The New York writers say Rex Ryan never lost a press conference. Now we know why. Put Rex in front of a microphone and wind him up and there’s no telling what will come out of his mouth. One thing for sure is he won’t be boring.
On Wednesday, Ryan had his first media day presser as Bills coach during Patriots week. His weekly standup came 90 minutes after Bill Belichick’s conference call. If it had been a boxing match, Rex would have won by TKO. In this case, chewing everyone’s ear off would have been perfectly legal.
You don’t win NFL games in the interview room. But you can fire up the fans and make reporters’ jobs more fun. Listening to Belichick’s soporific responses, I felt a stab of sympathy for the New England media who’ve sat through the Pats coach’s mind-numbing monologues for 16 years.
Belichick has four Super Bowl rings, however. Maybe saying nothing is a strategy. Might running an operation in which coaches and players are schooled to be dull and unexpansive help a team win?
“No,” Ryan said. “I get it. But do you think if we’d muzzled it, I would have four Super Bowl rings? If we would have, I wouldn’t say a word. But I can honestly say that ain’t going to help.
“I admire Belichick for the way he is and the way he controls that organization,” Ryan added. “It’s clearly driven through him. That’s his blueprint for success; that’s who he is. For him to be somebody else, that would be a mistake. And the same thing for me. This is who I am.
“Hell, a lot of his guys have gone on and tried to be him. But they ain’t him. So if you’re yourself, you’ve got a chance. If you’re acting like somebody you’re not, you got no chance in this business.”
You won’t find a greater contrast among NFL coaches. It’s Ryan, who will say anything, against Belichick, who says virtually nothing.
Ryan’s teams tend to take on his personality: Brash, outspoken, aggressive, maybe over the line at times. Rex talked about the “hated Patriots.” Suddenly, Bills players were speaking openly about their disdain for the Pats.
Aaron Williams said he didn’t like the Patriots and that it had become personal. Marcell Dareus said the same thing. Corey Graham said he grew up in Buffalo despising the Pats and enhanced it in Baltimore.
Go ahead, read the coaches’ quotes and score it round by round:
Rex: “They’re going to get every single thing I have, everything our players have and our coaches have. Then if they beat us, they beat us. But we don’t concede anything. We’re not beat just because they get off the bus, like some teams.”
Belichick on the hate: “We’re really not too concerned about that. We’re preparing for the game. We have a lot of respect for the Buffalo organization, Coach Ryan, his team, his players, their staff … ”
Rex on the rivalry: “In the last 10 years, the Patriots have been the most dominant team in the NFL. But this year’s a different year. I might want to just put that little caveat out. It’s a different year, and we’ll see who’s the king of the mountain at the end of the season.”
Belichick: “I think all the teams in this division have a good rivalry. So that’ll be there.”
Rex on the crowd: “I don’t know what they’re anticipating. But I have a funny feeling it’s going to be as loud as any game I’ve been in my life. Our fans have been challenged. If last week was any indication, we don’t have to sell seats. Our guys stand the whole time, anyway. Our fans are into it. I have a feeling they’re going to be into this one.”
Belichick: “We always expect a lot of crowd noise on the road. So we’ll deal with it this week. However loud it is, it is.” (Wow, the Hoodie went “it is what it is” on us!).
Rex on his players being glad Brady is playing: “I’d much rather face Steve Grogan or somebody like that. But I get it. I see exactly where our players are coming from. It’s about the competitor in you. You do want to compete against the very best and see where you stack up.”
Belichick: “I think Tom has always done a great job throughout his career preparing and competing.”
Rex on the fact that his defenses have been especially tough on Tom Brady: “I hope my defense is better against most quarterbacks, most teams. Historically, you would probably see that.”
Belichick: “Yeah. I mean … I think our record against him has been OK. I’ll take it.”
That’s the closest Belichick came to betraying any sort of attitude or edge. Yes, the Patriots were 9-4 against the Jets during Ryan’s time in New York, including seven of the last eight.
But Ryan did have more success against Brady than most NFL coaches. Brady’s quarterback rating was 10 points lower (90 vs. 100) against the Jets than the rest of the NFL. His completion percentage was five points lower (59-64). That doesn’t include the Jets’ road upset at New England in the 2010 playoffs.
Ryan got better at defending Brady toward the end of his tenure with the Jets. In four games over the 2013-14 seasons, Brady completed 53.5 percent against the Jets and averaged 214 yards a game. The Pats won three of four. Still, the Jets did much better than the Bills defenses.
Belichick is unmoved by such information. Winning is all that matters in New England. You can insert your Spy- or Deflategate comment here.
“The past is the past,” Belichick said, “and the future really doesn’t have anything to do with this week. We’re just focused on Sunday’s game.”
The same goes for Ryan, his team and the fans. He and Belichick might have wildly divergent styles, but they’re fiercely competitive coaches who relish games like Sunday’s, which has the nation buzzing with anticipation.
“As a competitor, absolutely I’m excited about this game,” Ryan said. “It is a personal challenge, because you want to go against the best. I’d much rather compete against a first-ballot Hall of Fame coach in Belichick than a slappy coach. He’s going to get what I got, and he knows it.”