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Rex on Rob Ryan: He's one of NFL's smartest coaches


FLORHAM PARK, New Jersey -- Rex Ryan and his brother, Rob, are fraternal twins, but as he approaches the second half of a 1-7 season -- his sixth as a head coach in the NFL -- Rex is the one who talks like he's been around for another decade. He's seen things as a head coach that Rob has not. He's experienced the wear, the scrutiny and the weight of a gigantic target on his back. He knows what it's like to come into this league and be different -- and knows the price he had to pay.

That's why he takes so much personal interest in seeing his brother, Rob, make the leap. It won't be easy, of course. Rob, the Saints defensive coordinator, is Rex with less of a filter. He has long hair and loud opinions. He curses, spits and swears for a sideline camera that seems to be following him on each possession.

He is a pure football coach in a world that sometimes favors a corporate face to the operation.

"I try to help him with things," Rex told Around The NFL this week. "I mean, maybe the appearance turns people off. It is still a corporate world and you have to deal with a lot of different people. He thinks his hair costs him jobs or whatever, but if that is a fact -- go get a haircut, it's not that hard to do!

"That's him and that's fine. But that was me too in college, but I got my hair cut and I don't have to look like I did when I was in college. He doesn't, either. And I'm sure that if an owner told him to get his hair cut, he would. He would do whatever it takes."

Which is why Rex doesn't think it will be much longer.

"If work ethic has anything to do with it, he would have been a head coach many years ago," Rex said. "But for whatever reason, he hasn't been given that opportunity yet. I think it's a matter of time."

Rex rolled his eyes when asked about being the man who single-handedly cleared the path for his brother to enter the head coaching ranks. He knows he is the leader of a football team with one win on the books this season. But his ascent in the NFL is often forgotten. Between 2009 and early 2011, he looked like a revolution. His ability to connect with players and endear himself to a fan base has not gone unnoticed.

It's the reason Around The NFL has named Rob one of the head coaching candidates to watch for in the second half of the 2014 season. With a few sleepy franchises crawling to the finish line in need of a jolt, Rob stands out as a coach who can organize a next-generation defense and, for the time being, install an identity.

"He's been under Bill Belichick and won two Super Bowls. He's been under Sean Payton, he's been in a lot of different places and seen a lot of different things," Rex said. "There's nobody that can say he was never a motivator of men, because he can get guys motivated and playing hard with a sense of pride. That's something that I know he'll do for a team."

Of course, there will be disadvantages. Rob would need a strong offensive coordinator and a general manager with a track record of identifying quarterbacks. But he would also need a staff that shared his vision entirely, something Rex never seemed to truly find in New York.

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It won't be easy, but Rex knows there are few out there who would put in the hours like his brother. He knows because it's what he had to do, too.

"I think the NFL doesn't have to accept everybody, the NFL can do what it wants to do. It's just such an honor to have that position. But I think somebody that hires my brother is going to want to have a real coach. That's all he is is a football coach. That's all he cares about and that's why he's going to get a job.

"No matter what he looks like, or what he sounds like, one thing you can't deny is his passion for this game and knowledge for this game. People look at him like 'Ahh, he's sort of crazy' -- no. He's one of the smartest coaches in the National Football League. And don't take my word for it, ask Sean Payton, ask Bill Belichick."

The latest Around The NFL Podcast breaks down the league at the midway point and previews Saints-Panthers. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.