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The crying game

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  November 19, 2009 11:00 AM

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Christopher L. Gasper

It looks like the Patriots are catching the Jets at just the right time, right after the panic button has been pushed.

It's code red for Gang Green, and they're coming apart at the seams. While the Patriots are coming off an emotionally-draining loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Jets are just plain an emotional wreck. Or is that emotional Rex?

When the Jets take the field at Gillette Stadium on Sunday the crack stadium crew should play Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me River."

The J-E-T-S are a M-E-S-S. New York is 4-5 and just 1-3 in the AFC East, the lone division win their 16-9 victory over the Patriots at the Meadowlands in Week 2, and all five of their losses have been in the conference. Another division/conference loss and it's over and out for the Jets in 2009. So, they've stopped trash-talking their opponents and started sharing their feelings with each other.

By now you know that New York coach Rex Ryan stood up in front of his team during a Monday meeting and broke out into tears while imploring the Jets, losers of five of six games after a 3-0 start, to turn things around.

If Ryan's tears of ploy weren't enough, another impassioned plea was delivered by New York running back Thomas Jones yesterday. Jones, taking a cue from Ryan, addressed his teammates with a fiery speech in which he basically told the team that Sunday's game against the Patriots was their last shot to salvage the season.

What's next, owner Woody Johnson tipping over the Gatorade?

It was all supposed to be different for the Jets under Ryan, who remade them in his outgoing, cocksure image, instead of simply trying to photocopy what Bill Belichick built in Foxborough, which remains the fatal flaw of Eric Mangini.

Teams are a reflection of their coach.

The Patriots are a reflection of their brilliant, but emotionally detached coach. They rarely reveal any emotion and are measured in their play and approach. If the Patriots are still heartbroken and haunted by the collapse against the Colts, you wouldn't know it. Try to ask a question about the Indy loss and it gets intercepted faster than Jay Cutler.

The Jets are a reflection of their innovative, but over-the-top coach. They let the emotions flow as if they're sitting on the couch with Oprah. They're still lamenting past losses and defiantly claiming they're better than their 4-5 record (a wise man who once coached the J-E-T-S said, "You are what you are.") instead of simply putting those defeats behind them and focusing on fixing the problems.

Ryan has created a "Play Like a Jet" philosophy, part of which contains the qualities he wants the Jets to display: Tough. Competitive. Relentless. Passionate. Physical. Productive.

Football is an emotional game and passion plays a part in the NFL, but it has to be harnessed and controlled, not allowed to run amok.

The Jets' outbursts, both aimed at their opponents and each other, might explain why they've lost four games on the final possession this season, including last week's 24-22 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. They get overwhelmed by their emotions, so eager to make a big play, and don't execute under pressure.

The unapologetic and blunt Ryan, who was wearing a gray-hooded Jets sweatshirt, poked fun at his tears yesterday by putting a box of Kleenex tissues on the podium during his press conference.

"I've got a new sponsor," Ryan said. "The Jets have Toyota and I've got Kleenex, for obvious reasons."

Kleenex Rex said he's man enough to be himself, and that he doesn't care if he doesn't fit the stereotype of the stoic, austere NFL coach. That's honest and admirable, but it's obvious the losing has hurt and humbled Ryan a bit and he's shown that to his team. The bravado that the Jets had before the first time they faced the Patriots is missing.

When this was pointed out to him, Ryan even backtracked a bit on his famous "I never came here to kiss Belichick's rings" remark.

"Well I think, you know, my thing about not kissing Belichick’s rings was a compliment, but it was taken differently," said Ryan. "But it’s the truth -- you can’t beat somebody unless you believe that you can, and we believe we can. We did beat them already, and we’re coming there with that mission. It doesn’t matter what the betting public says or anybody else says. We’re coming to New England to win the game, and we expect to win."

Belichick's signature has been that he makes decisions void of emotion. Mike Vrabel is one of Belichick's favorite players he has ever coached and he admires him greatly, but that didn't stop him from making the determination, right or wrong, that the Patriots were a better team without the outside linebacker.

Belichick did get moist eyes at Tedy Bruschi's retirement press conference, but can you see him crying in front of the entire team in Foxborough after the Colts loss?

"I can’t imagine that either," said Tom Brady. "I can’t ever imagine coach Belichick doing that in front of us. He coaches us pretty hard. Every coach has a different style. It’s an emotional game. I think we all put a lot into it every week. And, physically, it’s pretty demanding. Physiologically, weeks like this are pretty demanding. You try to convey a message. And our coach always conveys a message of truth: 'This is how I feel, and this is the truth and this is what we need to do.’ I think we always find a way to respond to that.'

Maybe the Jets will respond to Ryan's weeping by sweeping the season series with the Patriots, and he'll look like a genius or maybe New England will give Ryan and the emotional Jets something to really cry about.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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