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Monday, January 3, 2011
Updated: January 4, 3:38 AM ET
Rex writing checks players must cash

By Ian O'Connor
ESPNNewYork.com

As it turns out, there are some personal matters Rex Ryan will agree to address for public consumption.

Internet videos and photos allegedly showing his wife in an embarrassing and compromising light? No, Ryan believes that subject belongs out of bounds, toe-to-toe with Sal Alosi.

His burning desire to even an old (if misguided) score with Peyton Manning? Ol' Rex will grant you a filibuster on that one.

"Is it personal?" Ryan said Monday. "Yes, it's personal."

Rex Ryan
Rex Ryan's boasts have painted him as a buffoon at times during his tenure with the Jets.

Only in Rex's alternate, bizarro universe, personal doesn't always mean private. So one day after he made yet another blustery proclamation that his New York Jets are destined to become the heavyweight champeeens of the world, Ryan went on about how badly he wants to put Peyton in his place.

"I don't know when I'm going to beat him," he said, "but I want it to be Saturday night."

It's not when we're going to beat him, but when I'm going to beat him.

"Peyton Manning has beaten me twice in the playoffs," Ryan said. "That's well-documented. ... I've waited a whole year for this."

It's not that Peyton Manning has beaten my team, but that Peyton Manning has beaten me.

It if sounds like Ryan is slapping a bull's-eye on his own back, he's not. Rex is a 48-year-old-man, a former small-college defensive end who isn't getting drafted any time soon.

Ryan won't be spending more than three hours Saturday night trying to block and tackle highly skilled professional athletes under the weight of sudden-death angst. He won't be backpedaling into coverage while trying to cover a forward-moving sprinter and outwit the human computer chip, Manning, at the same time.

Rex will be tucked under a headset, safely removed from the fray as he watches his Jets attempt to walk their coach's talk.

I know, I know, it's just Rex being Rex, and the players all love him to pieces. But if those same players were injected with truth serum, I'd bet Ryan's entire contract extension that more than a few of them would say they'd appreciate it if their coach tempered the buildup and quit making their tough jobs even tougher.

Once again, with feeling, Ryan has gone out of his way to apply unnecessary pressure to his own team. The Jets will face Manning's Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the playoffs on Manning's turf, where, of course, the Jets' season went to die in last year's AFC title game.

And yet Ryan has spent the past 48 hours ensuring that the hosting quarterback and his hosting friends will show up as motivated as they were to beat the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl four years back.

But this isn't only about riling up the other team and one of the great franchise players of all time. It's about weighing down the Jets with a burden they shouldn't have to bear.

Ryan's tough-talking approach made for a nice little story when he arrived in town and guaranteed an audience with President Obama sooner rather than later. Rex was using the force of his extra-large personality to lift a downtrodden franchise, and in the early days of his employment it was worth a shot.

Only the act isn't so cute anymore. While it's true that Ryan remains a wildly entertaining listen, and a dream figure to cover in the mind-numbing wake of Eric Mangini (now a two-time loser), the Jets coach too often comes across as a fool.

He says he wants to kick Bill Belichick's rump all over Foxborough, loses by 42 points, and then immediately announces he's ready for a rematch with the Patriots right then and there. Are you kidding me?

Belichick has won three Super Bowls for New England, took an 18-0 team into the final minutes of the fourth, and nobody recalls him ever promising that his team would win it all. Why? Because Belichick understands that doing something beats saying something eight days a week, especially when those words set up your players to fail, that's why.

Ray Lewis hammered home that point before the Baltimore Ravens beat the Jets on opening night. "The only danger is writing a check you can't cash," Lewis said of his former defensive coordinator. "That's pressure on his players. Rex can talk all he wants to, but Rex ain't putting on the pads.

"They're doing all this talking, like they're in the Super Bowl. OK, do what you do, but come Monday night, the whistle is going to blow and somebody is going to get hit."

Players around the league can't wait to hit the Jets, and Ryan created that mentality by constantly booking a parade for a franchise that hasn't won a title in 42 years.

Everyone takes great glee in beating the Jets, a Rex-inspired truth that leaves Mark Sanchez and Darrelle Revis to deal with every opponent's A game, week after week after week. Maybe the Jets are talented enough to travel this perilous path, but probably not.

They will likely have to beat Manning in his building, Tom Brady in his building, and Ben Roethlisberger in his building just to reach the big game that Ryan believes is a death-and-taxes lock. Good luck with that.

Like any head coach, Ryan has one mission statement -- to put his players in the best position to succeed. Someone needs to explain how boasting about supposedly inevitable triumphs and daring Peyton Manning to bring everything he's got gives the Jets their best chance to survive the first round of the tournament.

Actually, there's no explaining it. Rex is the loosest of all cannons, and right now his fuse is lit and he's pointed at his own team.

Ian O'Connor is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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