FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Despite his aspirations, Rex Ryan still knows where he stands in the hierarchy of head coaches in the National Football League. Sure, the Jets coach believes he can compete with anyone as a defensive coach. But as a head coach? He gives the nod to Bill Belichick.
“I don’t think I’m the best head coach in the league right now,’’ Ryan said Wednesday. “I think he is.’’
It was a humble moment for a coach not exactly known for being modest regarding his team and his abilities. He did say earlier this year that he believes he is the best defensive coach in the league, a statement he didn’t back down from Wednesday.
But he did acknowledge what many find to be obvious — that he has a long way to go to reach the levels that Belichick has reached as a head coach.
“When I look at him, I see him as the best coach in the league,’’ Ryan said. “I’ve said that from the day I took the job.
“But, again, he’s going to get my best. If it was just between Belichick and me, he’s going to win that battle. I recognize that. But it’s not going to be for lack of effort on my part. He’s going to get everything I’ve got.
“Maybe he struggles one day, something happens, he’s sick, maybe I’ll get him.’’
In the three years that Ryan has been coach in New York, the Jets are 3-4 against the Patriots, a record that would indicate that the rivalry is more competitive than some might think. New England, though, has won the last three in the regular season, including a memorable 45-3 dismantling in 2010 and a 37-16 drubbing in their last meeting.
“I think it’s a little closer than maybe the general public realizes,’’ Ryan said.
So, the coach continued, he always wants that next shot at the Patriots, and at Belichick.
“I look at it as you want to compete against the very best,’’ Ryan said. “Maybe I’m crazy — maybe that’s not even debatable — but I have dreams about what I want to achieve.
“I want to compete against the very best. I’m not worried about competing with somebody down here. I want to compete against the guy that’s up here.
“That’s where eventually I want to get one day. If I’m fortunate to get there, that would be great, and maybe people would want to compete against me the same way.’’
Forget the Dallas Cowboys.
The Patriots are now “America’s team,’’ at least according to Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
“You can’t say they’re not,’’ Cromartie said. “Everybody talks about New England. If they’re losing, they talk about them. If they win, they talk about them all the time. So I call them the new America’s team.
“They’re always in the playoffs. Every single year they’re coming up and have a chance to win the Super Bowl. When you have a dynasty team like Coach Belichick has put together, they’re always going to be talked about. That’s why I call them the new America’s team.’’
Cromartie referenced the number of times the Patriots have been to the Super Bowl over the past decade — oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the last “America’s team’’ isn’t exactly a paragon of success of late.
What would it take for the Jets to take on that title?
“Just going out and continuing what we’re doing, building on from last week,’’ Cromartie said. “We’ve got to win a championship to be talked about first.’’
Running into Wilfork
The Jets finally put together an impressive rushing performance last Sunday against the Colts.
Shonn Greene resurfaced with 161 yards on 32 attempts, part of an attack that amassed 252 yards on the ground.
But that was against a rushing defense that ranks near the bottom of the NFL. For all of their defensive issues, the Patriots stand sixth in the league against the run, allowing just 82.7 yards per game.
“They have an excellent front seven,’’ Ryan said. “There is no doubt that they have an excellent front seven. You start with the huge — I’m sorry, the large — man in the middle, Vince Wilfork.
“I don’t want Vince coming after me, that’s for sure.’’
Ryan said that Wilfork demands to be blocked by two men, allowing the Patriots to control the opponent’s ground game. He also praised Kyle Love and Brandon Spikes for contributing to that ability to stop the run.
“It starts with the big man in the middle, with Vince Wilfork,’’ said Ryan. “There’s not too many guys with that kind of ability, have that kind of size and strength. But he’s a good athlete. In a short area, he’s a good athlete.’’
Center Nick Mangold (ankle), defensive tackle Sione Po’uha (lower back), defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis (knee), receiver Clyde Gates (shoulder), safety Eric Smith (knee), running back Bilal Powell (shoulder), and running back Joe McKnight (ankle) did not practice. Linebacker Bart Scott (toe), tight end Dustin Keller (hamstring), receiver Stephen Hill (hamstring), and linebacker Bryan Thomas (hamstring) were all limited . . . The Jets waived John “The Terminator’’ Conner. The fullback had been battling knee and hamstring problems and received an injury settlement from the team.