For those of us who make our living writing and talking about the NFL, Rex Ryan is a godsend.
Calling him "good copy" doesn't begin to do justice to his capacity for providing what we all crave: Quotable material. In the world of the NFL, that can be extremely hard to come by, especially with the reveal-as-little-as-possible protocol that most coaches follow and preach to their players and staff.
We love Rex because he helps us do our job. He doesn't sound or act like your typical coach who recites the company line because it's the safest way to go about (and, in many cases, try to protect) his job.
Who has the edge?
We love Rex because he says what is on his mind with no filter, no fear, and no apology.
And that's why it pains me so much to offer this unsolicited advice to the man who has just completed his second regular season at the helm of the New York Jets: Please do yourself and your team a huge favor, and shut up!
I don't mean entirely, of course. I just mean that it's time to be a little more selective with your daily offerings from the podium, to give all of the boasting and bombast a rest.
The playoffs are here, Rex. Your team has made it for the second year in row, which, by itself, should be viewed as a tremendous accomplishment. Unfortunately for you and for your team, its significance is somewhat diminished by your insistence on raising the ante.
You've repeatedly declared that yours is a Super Bowl team and that you were on board to deliver multiple Super Bowl victories. Now, your players have to cash those checks. And the bank tellers are in places that don't give your words a whole lot of credence. One is Indianapolis, site of your wild-card game Saturday night. Other potential branches will be in the unfriendly confines of Foxborough, Mass., and Pittsburgh.
For some reason, Rex, you thought it was a good idea to discuss how "personal" it is for you, as a man who specializes in defense, to win your chess match against Peyton Manning, who took you to school in last year's AFC Championship Game. For some reason, you felt the need to mention, while praising Manning's study habits, that Tom Brady "thinks he does" work at the same pace as his Colts counterpart and "there's probably a little more help from (Bill) Belichick with Brady than there is with Peyton Manning."
Is it really necessary to crank up the heat that much higher on you and your players? Didn't you learn from that Monday night debacle in New England, which left you virtually speechless, that everything you say before a game can and will be used against you and your team?
Sure, it's fun and entertaining and certainly gives a more human quality to what all too often is so boring and robotic. But here's a sad bit of reality that folks in my business will grudgingly admit: Boring and robotic tend to be associated with far more NFL success than outlandish and irreverent.
You know who and what I'm talking about, Rex. The guy in the hoodie with the team that owns all of those silver trophies and is well positioned to win another. The guy whose Super Bowl rings you felt compelled to publicly vow to not kiss after you took over the Jets. The guy who represents the gold standard of your division, your conference, and the entire league.
Bill Belichick is the master of boring and robotic as they apply to NFL coaching. By his standard, giving up little is giving up too much. It's the "Patriot Way," in which the greatest amount of attention goes to a system rather than individuals.
And because of this approach, Belichick's players operate with a clear sense of focus and direction. The only pressure they feel is what Belichick applies with his expectation for excellence and that everyone, including himself, follows the "Patriot Way."
The emphasis is on coaching and playing rather than talking.
Not so with the Jets. These guys have no choice but to be all about Ryan's bold predictions and other incendiary diatribe. They have to face two opponents: The other team and what the coach says to rile up the opposition and everyone else who doesn't root for Gang Green.
The Colts have Manning. The Patriots have Brady. The Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger. The Jets? They have Mark Sanchez, who has a sore shoulder and is at least three playoff victories shy of being recognized as more than an ordinary quarterback -- if he's that. Remember, it was Ryan, in one of his many moments of candor, who revealed that he had considered the possibility of yanking Sanchez from a game before deciding against it.
Overall, the Jets do look like a better team than they were in the AFC title game, but how much better remains to be seen. They still don't seem to have what it takes to get past Manning or any of the other major obstacles they will likely find on the way to trying to fulfill the coach's promise of Super Bowl glory.
And if that's the case, everyone will have plenty to talk about. Everyone, that is, except Ryan.