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Jets coach needs his team to back up his big words.
By Ralph Vacchiano
The toughest talking head coach the NFL has seen in years certainly wasn’t going to back down now. Never mind that his team is only the sixth seed in the AFC and facing an impossibly hard road to where they want to go.
This is Rex Ryan we’re talking about here, son of Buddy, the crazy man-coach who once decked an offensive coordinator because he didn’t like the way he was calling plays. The younger Ryan may not be that crazy — not yet — but sometimes he can sound crazy enough.
He’s looking at a road to the Super Bowl that runs through Indianapolis, New England and then probably either Baltimore or Pittsburgh — about as tough a road as any team would have faced in years. And his thoughts on that?
Doesn’t matter. As far as he’s concerned, the Jets are still the team to beat.
“I thought we’d win it last year. I think we’re going to win it this year,” Ryan said after the Jets finished up their 11-5 regular season. “So we’ll see. Regardless of who we play, we think we’re better than any team out there.”
He did add that “We’ve got to go prove it, though,” but you get the feeling that Ryan believes that’s only a small detail. Never mind the flaws in the Jets — like their 22nd-ranked passing offense, drop-happy receivers, and shaky young quarterback Mark Sanchez. He sees a strong rushing attack, the NFL’s third-ranked defense and … well, he sees himself.
He’s brash, bold, confident, and wants his team to reflect that attitude. So the first thing the Jets have to do is stop Peyton Manning — who has never lost to a Ryan-coached team in a game that he started and finished. After that, they’d face Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. And after that, it would either be Ben Roethlisberger’s arm or Ray Lewis’ defense.
That’s a path littered with Hall of Famers. It would have to be, as Ryan sees it, if anyone has any hope of stopping his Gang Green.
“If somebody is going to beat us, they must be really good,” Ryan said. “This football team is ready. We have no excuses. Not one excuse. We’re going to Indy and our goals are intact. We want to win a Super Bowl, and we want to do it right now.”
It’s so easy to laugh at Ryan, with all his boasts and guarantees and tough talk that has made him a caricature of a football coach. He’s no Joe Namath, issuing one famous guarantee and backing it up. He wants to be Muhammad Ali — kicking butt and taking names — in a sport where he needs 53 people on a roster just like him to do it.
But here’s the thing: Who would’ve imagined last year that when he talked about bringing the Jets to a Super Bowl that he would have come so close. They backed into the playoffs after beating two teams that laid down before them in the final weeks of the regular season. Then they rolled their “Ground and Pound” attack all the way to the AFC Championship Game.
And there, wouldn’t you know it, they gave Peyton Manning and those powerful Colts, who once threatened to go undefeated, plenty of fits and came within a few bad decisions, a couple of ill-fated plays of reaching the Super Bowl.
So do you want to doubt Rex Ryan now? It would be easy. But you do it at your own risk.