- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets coach Rex Ryan laughed off a leaguewide player survey that named him the most overrated coach in the NFL, saying he was just happy to finish ahead of nemesis Bill Belichick.
"My first thought was, I looked at it and I saw who was second," Ryan said Wednesday, alluding to the New England Patriots' coach. "I was like, 'Hey, I finally beat Belichick in something.' I knew it would take time, but I finally got him."
The Sporting News conducted an anonymous midseason poll of 103 players from 27 teams. Ryan finished first by a landslide, collecting 35 votes. Belichick was second with 16 votes.
Ryan created a personal rivalry with Belichick, declaring soon after he was hired by the Jets in 2009 that he didn't take the job to kiss Belichick's Super Bowl rings. Since then, the Jets have finished second to the Patriots every season in the AFC East.
Turning serious, Ryan said he didn't mind the "overrated" label.
"I wasn't offended by it," he said.
Revealing some of his trademark bravado, Ryan claimed he'd finish near the top of any survey in which players voted for the coach they'd most want to play for. In fact, he has placed highly in that category in past polls.
"Poll the same players about who they'd want to play for, and I'll probably end up where I always do -- right at the top with (Mike) Tomlin," he said, referring to the Pittsburgh Steelers' coach. "(It would be) either me or Mike Tomlin, one of two. We're the guys they want to play for.
"I don't think that would change. I don't care. As long as they want to come here and play, if I'm overrated, that's fine."
However, the Sporting News released its poll results of coaches that players would least like to play for Wednesday, and Ryan (16 votes) finished third, behind the Buccaneers' Greg Schiano (20) and Belichick (19).
The Sporting News also conduced a survery on coaches that players most want to play for, and Ryan finished tied for sixth with the Ravens' John Harbaugh in that poll, which was also released Wednesday. Tomlin finished atop that poll while Belichick finished second.
Ryan led the Jets to the AFC Championship Game in his first two seasons, but his star has fallen during the past year. The Jets are 3-5 this season, and they've lost eight of their last 11 games, dating to last season.
This wasn't the first time the Jets were called out in a player poll. Backup quarterback Tim Tebow was voted the most overrated player in the league in a recent Sports Illustrated survey of players.
"It's something we have in common," Tebow said jokingly.
Tebow defended his coach, offering his theory on why Ryan is getting bashed.
"You're in New York ... he's a public figure ... he's loud .... he's polarizing," Tebow said. "You're going to be on one side or the other. There's not going to be a mixed opinion on him and I think that's awesome. He stands up for what he believes in, like I feel most people should.
"Good for him for doing that. He stands up there and says what he believes in. Sometimes people like it, sometimes they don't, but at least he has the courage to do that."
7hBy Jackie MacMullan
1dEric D. Williams