To view this site, you need to have Flash Player 9.0.115 or later installed. Click here to get the latest Flash player.
By Tom E. Curran
FOXBORO -- Rex Ryan hasn't really been wrong yet, has he?
Except for that little moment last year when he thought his team was actually eliminated from playoff contention and wasn't . . . but other than that, his Jets have done pretty much what he said they would.
All the checks his mouth has been writing since he was hired by the Jets in the 2009 offseason, his team has paid off.
An AFC Championship game appearance last year with a rookie quarterback. A 9-2 record this year.
And as the Jets and Patriots prepare for the climactic regular-season game for both teams, the coaching contrast on the two teams is the most compelling subplot.
The best coach of this generation, Bill Belichick, provided the coaching blueprint for success. Don't look beyond the next practice, the next meeting, the upcoming game. Don't start talking about dessert while you're waiting to get your salad.
Ryan? He's planning the Super Bowl parade during passing camp.
While Belichick won't even let his team look up, Ryan is continually dangling the Super Bowl carrot in front of his.
While Belichick almost always refuses to talk specifically about his players as finished products and rarely uses superlatives, Ryan is constantly proclaiming individual players of his to be the best at their positions.
The Patriots' are fond of saying, "Ignore the noise." The Jets create it.
There's a†vogue notion this week that Ryan has proven both approaches work.
To a point, that's correct. But putting Ryan's 27-game regular season career and one AFC Championship game appearance up against Belichick's record is absurd. Belichick's approach is time-tested. Ryan's on a good run.
And, for all the talk about Ryan's tough guy image, one wonders if he would have the guts to make some of the moves Belichick has over his career . . . or even this season, when he dealt Randy Moss.
But while media starving for a counterpoint to Belichick's dry, boring approach have embraced Ryan and put him on a pedestal next to Belichick because of Ryan's glib and likable approach, the coach himself has often mentioned Belichick's superiority.
For all his bluster, Ryan says only what he believes.
"In this league, if youíre a phony, they know you're a phony," Ryan told me in the summer of 2009 when I went to meet him during Jets training camp.†"If you're not a phony and you're the real deal and you give somebody your word and you can take that to the bank, that also spreads through the league. That's worked in my favor because Iím not a [BS-er]. People trust me and thatís what it's all about.
"I'm gonna be myself," Ryan continued. "I've been successful because of who I am. I'm gonna be myself and at the end of the day, I'll feel good about it. And if it doesnít work, at least Iím true to myself. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. And that's how Iím approaching it. You look at all the great coaches that are out there, yet I was chosen by [owner] Woody Johnson and [GM] Mike Tannenbaum. They want me to be myself. There's no way I'll do it any different."
One of the interesting aspects of the Belichick-Ryan "rivalry" is that Belichick seems to take no offense to what the Jets coach says. Belichick has a real respect for Ryan and -- as the coach's coterie of friends shows -- he also has an appreciation for a quirky personality.
Speaking on WEEI's Big Show on Monday, Belichick said, "My experience with teams is -- whoever the coach is -- they can be successful if [the coach is himself] and the team understands that's what the personality is and they're consistent with it . . .† We see in every sport, different types of coaches. It's not the style as much as it is the person being consistent with who they are."
Back in 1994, the Arizona Cardinals hired Buddy Ryan -- Rex's dad -- as their head coach. "You've got a winner in town," Buddy proclaimed.
After a 4-12 season in 1995, Buddy was gone.
Rex never made that kind of boast about himself. He only praised his players and promised the style he'd bring. Honest, passionate, loud. It's worked well because he's got talented players and an excellent coaching staff around him.
But he's the guy driving the bus and creating the mindset for everyone else to follow.
"He makes you realize you can be a damn good football coach and still have fun," Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer told me last year. "He has a PASSION and everyone around him feels it. It's real. It's not phony. It's not fake and because the players and the coaches know itís so pure, they buy into it and rally around him and want to help him have success. That's to be celebrated."
Tom E. Curran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Tom on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tomecurran