I have officially come around on Jets head coach Rex Ryan. In fact, he’s now one of my favorite personalities in the NFL — along with Chad Ochocinco of the Bengals.
I like that he’s brash, outspoken and loves his football team. Safety Jim Leonhard — who was a teammate of mine in Buffalo and a fellow Big Ten guy — couldn’t say enough good things to me about Ryan last offseason when he left the Ravens to follow Ryan (along with Bart Scott) to New York.
His players love his defense and they love his attitude, and the more I watch his team play and hear about how they prepare for Sundays, the more I’m buying into what Ryan is selling.
Sure, we all get a laugh out of what he says at his weekly pressers. Dressed in sweats and with the carefree attitude he expresses to the New York media, he looks — and sounds — like a football coach.
But not in the way you’d expect from a head coach at this level. In most cases, head coaches use clichés at the podium, talk about how they prepare to win and work in political ways that meet the needs of the media and the team. It’s a pretty standard practice outside of the Coors Light commercials we see that capture the best outbursts and outtakes of the past.
With Ryan, a beer company could make a killing.
And that’s why I love it when he talks highly of his team and when he speaks his mind about the Jets’ chances in the playoffs. Just as he did Wednesday when he told members of the media, “We should be the favorites.” But he wasn’t talking about the wild card game this weekend against the Bengals.
No, he was talking about the Super Bowl. As in, he believes the Jets “should be the favorites” to head to Miami and hold up the Lombardi Trophy.
But he wasn’t done. “I think we have the best defense,” he added. “I know we do. I think we have the best rushing attack. I want this football team. If I had my choice to coach any team in this tournament, I would choose this one.”
Players love that stuff. They love it when their head coach — who acts like a position coach whom players grow to love — has a sense of arrogance to him. Because of that, I know this: If I were a free agent this season, I would give the Jets a hard look. He’s the type of coach you want to play for.
I felt the same way during my career about Gregg Williams in Washington. He coached us hard, but I wanted to play good for that man because he demanded it and because he expected it. And he wasn’t afraid to talk about it.
Ryan is no different, except that we hear it live in front of an audience from a head coach. Cocky? Of course he is, but when he talks about a defense that he believes is the best, I happen to agree with him — because they’re the best unit in the playoffs.
And they might just be able to put a run together. All the way to Miami? Why not? Their coach says they can.
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