Rex Ryan gets attention for things he says because he says a lot of attention-grabbing things.
But the New York Jets head coach isn't saying anything ridiculous when he says he believes he's a great coach.
"Do I think that I'm a great coach? I absolutely know I'm a great coach," Ryan told the New York Daily News. "But it's not just about me. What makes a great coach is the people that surround you, the people that are with you every day. There's guys that help me be a great coach. My players help me be a great coach."
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We tend to measure great-coach things by what a handful of NFL head coaches do and say and how they act — ahem, Bill Belichick — and Ryan often finds himself outside that discussion, especially now that it has been three seasons since the Jets had a winning record.
But Ryan also has done some fairly remarkable things, even during that middling stretch. The Jets are two games below .500 over the past two seasons and yet probably should have been far worse, having been outscored by a whopping 191 points over those 32 games.
That's incredible. That's coaching.
So is working around the fact that the Jets have had mostly terrible quarterback play the past two seasons (a laughable combined TD-INT ratio of 17-41) and have an aging defense that has lost several key pieces. You could argue that Rex coaxing as many wins as he has the past few seasons has been fairly strong proof of his coaching ability.
Still, Rex isn't saying he's the next George Halas.
"I'm not saying that I'm the best or whatever… or the best of all time," Ryan said. "I just know that I'm the best that I can be. I know that I'm willing to do the work. I may have limitations. I get that. But nobody's going to convince me that they're more passionate about their job than I am… and that they're more passionate about their organization than me."
Ryan is an easy target. He's bombastic. He's the son of a former bombastic head coach who said whatever he damned well pleased. Ryan coaches in New York. The Jets have had some fantastic flops and failures the past few seasons after going to two AFC title games under his watch. There's Butt Fumble. It all makes Ryan an easy mark and low-hanging fruit.
But when you step back and look at the body of work with the parts he has had, then sure, the dude can coach. It hasn't all been pretty and it likely never will be. Even when they won, Ryan's Jets seldom were anything approximating "pretty." That's what you have to like about the guy: He knows who he is and coaches that way.
"I'm not a phony," Ryan said. "I'm who you see. That's who I am. I've been that way consistently [since] the day I took this job. You get other guys who get jobs. Are they in it for the money? Are they in it for this or that? They can't motivate anybody. I can motivate because I'm consistent and they know I'm telling what I believe to be the truth.
"And they know I'll speak from the heart. I'm not afraid to show my emotions. I am who I am. I'm no different than anybody else…. When I say I bleed green and white, I do. I am all-in with this organization."
Now that said: If Ryan doesn't win this season, it might not matter too much, right? It has been three straight seasons out of the playoffs and a fourth won't go over well at all. Just because a guy can coach doesn't mean he's a perfect fit for every team, and patience is in short supply among Jets fans and perhaps owner Woody Johnson, who at least has pondered Ryan's future a few times. But Rex? He's just thinking about how to win, not what might happen if he doesn't.
"Not for one second do I worry about where I'm going to be next year," Ryan said. "The opportunity that's in front of me is what I cherish. And I'm ready for it. I believe in this football team. No if, ands or buts about it."
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