INDIANAPOLIS — At last year's scouting combine, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan did what he does best: he got vocal and entertained everybody. And in that process, he guaranteed that his Jets were going to win the Super Bowl.
"I believe this is the year we're going to do it, I believe this is the year that we're going to win the Super Bowl. And the fact is I thought we'd win it the first two years, I guarantee we'll win it this year, and the reason I feel that way is this: I know we're an excellent football team. We got a great organization, we're the only team to go back-to-back in the final four, albeit we never got it done. But I know the kind of players we have, I know the players that we're going to have represent us, and the thing that I look at is this is not something that I just believe in, it's not what I want, it's what a whole bunch of people want, and that is from our players, the coaches, the entire organization and our fans. Our fans, our New York Jet fans want a Super Bowl, I feel it, I sense it, there's no doubt about it. I think it's my responsibility."
Well, not so fast, big guy. After two straight AFC championship game appearances in his first two years as an NFL head coach, Ryan watched his team fall apart both on and off the field. Players bickered with each other, personnel missteps affected the team for the first time in the Ryan era, and injuries to key players (like safety Jim Leonhard) put the Jets further in the hole. In the end, while the New England Patriots were running away with the AFC East, the Jets finished 8-8 (their first non-winning season since 2007), and looked unimpressive in just about every area of the field not patrolled by Darrelle Revis.
So, with a return trip to the podium a year later, would Ryan's brio make another appearance? Not at all. Rex now:
"First off, I know what everybody is thinking, all right. The return to the infamous Super Bowl guarantee was here. You know, in all seriousness, looking back obviously it was a huge mistake to make that guarantee. At the time we were coming off two championship games, I really thought it would be a thing that would actually motivate our team, you know to really talk about the Super Bowl, to focus on the Super Bowl.
"But in hindsight, I think it put undue pressure on our team and we kind of lost focus and really we lost focus on what we do best. So, it's obviously a big mistake. When I go back and I look at it I think it contributed to the season we had. But realistically it was something that I've been thinking about a great deal. Obviously, we had a terrible season. I'll take full responsibility for it. I think part of that guarantee really contributed to that.
"Looking forward, which I can't wait to do, with this upcoming season I think, first off no promises. There's not going to be any promises. But I will say we're going to have a team now that I think is going to have the potential to do great things. I look at our team and we've got a great owner. We've got a great staff. We've got a great organization. More importantly, we've got a great group of players. I think we can accomplish anything we set out to do. With that being said, I think over a 16-game regular season a lot of things can happen. But I will say this — we will be a team. We will play as a team and at the end of the season, we'll know it was a great season."
And who does he believe will win the Super Bowl in February of 2013? "I have no idea. I have something I believe will happen, but I'm not going to share it with you."
Ah. Believe it, but don't say it. The new and subdued Rex may be onto something.
"I'm going to have fun," he concluded this year. "I think sometimes it gets lost, because I have fun with the opponent's media, I have fun with the opponent's players, opponent's coaches. Whatever it is. Now, one thing I am totally serious about is winning and if I think that something that I say, a comment that I'm going to make, that pulls away from us accomplishing that mission, then I'm not going to say it. But will I always be myself, of course. I am going to have a great time, that's who I am and that's who I'll always be."