Over the last two years, the New York Jets have shown significant improvement, and there's no coincidence that head coach Rex Ryan's been the man in charge in that same period of time. Rex changed the culture, added his aggressive defensive concepts, acted as a lightning rod for media scrutiny, and made it impossible for his players not to believe in him.
There's just one thing Sexy Rexy's Jets have not been able to do just yet — get to the Super Bowl. They've lost each of the last two AFC championship games and had to play all six of their playoff games in the last two years on the road, for one reason — they can't finish the season with a better record than their AFC East division mates, the New England Patriots. In 2009, the Jets fell just one game short at 9-7 to Bill Belichick's 10-6. Last season, the Pats finished the regular season 14-2, and the Jets finished 11-5. As a result, Ryan has never coached his team in a home playoff game.
Ryan addressed this issue in his Monday press conference by asking the rest of the league for a little help:
The first year I got in, we were supposed to win six games or five games or four games. I don't know what the experts say, I just know what I believe in my heart and that's that this is going to be our year. Again, I think we have to find somebody out there to beat New England besides us, and I think that would help. Anybody out there that wants to sign up for it? Are you good enough as a team to beat the New England Patriots? Forget about us, are you good enough to go out and beat the New England Patriots? I'm challenging the league.
While Rex could fix this problem by winning more games on his own, it is fair to say that the Jets' backseat to the Pats is not entirely his team's fault. Last year, the Jets beat the Pats in two out of three games (including in the playoffs), and in 2009, the two teams split the series. So, it is fair to say that if the rest of the NFL stepped up, Rex's job would be easier.
Then again, the rest of the NFL has been trying to find ways to consistently beat the Patriots over the last decade, so the rest of the NFL might just want Rex to shut up about it.
A few other gems from Rex's presser…
On new Pats receiver Chad Ochocinco: "I've always said this, when it was Chad Johnson, we could never stop him, but when it was Chad Ochocinco, I've been more successful. So I hope he doesn't change his name back. I have a great deal of respect for him. He's a tremendous player. I mean an absolute tremendous player, going along with [Tom] Brady and the guys, [Wes] Welker and all those guys. I'm glad we have the corners we have."
On Plaxico Buress, new Jets receiver: "It's funny because I never saw the tape on Plaxico. So I said `OK, let me see Plaxico,' so I'm watching this tape, his point attack tape, and I'm like, 'Oh my goodness. Let's go get this guy, are we crazy?' And we all know, he hasn't played for a couple years, but what I saw on tape, I had forgotten about two years and totally got burned a million times when I was in Baltimore when he was with the Giants and with the Steelers … The best thing we ever did, I figured a way to stop him and James Trapp did it. He got into a fight with [Plaxico] right at the end of the first half of a game when they were up by like 28-0 or something, because we could not stop Plaxico. That was the best way to take him out. They threw them both out. Pittsburgh was irate and we were like, 'fair is fair' [smiling]. So that's one way that we figured we'd stop him."
On practices with less contact: "The walkthrough, I'm telling the fans right now, I don't care if they're open or not, whatever you do, do not come to the walkthrough practices. That's about as boring as it gets. And you [reporters] should never come again to the walkthrough thing."
- Rex Ryan