The New York Jets’ playoff game with the New England Patriots will hinge on the coaches, not the players on the field, the Jets’ Rex Ryan said.
“This is about Bill Belichick versus Rex Ryan,” the New York coach said during a televised news conference today about the Jan. 16 contest at New England. “There’s no question, it’s personal. It’s about him against myself. That’s what it’s going to come down to.”
It was the latest Ryan salvo in his rivalry with Belichick, a three-time Super Bowl champion. Immediately after joining the Jets in January 2009, Ryan said in a radio interview that he came to New York to win, not to “kiss Belichick’s rings.”
At his own news conference today, Belichick responded to Ryan’s statement by comparing their football strengths.
“I might have a little quickness on him, he’s probably got a little strength and power on me,” Belichick said, according to the Boston Herald. “But I don’t think either one of us is making any blocks. At least, you won’t see me doing that. That’s probably a good thing for our team.”
New York split its two meetings with the Patriots this season, losing the second 45-3 in what Ryan at the time called “the biggest butt-whipping I’ve ever taken as a coach.”
When he shook Belichick’s hand after the Dec. 6 blowout, Ryan told the Patriots’ coach: “We’ll see you in Round 3.”
“He just looked at me,” Ryan said today of Belichick’s response.
The Jets, 11-5 during the regular season, beat the Indianapolis Colts 17-16 on the road two days ago to advance to the second-round playoff game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. New England went 14-2 this season, earning a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the American Football Conference playoffs. The National Football League’s Super Bowl is Feb. 6 in Arlington, Texas.
The Jets are 2-2 against the Patriots since Ryan took over in 2009. Last season, New York went 9-7 before reaching the AFC title game and losing to the Colts. The Jets won their first meeting with New England this season, 28-14 at home in Week 2.
“Our teams are very even,” Ryan, 48, said. “This is going to be about me raising my level against Bill Belichick.”
Belichick, 58, is 126-50 in 11 seasons leading New England, which won Super Bowl titles during the 2001, 2003 and 2004 campaigns. He’s 162-94 for his career, having coached the Cleveland Browns to a 36-44 record from 1991 to 1995.
“Experience, obviously, is a huge thing,” Ryan said. “He wasn’t this good when he was starting out. You look at his Cleveland days or whenever, he was still an excellent coach then but not like he is now.”
Other than saying that kick-returner Brad Smith’s injured groin was “probably” not going to hamper him, there was little discussion today about the Jets’ players, which might be exactly what Ryan would like.
Having called the Jets’ meeting with Indianapolis a “personal” battle between himself and five-time All-Pro quarterback Peyton Manning last week, Ryan was asked today whether his pronouncements were simply a ploy to protect his team.
“I think the pressure should come on me, because that’s it,” Ryan responded. “I’m the guy that said we’d be in this position again. By the way, we’re here.”