The message will stay internal for now. He’s not sure Rex Ryan would even want these words repeated.
But at the team hotel – on the eve of the 2015 season – safety Corey Graham says players were ready to run through a wall.
“He’s always borderline over the edge,” Graham said. “Before the last game, he was over the edge. It was the best pregame speech I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s the first time in my nine years having a coach that emotional, with that not-giving-a-damn mentality in my life.
“It was a sight to see.”
Publicly, Ryan will stand at the lectern and boast that the Bills don’t fear anybody. Privately, he turns red in F-bomb fueled battle cries. But does this transfer to the field? Does such rhetoric change the status quo in the AFC East? On Sunday, the Bills begin to find out. A dull Bill Belichick hardly blinks – ex-Patriots tight end Matthew Mulligan assures that the Patriots coach we all see is the same one players do.
And here’s Ryan bringing up King Kong and Steve Grogan in the same news conference.
Players see a value in being brash.
“As a defensive player, we love it,” Graham said. “That’s our mentality. We want to go out there and fight. That fits what we’re trying to do as a defense.”
One bone-rattling hit at a time, the Bills’ defense sure backed up the style with substance in a 27-14 win over Indianapolis. Bacarri Rambo body-slammed Donte Montcrief. Ron Brooks sent Phillip Dorsett into tomorrow. Preston Brown drilled Frank Gore in the hole with Mack Truck-force. Ralph Wilson Stadium was, essentially, a meat grinder that left the Colts bloodied and beaten.
Whatever Ryan said Saturday night worked.
Not all coaches take this approach. Graham has seen the other side – he played under the stoic Lovie Smith for five years in Chicago.
“He’s the complete opposite – quiet, even-keeled guy,” Graham said. “So to have a coach who’s fiery and crazy like this, I love it. As a defensive player, you love it. You want to go out and fight and compete, and it means a lot more when you have your coach doing the same thing.”
And Smith, he added, “doesn’t get you fired up.” Not that one way is right or wrong – those Bears defenses often dominated – but Graham will take Ryan.
“I like coaches who are fiery, who are borderline crazy,” Graham said. “That’s the mentality of a defense. We’re always loud, talking, competing, wanting to be physical. He’s got the same attributes that we have.”
Emotions must stay in check, of course. Ryan himself acknowledged that much. For all of the anti-Patriots anger running through this locker room, for all the good it can do in a contact sport, they can’t storm through the tunnel like Neanderthals. Beating Belichick takes near-perfect technique, takes strategy.
That’s why center Eric Wood says emotion from even the best speech ever can fade after a play or two.
“It could almost hurt you,” Wood said. “If you’re ready to roll too early, it can wear you out. You always go back to – in my mind – the way you practice and your individual techniques.”
Somehow, Ryan must flummox Brady. Somehow, offensive coordinator Greg Roman must create match-up problems. Players must be on point.
They’ve always been juiced for Patriots Week, Wood adds. It’s just that this head coach has a brashness his first three – Dick Jauron, Chan Gailey and Doug Marrone – never did.
No, Jauron didn’t munch on a dog biscuit one moment and talk playoffs the next.
“Hopefully it instills confidence in us throughout the week,” Wood said. “Hopefully it makes us more motivated to prepare hard throughout the week and has a big effect.”
And Belichick has mastered such preparation in his own drab way. Mulligan played for Belichick in 2013 when the Patriots lost in the AFC title game to the Denver Broncos. The difference between Ryan and Belichick? “Geez,” he begins. “How much time do we have?”
Day after day, Belichick preached “Do your job.” Nothing flashy, nothing bombastic. He’s as even keel in the meeting room as he is at the mic.
“You know how the ship’s going to be run,” Mulligan said. “Every day you know exactly what to expect from him. He’s going to expect you to work hard, he’s going to expect you to know your stuff.”
Mulligan never gets too high or too low off of what a coach says, either, but is all for Ryan being bold.
As he points out, no head coach can make everyone happy.
“You could be kind and sensitive and everybody says, ‘Ah! He’s soft!’” he said. “Or you could be really brash and talk and hardnosed and it’s ‘Whoa, he’s too much in my face.’ You can’t make everybody happy so you might as well just go and be you. That’s one thing Rex has always done. He says, ‘I’ll never silence anybody. My players are allowed to talk.’”
Because the beauty of this is all is that it comes down to winning.
Belichick can point to the fact that New England has won 12 AFC East titles since Buffalo’s last playoff appearance. With Ryan, with a different tone, the Bills try to change that Sunday.
Said Graham, “I’m looking forward to what he says this week.”
Then, he pauses.
“Honestly, he doesn’t have to do much this week. It’s the Patriots.”