach in football. If it comes down to us, he’s going to win it. I don’t have a problem saying that. I’m not in that class. But I’m going to compete, I’m going to give him everything I have and that’s what we’re doing as a staff as well. Every single person we know it’s going to take everything we’ve got and then we’ll see if that’s good enough.”
Earlier in the day, Ryan spoke with Patriots reporters on a conference call. The question of whom star Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis would be assigned to cover naturally came up.
The Q&A went like this:
Who will Darrelle Revis cover?
“Whoever we put him on. How’s that?” Ryan said.
I figured you guys had decided by now?
“We have, but that doesn’t mean I have to tell you or anybody else. Whoever we put him on, he’ll cover if that’s [Deion] Branch, if it’s [Wes] Welker, if it’s Chad [Ochocinco], or Randy Vataha – it doesn’t matter, he’ll cover them.”
In the past couple of years teams have been reluctant to put their best corner on Wes Welker. The Raiders didn’t do that last week. Why is that do you think?
“I have no idea. I think the big thing would be that he plays in the slot and a lot of times it’s hard to get… he’s not just an outside receiver, but he is a slot receiver a lot of times, and routes and all those things are hard to defend. It looks like to me that Welker is struggling this year – 40 catches. This offense in general is struggling – you talk about our offense, but New England is second in scoring offense, so if you want to talk about struggling I think they need to look at themselves first.”
For the rest of the Ryan Q&A, click the Full Entry button.
When you talk about Welker do you look for him downfield more so this year than in past years?
Ryan: Well, a lot of that is dictated by the coverage they’re seeing. They were seeing a lot of cover two this past week and Welker kept beating them on seven routes and different things. They’re really smart, they identify the defense, they adjust routes based on your coverage, based on your leverage – and Welker, trust me, he’s miserable. I think he broke the all-time record against us one week; he had like 20 catches. He is obviously a tremendous player.
You guys have always been defined by your defense. First of all, do you think that’s still the case and secondly, how would you assess the way your defense is getting after the quarterback again this year?
Ryan: I think we’ve been inconsistent. We played horribly against Oakland. We had a couple of breakdowns that were just…we gave up a 70-yard run, which is absolutely ridiculous, [we] never set an edge. One thing we do is, we know how to stop the run, we know how to play defense, and obviously this is a team that will be…Our defense by the time it’s all said and done, I think we’ll be right there as well, right around the top in this league. I don’t even know where we are statistically, but we’re not where we were. I think last week going into the game we were 31st in the league in run defense. That’s something that obviously we’re a heck of a lot better than that statistic, but it’s going to be a huge challenge. The thing that surprises me, truthfully, about New England’s offense is that they’re running the ball much more effectively. I think they’re eighth in the league in rushing, which, with the number one passing attack in football, obviously makes for a tough combination.
What kind of impact has Tom Moore had on your offense this year?
Ryan: I think Tom’s been good. He’s helped Brian [Schottenheimer] – just another voice for Brian. I think he really works in the red zone with us and I think that’s been an area where we’ve improved. I think we’re throwing the ball a little more effectively this year than we’ve done in the past, but clearly, we have to run the ball more.
We got a chance to talk to Damien Woody a little while ago and he says that he does not think that Mark Sanchez has made that-third year leap that most quarterbacks do. Do you agree with that assessment? Do you think he has improved this year from his first two years?
Ryan: I think he has. I see it every day here. I definitely think he has. That last game – I think we were almost close to a 65 percent completion rate going into that last game and that last game was a rough one to say the least. You can put Tom Brady back there [and] he was going to struggle that day. The pressure, the constant pressure and consistent pressure that Baltimore was able to put on us really disrupted what we were trying to get accomplished. I think Mark has improved, I really do. I think he’s better now than he has ever been.
Can you speak to what you’re asking of and what you’ve gotten from Kyle Wilson so far in his second year?
Ryan: Kyle’s made a big improvement. I think he’s got his confidence back. I think in this league it’s tough – you come in as a rookie and you’re thrown to the wolves a little bit. We had him sit and do a lesser role, but right now he’s our nickel and he’s doing a great job for us.
Last year going into the playoff game I don’t think anybody really thought the Jets had a chance because of that 45-3 game and I think that this year maybe it’s similar because you’re coming off of what you said was a miserable performance against the Ravens. Can you use the Patriots as sort of a rallying cry to get your team going into a better direction than it might have been going before?
Ryan: Well first off, we have to beat New England. That’s the team that we have to beat to win the division. New England I think seven out of eight years has won this division. So, if you want to beat them and if you want to win and get a home playoff game or whatever, you have to beat them. We know what’s in front of us. I don’t know how many games in a row they have won at home in the regular season but I think it’s like 28 or something like that. We know it’s going to be a huge challenge for us, but by no means – this is the biggest game there is for us. I agree with you, I don’t think a whole lot of people gave us a chance, but everybody in our locker room thought we had a chance. I think everybody wants to forget that we had beaten New England earlier in the year. They just focus on that 45-3 nightmare, but we knew we were a heck of a lot better football team than that.
With the long layoff for Plaxico Burress what were your expectations for him and has he lived up to those yet?
Ryan: I think he has. I think he’s done a great job for us. He’s been healthy, he’s been running around – with that said, he’s got some elbow that blew up over night on him so he won’t practice today, but he’s done a good job for us. I like the way he’s blocking; he’s been a great teammate and he’s certainly drawing the attention of teams. [Teams] have been rolling there coverage to him quite a bit all season.
Now that you’ve been with the Jets for three years has this unfolded the way you’ve hoped and turned into the rivalry and the passionate games that you’ve hoped?
Ryan: Well I hoped we would beat them more where we would win a division, but clearly this is a great football team. They’ve got the best coach in the league, arguably the best quarterback in the league, so it’s a huge challenge, but to think that we’re just going to accept that, ‘Well, we can’t beat those guys’ – no way in heck. We’re here to beat everybody. New England is the best team in the league but again, we want to be the best team in the league, so that hasn’t changed one bit. We’re not backing down to anybody.
Coach Belichick said yesterday that they looked at Plaxico Burress. With the amount that he details the guys and goes after them in the offseason it seems like they were really interested in signing him. Did you get the impression that you guys were competing with the Patriots for his services?
Ryan: Not really. There were several teams – New England might have been one of them – but there were several teams that we knew we were in competition with. The ones you kept hearing around here were the Giants, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Those were the ones that we kept hearing about, but again, that doesn’t mean that New England wasn’t in the picture. Most teams were interested in Plaxico.
Chad Ochocinco has not necessarily enmeshed himself too much in the Patriots offense. What have you seen from him and is he the same player he use to be when you used to D-up against him when he was with Cincinnati?
Ryan: I think first off, no matter what he has done or hasn’t done or whatever, this offense is averaging 500 yards a game, so they’re doing something right. He’s a talent; if you sleep on him, he can blow a game wide open on you. He had an outstanding vertical receiving threat. I saw the one drop he had or something like that, but this guy is a very talented receiver.