Ryan has ratcheted up rivalry with Patriots

By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / September 17, 2009

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FOXBOROUGH - Jets coach Rex Ryan has brought an entirely different tone to what was already a bitter division rivalry between the Patriots and the New York Jets and given the Jets their own voice in the process.

Under Eric Mangini, the Jets always seemed to be trying to parrot the Patriots; now they’re polar opposites.

The candid comments of the former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator whose attacking style is a reflection of his aggressive personality have taken a rivalry that was defined by icy silence and words that weren’t uttered - Mangini’s name, initially - and redefined it with his rhetoric. Ryan’s remarks serve as the backdrop as the teams, both 1-0, prepare to meet Sunday at the Meadowlands.

A quick Ryan recap: “I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings,’’ he told a New York radio station in June. “I came to win, let’s put it that way. I’m certainly not intimidated by New England or anybody else,’’

When the first-time head coach was asked about those comments last month, his response only added more motivational fodder.

“How much motivation are they going to get by putting a quote from me on the wall saying that I believe in my football team, that I’m not going to be intimidated by a coach or anyone else?’’ Ryan said Aug. 18. “If that’s where you’re going to draw motivation from, we’ll probably kick your [butt].’’

“He doesn’t hide anything under the rug,’’ said Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. “He’s direct. Blunt-force trauma, I guess you would call it, because he tells you exactly how it is.’’

Ryan avoided more verbal salvos yesterday, striking a far more reverential tone regarding Belichick and the Patriots, whom he referred to as the No. 1-rated team in the NFL. He even left a voice-mail for Jets season ticket-holders imploring them to help the Jets because he is not as good a coach as Belichick.

He said Belichick was one of the few guys in the game he really respected on the defensive side of the ball, and acknowledged that he had borrowed a defensive coverage he saw the Patriots use. He also borrowed Belichick’s favorite phrase: “It is what it is.’’

However, Ryan, whose twin brother, Rob, coached linebackers under Belichick from 2000-03, didn’t recant any of his remarks.

“It’s how I felt, and it’s how I feel,’’ said Ryan. “I have a lot of respect for Bill Belichick, but again, hey, I’m not his friend on Sunday. I’m going to compete against him. I’m a competitor.

“I have a great deal of respect for him. I have a great deal of respect for his team, but we’re in the win business, and we’re going to go out and compete and try to win.’’

Ryan conceded that the Patriots are better at head coach and quarterback, but his team isn’t conceding victory.

“We expect to win here with the Jets - I don’t care if we’re playing New England or a Pro Bowl team,’’ said Ryan.

The silence on the other side from Belichick and the Patriots has been deafening. They’re not going to get into a war of words. When asked about Ryan’s comments, Belichick said, “I have a lot of respect for him and his football team, what they did in Baltimore, and what he has done at the Jets.’’

Just as Ryan’s team has taken on his persona, the Patriots are molded in Belichick’s image. They are careful, calculating, and unflappable in the face of controversy. They speak with actions and not words. As Tom Brady said, it’s just not the Patriots’ style to make predictions and declarations before a game.

“Come Sunday at 1 o’clock, we’ll be ready to go,’’ said safety James Sanders. “During the week, we don’t feed into the hype or the fueling bulletin-board material. We do our talking on the field.’’

Those who have trash-talked the Patriots in the past have often found themselves eating their words. Just ask Mike Vanderjagt, Anthony Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson, or Terrell Owens.

The scary part for the Patriots is that Ryan might have a team capable of backing up his words, especially now that defensive end Shaun Ellis is returning from a suspension.

The Jets defense is just as formidable as the ferocious units Ryan had in Baltimore. Ryan imported linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard from Baltimore and added them to Jenkins, linebacker David Harris, safety Kerry Rhodes, and cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Last week against the Houston Texans, Ryan’s defense held the Texans to no points - Houston’s only touchdown came on a fumble return - and 183 yards of offense.

“I’d say it’s a while before teams get into midseason form, but it looks like the Jets might be pretty close to being there already, a real impressive win for them,’’ said Belichick. “The Texans are a real impressive football team, and they made them look bad.’’

To paraphrase Belichick, Ryan is who he is.

He said he doesn’t ever think he’ll be able to self-edit. Cue the Frank Sinatra, because Ryan is doing it his way, which is now the Jets Way.

“I don’t think that I can coach any other way,’’ said Ryan. “I think I have to be myself to be successful, just like Belichick is himself.’’

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