Rex Ryan Blazing A Trail To Super Bowl Glory


When the playoffs began just a few short weeks ago, many experts felt the road to the Super Bowl was filled with land mines for the New York Jets.  After all, they were a #6 seed and beyond that, their road to the first Sunday in February went through Indy, New England, and likely Pittsburgh which meant Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger.  It could be argued no team in recent memory had to go through that tough a journey--all on the road.  The fact that the Jets had became a hated team that talked far too much made the detractors of the team relish the chance to see them go up in flames.

But that very thing brought this team together and Rex Ryan used it as a motivating factor to "build the impossible dream."  Don't get me wrong--Ryan did not only use words--he devised unique game plans that quite frankly, parked his "blitz first" mentality at the door knowing his defense needed a different strategy against both the Colts and the hated Patriots.  It's the mark of a great coach to be flexible enough to change philosophies in order to win.  Pat Riley did it with the Knicks as his philosophy changed dramatically from his "Showtime" Laker teams when he came to The Big Apple.  His Knicks were "lunch pail players" that were physical and mostly about defense and rebounding, aside from Patrick Ewing's offensive prowess.  But he did it because it was the shortest road to winning and that is the biggest strength of Rex Ryan.

I know he's cocky and brash and will mix it up with anyone but make no mistake--he is a tireless worker and an innovative game planner.  And the adjustments he makes at halftime round out his resume as a complete coach.  But the real value in Rex is he has an impeccable sense of what his team needs.  Last week, he needed to be brash because of the history with the Patriots but this week, he's been humble and my sense is that's because this game will be more about bulk than syle.  So, expect the Jets to build a more aggressive defensive game plan with complex blitz packages designed to confuse a Steeler offensive line that is hurting.

The Jets are breathing hard on their first Super Bowl appearance since 1969 and moments before kickoff I am sure Jet fans will think about the tarp that was missing in Miami in 1982, the second half meltdown in Denver, or last year succumbing to the arm and brain of Peyton Manning.  But I suspect those thoughts will be long gone later in the night as Rex Ryan may finally deliver to Jet fans what so many coaches failed to do--a trip to the greatest of all sport spectacles--a Super Bowl.

And that will make Rex Ryan's name reasonate in this town much in the same way the names Davey Johnson, Mike Keenan, and Bill Parcells did when they satisfied long-suffering fans of their teams.  It would be rarified air for a coach who would deserve every inch of praise that he would receive.


Rex Ryan Leads The Way For The Jets





He is brash, cocky and sometimes very irritating but make no mistake about it--Rex Ryan is a winner and well on his way to becoming an elite NFL Head Coach.  His Jet team has been in the eye of the storm all year whether they have been the focus of HBO, league investigations, or bulletin board fodder for their opponents.

But all that has just served as window dressing because he is very skilled at 2 major qualities all great head coaches possess: the ability to create unique game plans and at the same time, employ halftime adjustments that turn intermission deficits into dramatic victories. 

Going into this weekend's clash with Peyton Manning and the Colts, the star quarterback had dominated Ryan  as evidenced by last year's AFC Championship win in Indy as well as numerous encounters with him while on the staff of the Baltimore Ravens.  So, Ryan came up with a new twist--he would reel in his aggressive blitzing strategy and force Peyton Manning to beat him by handing the ball off to Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai.  He did it by employing a deep zone thanks to the fact Darrelle Revis kept wideout Reggie Wayne in his back pocket all night. 

Still, down 7-0 at the half, Ryan had to do more than defuse the high octane Colts--he had to find a way to both limit Manning's chances in the second half and score some points.  From the opening second half kickoff, the Jets leaned heavily on their talented offensive line behind Pro Bowlers Nick Mangold and D'Brickisaw Ferguson as they pounded the quick but small defensive front of the Colts finding the end zone twice in that second half.  But those 2 drives also forced Peyton Manning to watch from the sidelines as the Jets milked the clock for almost 15 minutes on those 2 drives alone.

More drama was to come late in the game as Ryan watched the Colts take the lead but effective use of his timeouts coupled with some creative play calling gave the Jets the win and sent the reigning AFC Champions home.  I have watched Peyton Manning lose playoff games but have never seen a defense defuse him in this fashion on the fast turf in Indy.  And a big reason for that is Rex Ryan had the courage to change his game plan because it was the best way to win.

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots await the Jets in the next round in Foxboro on Sunday.  Going up against the best quarterback and the best coaching staff in the league is a tall order and add in the fact the Jets were embarassed there on National TV just a few weeks ago.  But do not count the Jets out here--Rex Ryan and his second year quarterback Mark Sanchez are now 3-1 in playoff games and all of those have been on the road.

 It should be a week full of verbal missles being fired between here and Beantown.  But when the bell rings on Sunday at 430PM and all the chatter stops, one thing is for sure.  Rex Ryan will have a few tricks up his sleeve and he will have to because he will be facing perhaps the greatest playoff coach in league history.  Can he win? Not sure about that but winning is Foxboro after defeating Peyton Mabnning will surely put the Jet Head Coach in rarified air--air that even the long arm of the NY media might not be able to reach.

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