FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Rex Ryan has been called lots of things in his first season as the New York Jets coach, and it's hard to argue with any of them.
Funny. Outrageous. Brash. Cocky. Confident.
Call him whatever you want, but one thing’s for sure: Ryan has been consistently entertaining.
He speaks his mind, whether you like it or not, and apologizes for nothing. And, the more the Jets win, the more attention Ryan’s words get.
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“I just build our guys up,” Ryan said. “If it’s trash-talking that I believe in our football team, then, yes, I agree with that statement. I’m the biggest trash-talker there is. I don’t disrespect anybody else. I just have confidence in our football team. I don’t mean to be disrespectful at all to opponents.”
Ryan has been a quote machine, providing a humorous soundtrack to what has become a wild season for the Jets. His daily news conferences are must-hear events because it seems you’re left shaking your head at least once a week and asking, “Did you hear what Rex said this time?”
Some fans – mainly those of the Jets’ opponents – and members of the media think Ryan yaps a bit too much. To a man, though, Ryan’s players love his “I’m just going to be me” approach.
“I don’t think it is trash-talking,” right tackle Damien Woody said. “It’s confidence that he has in his team. He believes in us. If he doesn’t believe in us, who will? He goes against the grain. Rex tries to build you up, make you feel like you can do anything.”
That certainly has been the case for the past several weeks, as the surging Jets have won six of their past seven and head to San Diego for a playoff game Sunday. Last week, Ryan created a postseason itinerary for his players that included the Super Bowl in Miami – and the subsequent victory parade on Feb. 9.
Bold? Yep, but certainly not unexpected. Ryan’s not going to change now, not when – as he pointed out a few times this week – his team is three wins from a championship.
“If a team wants to use it as motivation that I really believe in our football team,” Ryan said, “then that’s fine.”
When Ryan was hired last January, he took over a team that was, by many accounts, uptight and lacking an identity. He fixed all that the first time he opened his mouth, declaring at his introductory news conference that the Jets would meet President Obama someday as Super Bowl champions.
Eyes widened and jaws dropped, and Ryan was just getting started.
He said his team would be the most physical in the league, and opponents wouldn’t want to ever play them because if they took “a swipe at one of ours, we’ll take a swipe at two of yours.”
“He comes out and says, ‘We’re going to win this,’ or ‘We’re going to win that,’ ” center Nick Mangold said, “and you want to work that much harder to prove him right.”
Ryan’s father, Buddy, was also a cocky and outspoken NFL coach, but he was considered by some to be gruff and sometimes mean-spirited. Rex is the opposite in that sense. He’s the guy who walks into a room as if it’s the neighborhood bar – laughing, smiling and saying whatever’s on his mind.
The one thing Rex got from Buddy, though, is that supreme air of confidence.
“I think I just inherited it,” Rex Ryan said. “I’m guilty as charged. I think you take away things from your environment and how you grew up. The fact that my dad is who he is, it just rubs off on me.”
Nothing has been off limits for Ryan, though.
So what if the Jets, at 50-1, had the longest odds of the 12 playoff teams to win the Super Bowl? Ryan insisted New York should be the favorite to win it all.
This is the same guy that said he didn’t come to New York “to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings,” and got into a playful war of words with Miami linebacker Channing Crowder, saying he had “walked over tougher guys going to a fight.”
Ryan also joked that his holiday wish was that Indianapolis would sit Peyton Manning and other key players in Week 16. Well, he got that wish and many others this season.
“I’m really looking forward to getting my lottery numbers this week (from Ryan), because most of it has come true,” Mangold said.
Ryan has been self-deprecating at times, poking fun at his weight and missteps, such as when he thought the Jets were out of the playoff hunt after a loss to Atlanta on Dec. 20. He also admitted to crying in front of his team during a meeting and brought a box of tissues into his news conference.
“I was just going to come in and be myself and hope that the organization and the coaches and the players and everybody else realized that’s who I am,” Ryan said. “If you can go to work every day with a smile on your face, you’re probably successful.”