Bill Belichick doesn’t return my calls.
I feverishly phoned the Patriots coach at Patriot Place this week. So far, he’s ignored the 11 messages I’ve left. There’s been no answer the 42 times I called after that. I just tried again, and the call was forwarded to a New Jersey area code. Rex Ryan picked up. I could immediately tell it was he by the unmistakable bluster in his voice.
“Belichick’s better than me, that’s why he doesn’t have time to answer your calls, friend,” my boy Rexxy told me. “I got Mark Sanchez in the room too. You want me to put us on speaker?”
It took them five minutes to find the button.
“Hey, this is Mark Sanchez, of the 1-0 New York Jets Mark Sanchez fame. You watch us whip them boys down in Houston last week? I’m telling you. Super Bowl-bound sugar.”
There was a fumbling of the receiver momentarily, and I heard Ryan’s grunt go up a decibel. Sanchez’s voice came back.
“…uh, I mean, what I meant to say is that, look, I understand I can never be Tom Brady.”
“And I could never be Bill Belichick,” Ryan said.
That was followed by a period of silence, though I swear I heard Sanchez mutter something about at least not having “a (expletive) goat” in his GQ photo shoot.
“Look,” Ryan said, “we could really use your support this Sunday against the Patriots.”
I offered to head a 50/50 raffle or even a bake sale. That might really fire up the crowd. They seemed interested in my ideas for a moment, but proposed instead that I scream “really loud” especially when the Jets were on defense.
“We want it to be miserable for Brady and Co. When our fans are into it, it’s almost impossible for them to do anything against us,” Ryan said.
So, basically your challenge is for fans of the team to act like they're fans of the team?
“Yeah, we may not be as good as Belichick and Brady, but we want to be the better team at the end of the day.”
I actually heard Sanchez’s eyes roll.
My call waiting beeped, and I clicked over to discover Coach Belichick was on the other line.
“It’s Bill. Stop #@&%$#* calling.”
Sold. Sorry, Rex.
Who they're picking
Our roundup of national writers' picks for this week's Patriots-Jets game:
- Hank Gola, New York Daily News: Patriots. “The problem with Kerry Rhodes saying he wants to embarrass the Patriots is that, to do that, you have to embarrass Tom Brady and the last person to do that was Bridget Moynahan.”
- ESPN.com staff: Seven out of 10 pick the Patriots (Merrill Hoge, Adam Schefter, and Chris Mortensen roll with the Jets).
- Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Jets 27, Patriots 20. “I buy the Rex Ryan kool-aid. I also buy that Leon Washington is going to be a major matchup problem for the New England linebackers, who made Fred Jackson look like Bo Jackson on Monday night.”
- Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 31, Jets 24. “Rex Ryan isn't backing down from his boastful ways, and he shouldn't. But now it's time to back it up. If he wants to be a contender, he has to beat the Patriots. New England looked vulnerable on defense against Buffalo, but Bill Belichick is a master at facing young quarterbacks. Rookie Mark Sanchez comes back to reality some.”
- CBS Sports staff: Three out of six pick the Patriots.
- Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 20, Jets 16. “What can you expect when a rookie quarterback, even one as skilled as Sanchez, goes against a Bill Belichick defense? The Patriots are hoping the poised first-round pick from Southern Cal makes mistakes in reading coverage, and they can occasionally frustrate him with a pass rush.”
- Peter Schrager, Foxsports.com: Patriots 23, Jets 13. “I heard from a lot of Jets fans this week after my ‘Jets will start the season 0-5’ prediction fell flat on its face in opening weekend. I'll man up and say I was wrong. New York really impressed me on both sides of the ball. But those were the Texans; these are the Patriots. New England's beaten New York eight straight times in Giants Stadium. Make it nine.”
- USA Today staff: Six out of eight go with New England.
- Pete O’Brien, USA Today: Jets 21, Patriots 20. “Hey Rex, if you want to get Jets fans geeked up, you don't have to leave them some doofy voice mail. All you need to rock the house is $2-off beers coupled with 1978 Chevy Impala Appreciation Day.”
- Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Jets 30, Patriots 27. “`AAWWK!'' announces the Upset Bird with stentorian gravity. ``New York Jawk! J-A-W-K!'' Patriots have won eight in a row at NYJ but there's a trend past due to end. Planes are loudmouths, like blustery coach Rex Ryan saying ``I'm not intimidated by New England!'' and safety Kerry Rhodes vowing Tom Brady will take a beating back there. Can they back it up? I hunch yes. AFC Easters split last year, and Pats defense looked beatable last week. ``Tears on the gray hoodie,'' says U-Bird. ``Belichaaawwwk!''
- Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times: Patriots 21, Jets 17. “Bill Belichick is 5-1 against rookie quarterbacks, and the Patriots are likely to draw up more confusing schemes than the Texans did last week.”
- Yahoo! sports staff: Jason Cole picks the Patriots. Charles Robinson and Michael Silver take the Jets.
- Floyd Mayweather: Patriots.
- T-Bone: Patriots.
Rex Ryan, Jets head coach: We’re not too sure. “I’m not as good as Belichick.”
- Our pick: Patriots 27, Jets 23. It’s always good when your nose tackle is comparing a home opener to the Super Bowl, right? Means he’s got his head in the game, focused on the big picture at stake. And with that boast, Kris Jenkins can rest assured….
Ah, take the Pats.