With Jets coach Ryan, what you see is what you get

Outspoken former Ravens assistant says being liked isn't a concern

  • Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Jets coach Rex Ryan hug after the Ravens' 24-23 win.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Jets coach Rex Ryan hug after… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
September 05, 2010|By Mike Preston

In the world of New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, hardly anyone is untouchable.

Take former Ravens head coach Brian Billick. Ryan worked for Billick as a defensive assistant/coordinator for nine years. You'd figure they would have some love for each other. But when Ryan was asked what he thought of Billick reportedly saying he needed to tone his act down a little, Ryan shot back.

"Like I give a [expletive]," Ryan said. "I just thought, OK, Brian, that's more than he ever talked to me before when he was here [in Baltimore]".

And so Rex, how do you really feel?

"You know what's funny? It's easier to say that when you're on the other side," Ryan said. "I'm going to always be myself. I don't emulate anybody. If I cuss a little or something like that happens then that's OK. Just judge me on the success that my guys have, the passion that my players play with and the types of things that I do off the field. That's who I am. I don't need anybody to like me. I'm going to be myself and I'm happy with that."

That's what I admire most about Ryan. He's no phony. He isn't going to say one thing Monday, and say the opposite Tuesday. So what if he is blustery, arrogant and obnoxious? At least he is consistent.

It's called style, and every coach has his own. Bill Belichick has the personality of a rock. Pete Carroll is the Mr. Rah-Rah. Tony Dungy was the Christian guy. Billick was the CompuCoach. Ryan is the hell-raising throwback.

Actually, he never cursed in Baltimore like he does on the HBO "Hard Knocks" series. But there is a lot of contrived action in front of the lights and cameras.

It was so bad that his mother reprimanded him even though his dad, former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan, gave him a high-five for one of his profanity-laden escapades.

"I do a million interviews and I never cuss," said Ryan, in his second year as the Jets head coach. "Sometimes that's just the NFL. At least, that's who I am. I can't turn it off and turn it on. In a team situation, I'm going to be who I am and that's what has helped me be successful. All the advice I'm getting from people that I really don't respect I could care less about."

Except for the sharp tongue, Ryan is often unpredictable. He allows his players to basically say whatever they want to the media. When other teams have given up on players such as receivers Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes and running back LaDainian Tomlinson, Ryan has welcomed them to New York.

"The guy is special," Ryan said of Tomlinson. "He's still got great vision and great feet. We'll see who is right on that."

About Holmes, who has been suspended for the first four games, Ryan says: "Baltimore is happy because Santonio Holmes isn't playing those first four games. I guarantee they're happy because they don't have to defend him. He went five or six straight games scoring a touchdown with the Steelers against Baltimore."

Ryan likes to play the psychology game. A year ago, the Jets were overachievers who reached the AFC championship game. This year, they are expected by many to play in the Super Bowl. If you didn't know that, Ryan will tell you.

"We expect to win, so get used to it because that's who we're going to be," he said. "We had one goal last year and that was to win the Super Bowl, but nobody was listening. This year people are like, 'Oh, maybe we should take these guys seriously.' Darn right, you should take us seriously because that's how we play. If you face us, you're going to have to face a physical football team."

The Jets are built like they Ravens. Both rely on strong running games and physical offensive lines. Both have young quarterbacks, and Ryan admits to stealing a lot of the strategies Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron used to develop Joe Flacco and applying them to Mark Sanchez. .

And both teams play great defense. The Jets were ranked No. 1 in the league last season.

"I don't know how, but that happened," said Ryan, laughing about the top ranking.

In a recent 20-minute interview, Ryan was cagy, witty and hilarious at times. He would like nothing better than to beat his former team next Monday night in New York in the season opener for both teams. The Ravens selecting John Harbaugh as head coach over him following the 2007 season still eats at him.

But when Ryan talks about the Ravens, he has nothing but sincere admiration. At times, he becomes emotional. His son still wears a No. 20 jersey in honor of Ravens safety Ed Reed.

"They know what they can expect. I want them at their best and I know they will be. I can't wait to see them," Ryan said. "This game is going to be full of passion and energy and everything else. That's what we always stand for, and I know that's the way the Ravens will do it, too. It's going to be a hell of a football game.

"I have so much respect for everyone in that organization, and they helped me get to where I am. The guys on that team helped to put me on the map and have the opportunity to be a head coach."

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