Buddy's boy comes by gift of gab honestly

By JIM LITKE - AP Sports Columnist
    2009-09-17 19:16

A hearty appetite and a gift for drawing up defenses weren't the only things Jets coach Rex Ryan got from his daddy.

You may recall Buddy Ryan liked to talk a little smack, too. Back when he was the defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears, the most fearsome unit in the NFL, the only thing that really scared his players was what might come out of Buddy's mouth next.

He'd promise more knockouts than Muhammad Ali, then leave it to them to keep cashing his checks. After a while, it got old.

``Buddy was like my favorite uncle,'' hard-hitting safety Gary Fencik said once. ``The one I wanted to tell, 'Shut up.'''

Apparently, the pear didn't fall far from the tree. Rex, too, worked wonders as the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach in Baltimore for 10 years before taking over in New York. The Ravens played an attacking style and punished people the way Buddy's defenses did.

Still, the family resemblance was never stronger than when Rex opened his mouth, beginning with a radio interview in June.

``I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick's rings,'' the rookie coach said, calling out his AFC East rival. ``I came to win, let's put it that way.''

And win the Jets did in Ryan's debut, putting a 24-7 hurt on Houston last week. Even more impressive, his aggressive defense yielded only 183 yards to a Texans offense that averaged more than double that total last season.

``And we straight demolished them,'' cornerback Darrelle Revis said the day after.

``We feel if we can make it a brawl, we're going to win,'' chimed in safety Jim Leonhard, who played for Ryan at Baltimore last season.

That hardly sounds like a team that needs firing up, but Ryan apparently thinks their fans might - with good reason. The Jets open at home Sunday against a Patriot team that's beaten them eight straight at the Meadowlands - tied for the longest active streak in the league. So he picked up the phone Wednesday and left a 70-second message for every season-ticket holder.

``I just wanted to let you know how much we need you this week. You know, I've already admitted that, hey, the Patriots have a better head coach and they've got a better quarterback than us. But we're going to see who's got a better team.''

The tactic barely caused a ripple around most of the league.

Even in New England, Ryan's ploy elicited little more than a shrug. Maybe that's because the Patriots have been conditioned to follow Belichick's ``loose-lips-sink-ships'' line.

``I think that's all not really that relevant,'' Belichick said. ``The most important thing to us is we are playing a division game on the road. That pretty much says it all. Whatever you want to write big game, or important game, or however you want to say that, put it in capital letters, or put it in italics phrase it however you want to phrase it.''

Confidence might be contagious, but so is woofing. That's why it didn't take long for Ryan's fairly temperate remarks to get amplified into a full-throated boast. Safety Kerry Rhodes vowed the Jets defense would come calling for quarterback Tom Brady in the backfield at least a half-dozen times, their goal being to ``try and embarrass'' the Pats.

``We don't want to just beat them,'' he told the New York Daily News. ``We want to send a message to them, 'We're not backing down from you and we expect to win this game, and it's not going to be luck. It's not going to be a mistake.' ``

The mistake, though, will turn out to be challenging Brady. The strongest thing the Pats quarterback said all week was, ``Talk is cheap.''

``No matter what you say on a Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday,'' he added a moment later, ``it doesn't matter much.''

Maybe not.

But somebody should have reminded Rhodes what happened to Steelers cornerback Anthony Smith in 2007 when he promised something similar. Brady kept quiet all week, but drew a bull's-eye on the rookie's back and threw at him repeatedly in a New England win. After completing a TD pass right over Smith, Brady ran almost 20 yards downfield and uncharacteristically began screaming in his face.

Turns out he was just saving his breath.


Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org