The answer was uncharacteristically measured for New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, who might’ve buried the tangible reminder from that unpleasant night in New England but not the memories of it.
A shellacking like that, 45-3, on national television, no less, has staying power. It sticks, even if a blabbermouth coach makes a spectacle of parading his players into the cold and symbolically buries a football. All is forgotten, he said. Yeah, right.
Ryan was on Cloud 10 minutes after his Jets defeated the Colts 17-16 on a game-ending field goal two days ago in Indianapolis. And then the question everyone knew was coming -- the one about returning to the scene of the embarrassment -- got lobbed Ryan’s way. Ears perked. Roll tape. Surely, Ryan was about to deliver something good, a potshot at Tom Brady’s study habits, perhaps. The guy just can’t help himself, right?
Only Ryan wouldn’t roar. No pokes. No prods. No needling. Nothing.
Ryan would only say that he intended to celebrate this one for a few hours. There’ll be time enough to address the fellas from Foxborough.
The players followed their leader. They all went from bold and brash to bland. “It’s going to be tough,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said.
“We’re going against a great team,” offered running back LaDainian Tomlinson, speaking of the Patriots. “We hope to put on a better performance this time.”
That’s it? All of a sudden the blowhards are blah.
Bellicose About Belichick
History shows that it’s almost impossible for Ryan to be asked a question about the Patriots and not talk about kicking coach Bill Belichick’s you know what. Think back to Ryan’s introductory press conference, the one in which he referenced an impending trip to the White House, where all championship teams go. People laughed. He talked about Belichick back then, too, putting everyone on alert that he wasn’t here to kiss someone else’s rings. Setting a tone.
That Ryan, the one who made grandiose proclamations, is exactly what those Jets needed. But times change. Teams change. Players change. Attitudes change. These Jets don’t need bark. These Jets bite. Just ask Peyton Manning, who sat, sat, sat as the Jets ran, ran, ran the ball.
Or, even better, stay in the New York locker room. Check with quarterback Mark Sanchez. The kid didn’t look so good for most of the game against the Colts and yet, when winning and losing hung in the balance, Sanchez had the moxie to toss the ball down field. The coaching staff gave Sanchez the option of playing it safe, which meant a difficult field goal attempt, or putting the ball in the air. Sanchez chose to pass. Chose to. No way that would’ve happened last season.
“Amazing quarterback,” Ryan said of Sanchez. “Amazing leader.”
You get the sense that Ryan finally understands the thinking behind the adage about not having to tell people you’re something special. They’ll find out.
Ryan changed that day in New England. He evolved. For the better. Not only for himself, but his players and his franchise, too.
Belichick doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t have to. His trio of Super Bowl rings speaks for itself.
Beating the Colts was a wonderful win for the Jets. And, of course, for Ryan, whose club was ousted from last season’s playoffs by Indy in the American Football Conference championship game.
The Jets won in large part by keeping Manning off the field. The Colts managed only three offensive possessions in the second half. The Jets took a 14-10 lead in the fourth quarter on a 17-play drive that covered 87 yards and lasted six seconds shy of 10 minutes.
Ball control. Not a bad game plan against Brady, either.
Surely Ryan understands that a loss to New England, whether by 42 points or one, renders the season unsuccessful. Ask any Jets fan. Beating Manning and the injury altered Colts is one thing. Beating Belichick and Brady is quite another.
Football coaches like to stress preparation. This week, for the Jets, I’d suggest an exhumation, too. Once again, Ryan should bring his players together, march them outside, shovels in hand, and form a circle around the shallow grave.
Retrieve the ball and put it on a pedestal in the middle of the locker room. Let the players see it every time they pass. Let them remember what it was like to get embarrassed.
The Jets were shocked, Revis said, when Ryan disclosed the reason for the outdoor field trip. “Nobody said anything.”
Fits perfectly with the new-and-improved Ryan.
Scott Soshnick is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)
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