New England Patriots: Rex Ryan
Although head-to-head Ryan is a mere 3-8 against The Hoodie (4-8 if you count New York's 28-21 divisional playoff victory at Foxborough following the 2010 season), no other head coach over the past six seasons has defeated Belichick as often (though no one has lost more often, either).
In the 94 regular-season games the Patriots have played since the start of 2009, Brady & Co. failed to score at least 14 points just three times. Two of those -- Week 2 of 2009 in East Rutherford and Week 2 last season at Gillette Stadium -- came against Ryan's Jets.
Ryan's defense has consistently limited, if not altogether frustrated, New England's offense. The Patriots have averaged 28.3 points per game against Ryan's Jets, 24.3 of which were supplied by the offense. Against the 30 teams not coached by Ryan over the same time frame, the average balloons to 31.2 total points per game, with 29.0 of those coming from the offense. The difference of 5.7 offensive points produced per contest would be enough points to drop the top-ranked scoring team this season all the way to 10th.
New England's troubles against Ryan's defense aren't just confined to the scoreboard.
Brady's QBR against Ryan’s Jets is 61.8. Against the rest of the league it's 73.4. Just one of Brady's top 20 QBR games over the past six seasons has come against New York, yet three of his worst nine QBR games came when facing New York. Brady’s completion percentage is a not-so-terrific 59.4 percent when facing the likes of Kendrick Ellis, Muhammad Wilkerson and even back to the days of Darrelle Revis, compared to a much more robust 64.7 percent against all other teams. No. 12 particularly struggles against Ryan's blitz packages, posting a QBR of nearly 20 points lower against Gang Green’s pass pressure (58.1) than when the rest of the league comes at him full bore (77.4).
The limitations placed on the Patriots are crystal clear in terms of yardage. New England has averaged 358.7 yards per game against Ryan’s defense. Against all others they gain an NFL-best 402.8 yards per game. Much of that discrepancy is in rushing the football, an area in which the Pats average nearly 30 fewer yards (95.4) versus the Jets than against all others (125.1). The drop in passing yards (277.7 to 263.4) is not insignificant, either.
Perhaps the most telling difference of all is in "offensive win probability added," an advanced metric that uses score, time, down, distance, and field position to estimate how likely each team will go on to win the game. On average, New England's offense has been nearly twice as likely to contribute to a win (0.27) against teams other than the Jets as it has been against Ryan's squad (0.14).
So no matter which team you're pulling for in a game of interest mainly for seeding (playoffs for the Pats, draft for the Jets) and fantasy football playoffs, you can appreciate the job Ryan has consistently done against one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history. Even if his days are numbered in New York, don’t be surprised to see him orchestrating a game plan to stop Belichick and Brady again down the road.
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has job security. His three counterparts in the AFC East? Not so much.
Rex Ryan landed a contract extension this offseason, but don't let that fool you. He will have reason to be nervous if the New York Jets miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. The Buffalo Bills' 6-10 record last season wasn't ominous for Doug Marrone -- that was just his first year on the job. But with an ownership change on the horizon, a failure to improve in 2014 might not bode well for Marrone.
Then there is Joe Philbin of the Miami Dolphins. He survived a bullying scandal that took place in his locker room and on his practice field. A late-season collapse that cost Miami a playoff berth couldn't sink Philbin, not when you consider the adversity the team fought through just to be in contention. But now Philbin enters his third year, when a lot is expected of a regime. He is likely out of second chances.
The four writers who cover the division -- Rich Cimini in New York, Mike Reiss in New England, Mike Rodak in Buffalo and James Walker in Miami -- offered their insights on the AFC East hot seat and other key topics. They also polled their Twitter followers to find out if they saw the issues differently.
Which AFC East coach enters camp on the hottest seat?
Rich Cimini: Doug Marrone's seat is lukewarm and Rex Ryan's is warm. Joe Philbin? Let's just say his tush is feeling extreme heat. Frankly, I'm a bit surprised he survived last season's debacle. Not only did the Dolphins collapse down the stretch to blow a playoff spot, but they became a national punchline because of the bullying scandal. The mess cost general manager Jeff Ireland his job, but Philbin emerged as the Teflon Man. He has now run out of mulligans. Philbin is working for a new GM, Dennis Hickey, and it's hard to imagine him returning in 2015 if the Dolphins miss the playoffs again. Philbin is an offensive-minded coach, but his offense -- quarterback Ryan Tannehill, in particular -- has shown no improvement. ... We would mention Bill Belichick's seat, except it's really not a seat. In this division, it's a throne.
Mike Rodak: This is a close race between Rex Ryan, Doug Marrone and Joe Philbin. Ryan faces the tough scrutiny of the New York market, and if the Jets' combo of quarterbacks Geno Smith and Michael Vick doesn't pan out, Ryan could be gone, despite his contract extension this year. In Buffalo, a pending ownership change naturally puts Marrone's future in doubt. I don't think CEO Russ Brandon or general manager Doug Whaley would fire Marrone even if things don't go well this season, but their voices might not matter if a new owner wants sweeping changes. In Miami, new GM Hickey has given Philbin his vote of approval, but how long will that last? If I had to pick one situation where the head coach's job is most in question, it's Philbin with the Dolphins.
James Walker: Miami's Joe Philbin has the hottest seat in the AFC East. After going a combined 15-17 his first two seasons, this year is really playoffs or bust for Philbin. He was fortunate to survive last year's late-season collapse and major locker-room issues with the bullying scandal that embarrassed the franchise. General manager Jeff Ireland and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and others lost their jobs, but Miami owner Stephen Ross offered Philbin one more opportunity to prove he's the right coach for the team. The key for Philbin will be winning within the division. He is 4-8 against AFC East teams, and that won't cut it this season.
Which of your team's positional battles intrigues you the most?
Cimini: No question, it's the quarterback situation even though Geno Smith versus Michael Vick isn't a true open competition. No matter, it's still a compelling story, one that will create many headlines in training camp. It's Smith's job to lose, but I'm curious to gauge his development now that he has had a full season and a full offseason to immerse himself in the offense. More than anything, he should be better at seeing the field and reading defenses. How will he handle the pressure of knowing there is a capable replacement if he falters? Let's be honest, he never had to deal with that as a rookie. If Smith is outplayed by Vick, it will put the coaches in a delicate position. Clearly, they want Smith to be the starter, but they also have to consider the possible message it sends. If the best guy isn't playing, it's bad form. One position, so many fascinating subplots.
Reiss: Receiver looks like the Patriots' most compelling position battle. They are counting on big-time improvement from second-year players Aaron Dobson (second round), Josh Boyce (fourth round) and Kenbrell Thompkins (undrafted), while big 2013 free-agent signing Danny Amendola will be looking to prove he can stay healthy and recapture the magic we saw in the 2013 season opener. Veterans Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell are also expected to play significant roles, and can slippery-quick seventh-round pick Jeremy Gallon be a sleeper? Lots of questions to answer.
Rodak: The starting spot that seems most up for grabs in Buffalo this offseason is at safety. Who will start opposite Aaron Williams? The Bills lost Jairus Byrd and didn't address the loss in free agency or the draft, instead putting their faith in two of their draft selections from last season -- Duke Williams (fourth round) and Jonathan Meeks (fifth round) -- as well as a more experienced veteran, Da'Norris Searcy. With Aaron Williams recovering from shoulder surgery for most of organized team activities, we didn't get a great feel for which player had the best shot to win Byrd's old job. In the few times that Williams was on the field, it was Searcy lining up with the first team, but Duke Williams and Meeks also got reps with the first unit throughout OTAs. It's a battle that will continue into training camp.
Walker: The Dolphins have a few good position battles, but I am most intrigued by the competition to be the slot receiver because of the immense depth at the position. The Dolphins have Brandon Gibson, Rishard Matthews and rookie second-round pick Jarvis Landry all competing for one spot. In addition, these receivers have different styles. Gibson is more detailed and cerebral. He gets open with his route-running. Matthews is the biggest and most physical receiver of the bunch. Landry is sort of a combination of the two, but he lacks blazing speed. I think all three are capable of handling the position. It's just a matter of who performs the best and which style the coaching staff prefers.
@mikerodak running backs look to be more interesting than I expected, and even though there isn't competition QB growth is #1- Bob rieth (@Bob_rieth) June 16, 2014
Which veteran on your team is poised for a breakout season?
Cimini: For several reasons, it should be Quinton Coples. After two nondescript seasons, it's time to turn potential into production -- and he knows it. The talent is there. With Coples, whose work ethic was questioned when he came out of North Carolina, it is a matter of want-to. Does he want to be great? The former first-round pick was slowed last season by a position change ("rush" linebacker) and a fractured ankle in the preseason, which cost him three games. Now he should be comfortable at the position and he dropped weight in the offseason, which should help his quickness on the edge as a pass-rusher. Coples has the ability to turn a middling pass rush into a very good one.
Reiss: With the Patriots bolstering their secondary with Darrelle Revis, a player like third-year defensive end Chandler Jones could be a primary beneficiary of better coverage. He had six sacks as a rookie and followed that up with 11.5 last season. Could he hit 15 this season? As long as he stays healthy, it wouldn't surprise me.
Rodak: There was no shortage of breakout performers for the Bills last season, especially on defense. Defensive end Jerry Hughes, cornerback Leodis McKelvin, safety Aaron Williams and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus all enjoyed the best seasons. This season, I see two strong candidates for breakout performances: wide receiver Robert Woods and cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Woods had a strong start to last season -- he was a candidate for NFL rookie of the month in September -- but a revolving door at quarterback and a late-season ankle injury hampered his progress. If quarterback EJ Manuel bounces back from his up-and-down rookie season, Woods could stand to benefit. I would give him the edge to break out over Gilmore, a former first-round pick who was limited by a wrist injury most of last season but is among the better cornerbacks in the division when healthy.
Walker: Last season the Dolphins saw significant returns from a second-year defensive end, Olivier Vernon. He led the Dolphins with 11.5 sacks and really came on strong in 2013. So I'm going to stick with the same position and the same experience level and go with current second-year defensive end Dion Jordan. The Dolphins got little return for their No. 3 overall pick last year -- he had just 26 tackles and two sacks. But I like what I saw from Jordan during organized team activities and minicamp. Jordan hit the weight room hard this offseason and bulked up about 17 pounds. He's much stronger, which is key because Miami's coaching staff was concerned about Jordan's ability to stuff the run. Jordan should put up better numbers and be an all-around better player. His biggest issue is getting playing time behind Vernon and Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake.
@JamesWalkerNFL Dion Jordan. Can't hold him back anymore. He will get 10 sacks and will be on the field 40 plays per game- Tom Ernisse (@ternisse13) June 4, 2014
How many years do you think Tom Brady has left?
Cimini: No doubt, Jets fans will celebrate the day Brady decides to call it quits. Statistically, he's in a two-year decline, but he played with such a patchwork receiving corps last season that it's hard to say he is going south. Brady, who turns 37 in August, should have at least two more Brady-like seasons. I'm basing that on recent history. After all, John Elway won his second Super Bowl at 38 -- and promptly retired. It's rare in the modern era for a quarterback to play well beyond 38. Brett Favre had a great year at 40, and Warren Moon enjoyed a good year at 38, but the examples are few and far between. The Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round for a reason. Brady is signed through 2017, but I'd be mildly surprised if he's still around at the age of 40.
Reiss: I'm not going to be the one who bets against Tom Brady. I still see him playing at a high level through the completion of his current contract in 2017, and based on the way he takes care of his body, the dedication to his craft, and the desire to play as long as possible, I could see him going the Warren Moon route and playing into his 40s. It's all contingent on good health, but will Tom Brady still be slinging passes and winning games in the year 2020? Yup.
Rodak: I would peg Brady's window at 3-4 years. In the past, he has spoken about his fear of the "abyss" that will follow his playing career. Yet we've also seen him in the public eye as a father in recent years and I think he would embrace that role in retirement. The bigger question is whether Bill Belichick would ever "move on" from Brady or simply allow him to play -- and start -- as long as he'd like. Belichick is markedly unemotional when he makes personnel decisions, so I don't think he would necessarily let Brady dictate when his career ends. Even if Belichick's final season coincides with Brady's, I think Belichick would want to leave the organization in a good spot. That could mean handing over the reins to a younger starter if the situation calls for it.
Walker: I covered Brady for two seasons as ESPN.com's AFC East reporter. To me, he has always come off as a player who wished he could play football forever. You would be surprised how many NFL players are not that way. Brady isn't motivated by money or fame. I think there is a genuine love for the game and thirst for competition that will be hard for Brady to let go. That is why I expect Brady to hold on for as long as he can. I expect two or three more quality seasons, but I wouldn't be surprised if Brady tries to go longer. I think Brady is too competitive to walk away on his own. Father Time might have to pull him away from the NFL.
@MikeReiss Two. (hoping he goes out with a ring (a la John Elway)- Because i think he has less than 3 - I'm watching the back up QB battle.- Elizabeth (@capesquad) June 18, 2014
Here are some of the things we learned today:
2. Jets as a "game-plan" team: One week after facing Rob Ryan's Saints defense, the Patriots now get Rex Ryan's Jets defense. Asked the common threads between the twin brothers, Belichick focused on how each is a game-plan specific coach. "What they decide to do in one game could be dramatically different from what they do in another game," he said. Opposing coaches have often said the same thing about the Patriots.
3. Practicing the two-minute drill: Belichick was asked about the team's practice sessions working on the two-minute drill, and he revealed that it usually happens once per week, and "We usually do it without timeouts so we can emphasize the hardest situation, which is the continual play and keeping the ball moving and stopping the clock either getting out of bounds or spiking the ball so that we create the type of situation that had in the New Orleans. That's really as tough as it gets, where you have to go down the field with just over a minute and no timeouts so you don't have any artificial way to stop it."
4. Collie making an impression: Receiver Austin Collie came through in the clutch for the Patriots on the game-winning drive, and he's made an impression on McDaniels. "I think it is probably uncommon, and Austin is impressive," he said. "With the time we've had to spend with him so far, he's really working hard to learn our offense and our system, which is new to him. He is a player that adds veteran experience to our group. He knows how to play and handle himself during the course of the games. He knows how to handle himself during the week of practice, and really he's a guy that has an opportunity to carve out a good role for himself and he's got flexibility that allows us to move him. We maneuvered him a little bit, not on that two-minute drive because we were under the gun in terms of time, but if he goes in there on another play during the course of the game when we had a couple guys go down, we switched some things on the sideline and he showed poise and composure in a situation where certainly we were under a lot of pressure. That was really his first exposure to playing in a game for us. So I have a lot of respect for him, and he's done nothing but try to work his tail off to learn our offense and help us any way that he can. We look forward to future contributions from Austin."
5. Getting ready to stop the run: Will this be a week in which the season-ending injury to defensive tackle Vince Wilfork especially hurts the Patriots? The Jets like to run the ball and the Patriots seem to be expecting it. "I definitely think that's the heart and soul of what they do," Patricia said. "They certainly provide many different attack points in the run game, whether it's the traditional run game that they can line up in two-back sets and pound the ball downhill, which they like to do, or their one-back run game, or incorporating their different packages, whether it's the running back taking the direct snap in the Wildcat formations or the quarterback in the shotgun 'triple look' being able to run from different packages there too."
"If you make it like that," Ryan said during his weekly spot on ESPN New York 98.7 FM, "we're gonna beat this team."
Ryan said it was so loud that day that he could feel the ground shaking beneath his feet. But here's the problem: That was in the old Giants Stadium, a little cozier and a lot louder than MetLife Stadium. The Jets' new home simply doesn't have the same atmosphere. The cavernous stadium doesn't hold the noise as well as the old place, and there's less noise being generated because a lot of the hardcore fans have been replaced by the fat cats who'd rather sip Chardonnay in a club suite than scream their lungs out in an outdoor seat.
Such is life in modern sports society, sadly.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When discussing the New England Patriots-New York Jets rivalry this week, quarterback Tom Brady called it “awesome.”
“I mean, it’s Boston-New York,” he said. “Any time you see them on the schedule, you just think of all the great games that you’ve had against them and you think of how challenging the game will be.”
With Brady leading the way, the Patriots have had the upper hand; he is 17-4 against the Jets since elevating to the starting job in 2001. Rex Ryan was the Jets’ head coach for three of those losses, as his defensive schemes have been some of the most challenging that Brady has seen on an annual basis.
“When you play against somebody like Brady and [Bill] Belichick, if they know 100 percent what you're in, then you're in trouble,” Ryan said of his past game-planning approach. “Obviously, we can't do that. We have to be multiple in what we do."
ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss and ESPN Jets reporter Rich Cimini preview the matchup:
Reiss: It’s a quick turnaround for both teams, Rich, with the Thursday night kickoff. Many probably expected the Patriots to be 1-0 entering the game, although not the way they got there. It was a big struggle for them on the road against the Bills. Then there are the Jets, who many probably didn’t expect to be 1-0, but they pulled off the victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Start us off with some things that need to happen for them to run it to 2-0.
Cimini: It's simple, Mike: The Jets need to play great defense, and that means putting a lot of hits on Brady. They don't beat the Patriots too often (Rex Ryan is 3-6), but when they do, it's because of the defense. Mo Wilkerson & Co. really need to make a statement in this game. They also need a low-mistake game out of Geno Smith. Look, he's a rookie quarterback, so he's bound to make a few. They just can't be mistakes that directly impact the scoreboard, a la Mark Sanchez. From a New York perspective, I think the big question is, “Can Brady be Brady without his old supporting cast?”
Reiss: There are two layers to the answer, Rich. When the Patriots needed Brady to come through with the clutch drive at the end of the opener, it was vintage Brady. Sunday marked the 36th time that he’s led the Patriots to victory when facing a fourth-quarter deficit or tie. The surprise was that it would take a fourth-quarter game-winning drive to beat the Bills and that’s because of some of his struggles adjusting to almost a completely new receiving corps. It’s clear that Brady has developed an early rapport with Danny Amendola, but Amendola might not play Thursday because of a groin injury. Running back Shane Vereen (wrist surgery) will be out too, and those are two of the team’s most explosive skill-position players. It’s never an easy time to play the Patriots, but from a Jets perspective, this could be a good time to catch them. I could envision the Jets’ defense holding down the Patriots to give them a chance to win, but do they have enough firepower on offense themselves?
Cimini: In a word, no. The Jets don't have a lot of firepower on offense. Their most effective weapon in Week 1 was a 30-year-old tight end with one good knee -- Kellen Winslow. Santonio Holmes isn't the same player he used to be, especially not after foot surgery. Stephen Hill is a tease -- big and talented, but inconsistent. Remember last year's game in Foxborough, when he had that killer drop? The biggest concern might be the running game. Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory didn't show much last week, averaging 2.0 yards per carry between them. They need a better rushing attack to help Smith, who can't survive if he's in constant third-and-long situations. I'm curious to see how the Patriots attack the rookie. How did they approach Bills rookie QB EJ Manuel in the opener? Seems like he had a decent game.
Reiss: I’d sum up the Patriots’ defensive approach as one that made limiting running back C.J. Spiller the top priority (they were successful in limiting him to 2.4 yards per carry), followed by keeping Manuel in the pocket and seeing if he could beat them with his arm. Manuel was better than I expected. One thing to keep in mind is that the Patriots were almost exclusively in their nickel defense because the up-tempo Bills always had three or more receivers on the field. Overall, the Patriots didn’t blitz much and there wasn’t consistent pressure on Manuel out of the four-man rush. It will be interesting to see if they take the same approach with Smith, who can make some plays with his feet as well. In the chess match between Ryan and Belichick, do you anticipate Ryan introducing anything out of the norm?
Cimini: Great question, Mike. You never know what you're going to get from Rex. In last year's Thanksgiving game, the Jets played five or more defensive backs on 56 out of 65 plays, though the Patriots didn't play a lot of three-receiver packages. They were daring the Patriots to run the ball. This time, I think the focus will be on the running game, considering Brady has lost his main weapons. I wouldn't be surprised if the Jets play more 4-3 than usual; they played it a little last week against the Bucs. Offensively, they'll keep it fairly conservative. They don't want to put the rookie QB in bad situations. Ryan will play it close to the vest, hoping to steal a win in the fourth quarter.
Reiss: For the Patriots, one of the big storylines to watch is how running back Stevan Ridley responds. He was benched last week after his second-quarter fumble that was returned 74 yards for a touchdown and didn’t play again the rest of the game. ESPN NFL analyst Tedy Bruschi often makes the point that when a defense watches film and sees a player vulnerable with ball-security it’s like a shark ready to attack. The Patriots had three turnovers in the season opener and those are the types of things that can keep an offensively-challenged Jets team in the game. Have a safe trip into town and we’ll see you at kickoff.
Then Ryan went back to Brady and the passing game.
"If Tom had such a bad game, they had two receivers over 100 yards. Oh my goodness," Ryan said, laughing. "You have a couple Wes Welker clones there in [Julian] Edelman and [Danny] Amendola, so it's difficult, no question."
A few other soundbites from Ryan:
Change is in the air: "I know there has been a lot of talk about their personnel being different [but] we have seven new starters on defense and five new starters on offense."
Adopting a similar practice schedule to the Patriots with walkthroughs: "We'll have a little bit more than that but not much. It's about just getting through with a game and keeping your players fresh. Obviously they have to mentally be focused."
On ESPN.com's power rankings: "I think this team is a way better football team than people give it credit for. I think we were ranked 32nd in the power rankings. I'm sure we're 31st this week. So we'll see."
On preparing a defensive plan for the Patriots: "Especially when you play against somebody like Brady and Belichick, if they know 100 percent what you're in, then you're in trouble. Obviously, we can't do that. We have to be multiple in what we do."
On Tebow: "You have to give the young man credit. He put in tons of work and our coaching staff put in tons of work trying to improve him from a technical standpoint and things. And like we said before, this is a tremendous worker who wants to get better and certainly there are some things that he could get better at, really with anybody. With any young player there are things you can get better at. It wasn’t overlooked. We spent a lot of time trying to develop him as a quarterback. And to his credit, he spent a lot of time trying to get better."
On Tebow's time with the Jets: “We’ve already mentioned that it didn’t work out here. Obviously, Tim had more success in Denver than he did here so, it is what it is.”
On Tebow signing with the Patriots: "I'm happy for the young man to get another opportunity in the league. ... It’s not a surprise to me that Tim would be picked up, obviously as I’ve said before, tremendous young man, very competitive and I look forward to competing against him.”
Curious about how the Pats will use Tebow?: "Not really. Nope. If they want to replace Brady with him, that’s fine.”
Advice for Belichick in dealing with Tebowmania? "Oh please. He's not going to listen to me and he shouldn't. He’ll just do what he does and that makes sense."
The New York Post's back cover on Tuesday mocked Belichick for the move, offering the headline of "Thanks Bill!" with the added zinger of "Jets lickin' their chops as butterball Belichick's brainlock shelves Gronk."
During his Tuesday conference call with New England reporters, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan defended Belichick's decision, saying it was commonplace in the NFL for starters to play on special-teams units.
"Absolutely ridiculous. He's on an extra point, he's done that probably a zillion -- he's probably done it a hundred times this year, for the simple fact that that's how many points they've scored, but you never see that [a serious injury]," Ryan said.
"Every single team in the league [does that]. We have [offensive tackle] D'Brickashaw Ferguson [on special teams]. We have whoever the player is," Ryan added.
Belichick defended the move on Monday, telling WEEI that "football players play," and adding, "you tell me which guys are going to get hurt and I'll get them out of there."
Ryan shares the opinion.
"You don't play the game that way," he said. "It's just an unfortunate thing. That's just a freak deal that that would happen."
"There's a lot of talent on that roster and they can do a lot of different things. So it's definitely a challenge," New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan began, in his Tuesday conference call with New England reporters.
But then in Rex Ryan style, as if he couldn't resist the chance, the Jets coach fired a subtle salvo.
"It's interesting," began Ryan. "I wonder... when you lose a great player like that, with Gronkowski, clearly that's something you have deal with as a coach.
"I wonder how New England feels without (the Jets having receiver Santonio) Holmes or (cornerback Darrelle) Revis."
After making his point -- that the Jets have dealt with injuries to major players this year, too -- Ryan put it more bluntly.
"I don't feel sorry for them, let's put it that way," Ryan said.
Ryan noted that it is still a challenge to prepare for the Patriots offense without Gronkowski, as they become harder to predict.
"I think there's five tight ends on the roster. You don't know if they're going to plug somebody else in, or what they're going to do there," Ryan said. "We basically have to be ready for anything."
At the same time, not having to prepare for Gronkowski is a weight off Ryan's back.
"But clearly Gronkowski is one of the premier players in this league, so I hate the fact that he's hurt," Ryan concluded. "But if he's going to miss a game, I'm not upset that he's missing our game."
The New York Jets' coach who worships Tom Brady in a recent Adam Sandler comedy in which he plays a devout New England Patriots fan, offered effusive praise of the Patriots' quarterback Tuesday.
"You can almost say he's a machine back there," said Ryan, whose team faces the Patriots Thursday night in a virtual must-win. "The thing about him, he's a machine, yet he's a passionate and fiery leader. You wish he was just a machine. His competitive side elevates his team. That's what you get with those once-in-a-generation type quarterbacks."
The Jets (4-6) will face a red-hot Brady. Since the Week 7 meeting between the two AFC East rivals, Brady is 4-0 with 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions. He has won his last three starts against the Jets, throwing for 909 yards.
Ryan marveled at the Patriots' offensive prowess, alluding to their high league rankings -- No. 1 in both total and scoring offense. He noted how they're No. 4 in passing offense, adding with obvious sarcasm, "Yeah, they're struggling. That's something we can maybe take advantage of."
Read more HERE.
The Patriots share that approach as a game-plan team, making for an interesting match-up this weekend, as the Patriots and Jets square off in Week 7 play at Gillette Stadium.
Belichick says adjustments from his team within the game will be critical.
"I think that, as it always is with the Jets, the in-game adjustments will be important to see what the match-ups are," Belichick said of facing the Jets' defense. "Not that they're going to give you one thing, but where the emphasis is, and what they're trying to do. And that's true of the Jets offensively as well. They do a good job with their different personnel groups and formations, so a lot of the things that you work on this week that they ran against Indianapolis or Houston or San Francisco, you're not going to see."
"You're going to see something that's based on what they think you're going to do," he continued. "That's an element of the game, and it's the same way in the kicking game too, for that matter. They change up their kickoff coverage, they change up their returns, they change up their punt blocks, and that's part of the preparation problem with the Jets, they give you a variety, and in-game adjustments are going to be important."
While Belichick and his team will have 12 minutes to discuss adjustments at halftime, he says the process of making adjustments will begin early on in the game.
"I'm sure the game will start to unfold after the first series. The first time they have the ball, the first time we have the ball, there will be some elements of the game that we'll say, 'OK, this is going to be more important in this game than it has been in some other games.' I don't have any doubt about that," he added. "Once we've played a quarter of this game, there will probably be a good percentage of what we're going to see the remaining three quarters."
Belichick noted that Jets head coach Rex Ryan does a good job of making adjustments for his own team.
"As one team adjusts, I'm sure the other team will try to counter that, but Rex always does a good job of that," he said. "He does a good job of putting in a couple of new things that complement each other, so you see him do one thing, and then you get that same look again and they have something else off of it, so now they've got two or three things off that that you really haven't' seen or practiced before."
It happens on both sides of the football, Belichick says.
"Same thing offensively, they showing you a formation and then a running play, then a play action pass off that or a reverse or something like that. A new wildcat look, or a new Tebow formation look that you haven't seen," he continued. "They've done that every game and then a couple of different, three or four different plays off that that you see them run, then there's another complementary one that's coming that you haven't seen."
Soon after becoming the New York Jets' coach in 2009, Ryan famously declared he'd never kiss Bill Belichick's Super Bowl rings. Since then, he has rarely passed up a chance to tweak the Patriots.
On Monday, Ryan's old bluster -- missing since last season -- was back.
"I want them to know -- and they know -- I think we're going to beat them," Ryan said, explaining his motivation for the tough talk. "I don't buy into all that other stuff. Look, I recognize they're a great football team and Belichick's a great coach. I've never once said he wasn't, OK, but we're not going to back down or concede anything.
"They're going to get our best shot. We know we're going to get theirs. It doesn't matter who says what, because we're going to be ourselves. We're coming up there to take our swing. We'll see if we land that punch to win the game."
The winner of Sunday's game will take control of the AFC East, where all four teams are deadlocked at 3-3. The Jets already are 2-0 in the division, so they'd be in great shape if they can pull off the upset.
Click HERE to read more of RIch Cimini's report from New York.
"Whoever we put him on," quipped Ryan. "How’s that?"
When pressed if a decision had been made, Ryan added: "We have, but that doesn't mean I have to tell you or anybody else. Whoever we put him on, he’ll cover. If that’s [Deion] Branch, if that’s [Wes] Welker, if it’s Chad Ochocinco, or, you know, [former Patriots wide receiver] Randy Vataha. It doesn’t matter, he’ll cover him."
In a nutshell, that was Ryan's teleconference. He mixed in a few doses of humor while lamenting his own team's recent struggles and heaping praise on the Patriots' offense. Like New England coaches and players, he admitted it was a big game, but didn't offer any sort of bulletin-board fodder that has seemed to slip out before past matchups.
Boasting a 2-2 record and having been throttled by the Baltimore Ravens last week might have taken a little of the bravado out of Ryan. Now as the Jets look to rebound against an AFC East foe, Ryan wouldn't offer up any of his game plan, remaining coy on the injury status of center Nick Mangold and refusing to bite on who we might see matched up against Welker.
"I think the big thing [with Welker] would be, he plays in the slot a lot of times and it’s hard to get [at him]," Ryan said when asked why teams don't put their best cover corner on him more often. "He's not just an outside receiver, he’s a slot receiver and, a lot of times, there's pick routes and all those type of things that are tough to defend."
Then Ryan went to the humor: "It looks like, to me, Welker is struggling this year -- 40 catches. And this offense in general is struggling. You talk about our offense, but New England is second in scoring offense -- if you want to talk about struggling, I think they need to look at themselves first."
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- As New York’s Shonn Greene zipped around the right end and headed toward the end zone for a game-deciding 16-yard touchdown run with 1:41 left in the divisional playoff game against the Patriots on Sunday, the Jets’ beefy head coach Rex Ryan was jubilantly racing down along the sideline, showing some unexpected speed in almost catching up with his running back.
That Ryan didn’t pull a hamstring on his celebratory mad dash was one of the night’s major surprises in New York’s 28-21 triumph.
The fact that Ryan’s team will not run from anyone, not even the top-seeded Patriots, who had crushed New York, 45-3, roughly six weeks earlier in a Monday night showdown for first place in the AFC East, was not a shock to anyone who would listen, and the loquacious Jets made sure everyone in the football world heard their boasts during the past week.
Even after his team got thumped in December, giving each team a home win against the other during the regular season, Ryan gave the Patriots credit for that night’s performance but said he was confident his team would prevail in a third game, in the playoffs, should the teams meet.
They did meet, and Ryan’s Jets emerged victorious, thanks in no small measure to a defensive scheme that seemingly baffled Tom Brady, the NFL’s likely MVP this season, and the Patriots’ heralded coach, Bill Belichick. The Jets trash-talked during the week and backed up the talk on Sunday.
“You know, that’s a great football team we just got through playing. We talked because we believed in ourselves,” said Ryan, whose Jets upset Indianapolis in the first round of the playoffs the previous week on a last-play field goal, earning the trip to Foxborough.
“I think that is where the talk came from. There is a huge amount of respect that our team has for New England . . . They’ve got a great franchise, but you know, we aren’t afraid of anybody. Maybe people take it the wrong way. But we don’t try to bad-mouth an opponent. We respect every opponent. We respect these guys. But we came in here on a mission and we’re trying to win a Super Bowl,” he said.
“We said, you know, maybe everybody else didn’t believe us or whatever, but we believed. We worked too hard to get back here and we came here for a reason. We thought we were the better team. Now, clearly in the Monday night game we weren’t. They were clearly head and shoulders better than we were. But I knew if we applied ourselves and we played the way we were capable of, then we would beat them. And that’s exactly what happened,” he said.
The defensive game plan, in particular, stymied the Patriots.
“We thought we had a good plan, but the plans are useless without great play from your players and our guys bought in and they did a great job,” said Ryan. “It was a total effort there on defense, from pass rush, to the second level and obviously to the deep guys. Just a great effort. We knew we had a good plan. Again, I tip my hat to the players and the assistant coaches.”
But Ryan couldn’t leave the podium without delivering one more zinger to the Pats, notably Brady, echoing a theme he expressed prior to the game against the Colts in a comment that was treated as if he were not showing any respect to the Patriots’ quarterback.
“This team had a zillion points and all that this season -- it’s Tom Brady back there at quarterback,” said Ryan. “He may not study like Peyton Manning but he is pretty good.”
"Sure, that's understandable," Belichick said Tuesday. "We both want to win."
Here's a report from Wendi Nix:
For Mike Reiss' report on Belichick's comments, click here.