It could prove to be a perfect match should tough-talking coach Rex Ryan deliver on his promise of a return to football glory for a New York Jets team whose history was founded on a Super Bowl guarantee made good.
Second-year coach Ryan has made life fun for Jets players and fans by creating a cocky, carefree atmosphere, though recent cracks in the masterplan threatened to disturb the dream.
In his first season in charge of the Jets, Ryan thumbed his nose at the regal New England Patriots, traded fighting words with an opposing player, showed the finger to rowdy fans and took the Jets within 30 gridiron minutes of a Super Bowl before relinquishing a first-half lead to the Indianapolis Colts.
Those incidents endeared the roly-poly Ryan — now down a bit from his previous 153kg after -gastric-band surgery — to most of the Jets Nation.
This season has already brought a league probe into reports of a “frat house” mentality that prompted a Mexican television reporter to say she was made to feel uncomfortable, and a drunken driving charge against receiver Braylon Edwards who tested at twice the legal alcohol limit when stopped at 5:30am.
Reaction to the incidents was harsh and, after the Jets were flagged for 14 penalties in an opening loss to the Ravens, critics berated the team for a lack of discipline.
“I’m tired of the embarrassment to our owner,” Ryan, 47, said he told a team meeting. “I feel it’s an embarrassment to our owner and this organization.”
“We don’t need to be that team. This team works too hard to be looked at in this light. Yes, we have a great time. We have a lot of fun. [But] this football works and we compete and we study. We do everything it takes to win,” he said.
The Jets responded on Sunday with a 31-23 road win against the Dolphins in Miami that lifted their record to 2-1 and put them into a tie for first place in the AFC East.
An NFL master of defense who champions an attacking style and exudes absolute confidence in his players, Ryan aims to end 40 years of frustration for the franchise and write his name alongside “Broadway” Joe Namath.
In 1969, charismatic quarterback Namath promised that the 18-point underdog Jets of the old American Football League would beat NFL powerhouse Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
They did, but the Jets are still waiting for their second championship.
“Soon to be Champs,” wrote Ryan under his signature on an ESPN bus after an interview for the network’s Hard Knocks reality television show that chronicled the Jets’ training camp this year.
Ryan can trace his bloodlines directly to that distant Super Bowl triumph, as his father Buddy Ryan was a defensive coach for those Jets, who proved that teams from the upstart AFL could compete with the Packers, Colts and Giants of the established league into which they would merge one year later.
Ryan inherited from his father a fascination with ferocious defense and an impulsive nature.
Buddy Ryan as defensive coordinator built one of the NFL’s greatest defenses with the 1985 Chicago Bears, who smothered the opposition all the way to a Super Bowl title.
Ryan senior went on to become head coach of the Eagles and later the Cardinals, where he put his twin sons Rex and Rob (now defensive coordinator of the Browns) on his staff as defensive assistants after they held various college coaching jobs.