Jets Coach Rex Ryan’s bombast reached a new pitch this week when he declared that beating Manning and the Indianapolis Colts is “personal.” Manning’s response was buttoned up and correct, as usual. “I really don’t have any reaction to it,” he said, tonelessly. They are the two dominant personalities of their teams: One guy is a loudmouth braggart, the other is tight-lipped. So far close-mouthed has beaten big-mouthed almost every time. Manning’s record against Ryan is 5-1, including last year’s AFC championship game.
“Indy is always true to who they are and we’re going to be true to who we are,” Ryan says. “We’ll see if it’s a different outcome.”
Ryan’s double-chinned personality has given the once-derelict Jets all kinds of confidence and Super Bowl ambitions, but at a certain point he needs to back up his bluster with a victory over a disciplined outfit like Indy, at peril of being judged a bit of a blowhard. Ryan and the Jets are charmingly unreserved and expansive, but they’re also turbulent. There was that obnoxious appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” their whistling at Ines Sainz, Braylon Edwards’s DUI, Ryan’s embarrassment over his wife’s apparent foot-fetish videos, and strength coach Sal Alosi’s spiteful tripping incident against Miami. Some players have said they are sick of the constant distractions.
For two seasons Ryan has brayed that he has the best team in football, but there’s been something a little huckstering about him. Listen closely and there’s a contrived tone. Even he concedes he’s “selling.”
“I think we have the best team,” Ryan says, “People may argue that, but that’s fine. I like the old Ray Robinson quote: ‘To be a champion, you have to think you can win when no one else thinks you can.’ That’s what I believe in. That’s something that has stuck with me my whole life.”
It’s money-where-your-mouth-is time. If the Jets are really going to reach a Super Bowl, they’ll have to show serious substance: They face three playoff games on the road, starting with Indy and Manning, followed by potential meetings with New England’s Tom Brady and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, players with a combined five Super Bowl wins.
No one exposed the Jets’ lack of Super Bowl substance last season more than Manning in the AFC championship game, when he destroyed them in the second half for a 30-17 victory, with 377 yards and three touchdowns. When Ryan viewed the tape, he got “kind of sick.” He felt so overwhelmed by Manning that in the offseason he shored up his secondary with three new players in Antonio Cromartie, Brodney Pool and Kyle Wilson, and added more pass rush by signing Jason Taylor.