Tuesday, January 4, 2011 Updated: January 5, 3:41 AM ET
Rex Ryan 'focused' on Colts game
By Rich Cimini ESPNNewYork.com
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A few days before the New York Jets' playoff opener last season, head coach Rex Ryan stunned the team during a meeting by handing out a postseason itinerary that included the date of their Super Bowl victory parade in lower Manhattan.
It made national news, a classic example of Ryan's bravado. Some people laughed, of course, but the Jets actually came within two wins of the confetti.
When the players settled into their seats Tuesday in the team auditorium, starting their preparation for the Indianapolis Colts, some wondered if Ryan would break out another road-to-the-championship calendar. Surprisingly, he didn't.
Wild Year In Green And White
The Jets have dealt with a wide scope of off-the-field and on-field issues this season. Starting at "Hard Knocks," it's been a long year for Rex Ryan's gang:
"Yeah, I was looking for that," guard Brandon Moore said with a smile. "His focus was more on this one game. [Looking ahead] wasn't a point of emphasis. What's most important is this game in front of us. I think that was his message."
Indeed, there were no motivational ploys. No buried footballs, no fiery speeches. By all accounts, Ryan's speech was short and sweet, a clinical breakdown of the Colts and the game plan. In other words, it was all business.
A new approach for Ryan? Well, the week still is young, so who knows what he might have planned. But on Day 1 of Colts Week, it was just X's and O's. Ryan didn't want to look ahead to the prospect of having to win three straight road games to reach the Super Bowl.
"Everything we've got is focused on Indianapolis," he said.
No, Ryan hasn't lost his swagger, not even close. One day after saying he's on a "personal" mission to beat Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, Ryan kept up the big talk.
AFC Playoff Picture
The Chiefs are limping, the Colts are rolling and the Patriots are still the Patriots. John Clayton breaks down the AFC playoff picture: 10 Questions
"I think we have the best team," he said. "People may argue that, but that's fine. I like the old Ray Robinson quote: 'To be a champion, you have to think you can win when no one else thinks you can.' That's what I believe in. That's something that has stuck with me my whole life."
The sixth-seeded Jets (11-5), who suffered a 13-point loss to the Colts in last year's AFC Championship Game, are only a slight underdog for the rematch. It was a 16-game struggle for the third-seeded Colts (10-6) to secure their ninth straight playoff berth -- they're usually one of the first to clinch -- prompting some to think the Colts have lost their aura of invincibility.
Ryan is one of those.
"Are they showing signs of being more vulnerable? I think they are," he said.
Manning is without two of his playmakers, tight end Dallas Clark and wide receiver Austin Collie. At the same time, the Jets added defensive pieces last offseason, acquiring cornerback Antonio Cromartie, safety Brodney Pool and pass-rusher Jason Taylor.
"With those pieces, I feel better going into this game than I did last year -- and I was confident last year," Ryan said. "I think we match up better this year than we did last year. I think we'll make enough plays where we can win this game."
Offensively, the Jets are more dangerous and more balanced than last season, but the defense hasn't always played up to its potential and now it faces the daunting task of trying to defend Manning. Maybe that explains why there was no tough talk from the usually noisy locker room. In a change of pace, the talk focused on the game.
No parades, just football.
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.