Commentary

Rex Ryan, this is Tom Coughlin's life

Jets coach is now scrutinized in late December. His counterpart knows the drill.

Updated: December 24, 2011, 10:51 PM ET
By Johnette Howard | ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rex Ryan said he welcomed the blame if the Jets lost the battle for New York to the Giants on Saturday, and after the Christmas Eve meltdown his Jets turned in, he can have it.

Why not add a red clown nose to wear around town, too?

"Time to shut up, fat boy!" Giants running back Brandon Jacobs reportedly shouted at Ryan after the 29-14 loss at MetLife Stadium dealt a near-fatal blow to the Jets' playoff chances.

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan
AP Photo/Bill KostrounControl of the locker room? Rex Ryan certainly didn't help that by bringing in Tim Tebow.

After weeks and months of hearing Ryan yammer about how it was his Jets and not the Giants who owned New York, the sight of the script being flipped on the Jets' coach Saturday will take a long time to forget. Both teams are now 8-7. The Giants have a better chance to make the playoffs than the Jets.

For at least the next six days -- maybe longer -- Ryan gets to spend a work week in Giants coach Tom Coughlin's shoes. He gets to absorb all the slings and arrows that are usually the Giants coach's fate.

The second-guessing.

The barbed questions about why his team flopped in a big moment.

The downbeat talk about how in the world a season that began with the usual Super Bowl guarantee from Ryan ever came to this: a two-game December stumble and the bitter realization that despite all of Ryan's preening and bragging and promising, by the end of Saturday's game Ryan's Jets' had gone moonwalking backward to their more familiar status as the No. 2 team in New York and, perhaps, no playoff spot now the first time in Ryan's three-year tenure.

Coughlin is usually the one who's had to explain himself the past three seasons after these sort of pivotal games. But Saturday, it was Ryan, the supposed motivational genius who once again may have succeeded in motivating the other team even more than his own. He can't resist making every game week or story about him.

In the run-up to Saturday's game, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and veteran running back LaDainian Tomlinson admitted that all of the trash talking Ryan does may indeed make other NFL teams more determined to beat the Jets. And Saturday, Ryan's star defensive back, Darrelle Revis, seemed to add his voice to the chorus, saying: "It certainly does ramp everything up."

You think so?

Here's what else Jacobs said after the game, this time speaking to reporters: "Rex Ryan is a disrespectful bastard. The Jets have a big-mouth, big-belly coach that talks too much."

Not surprisingly, one person who disagreed was Ryan himself.

Several people who were on the field near Ryan and Jacobs thought the two men might come to blows. But Ryan brushed off the confrontation in his postgame news conference, saying, "He doesn't like me. ... I could care less about him."

Ryan seemed more genuinely shaken by the Jets' loss.

While the Giants can make the NFC postseason if they beat visiting Dallas on Sunday, the Jets can now only make the AFC playoffs if Cincinnati, Tennessee and either Oakland or Denver lose their last games. The Jets have only themselves to blame. They lost to a Giants team that is only 2-5 its last seven games and still somehow won on a day Eli Manning was only 9-for-27 passing and the Jets allowed them only six yards rushing in the first half.

But how? Because when there was a big play or big hit to be made, it seemed like the Giants were always making it.

That was the Giants' undermanned defense and beleaguered secondary -- not Ryan's beloved defense -- that played better when the game was on the line in the second half. The Giants forced three turnovers and sacked Sanchez five times and rattled him into checkdowns and dump-off passes other times.

That was Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw -- all 5-foot-8 of him -- lowering a shoulder and completely running over Jets safety Brodney Pool on the way to a 14-yard touchdown run that gave the Giants a 10-point lead that they stretched out to 15 by the end of the game.

That was the Giants' rising star, Victor Cruz, who had a momentum-altering 99-yard touchdown catch just before the first half ended after talking a little trash himself this week. "Give the young man credit -- he backed up every word," Tomlinson said.

And the Jets?

"We didn't show up," Tomlinson sighed.

Yet when Ryan was asked whether it was time to rethink his big-talking ways, he insisted he has no plans to change.

"I don't want to be the second-best team in this city, no chance," Ryan said. "I'm not signing up for that. I'll go play 'em again. I'd be more than happy to go play 'em right now.

"[The Giants are] a good football team. But I'm never going to concede anything. I will concede that they were better today. No question about it.

"They did a better job coaching and all that stuff. That's where it starts."

Saturday may not be where it ends. Ryan better be careful. Because coaches who talk about themselves more than their players are often the kind of coaches who lose their teams and not just games.

The honeymoon Ryan enjoyed when he first hit town talking tough and dreaming big felt like it hit its expiration date Saturday.

The Jets have gone backward this season, when they were expected to leap forward. Saturday, Sanchez looked like a spooked quarterback, not the confident kid who was great in the clutch and led his team to AFC title games the past two seasons. And numerous Jets -- including Ryan himself -- expressed astonishment at how the game plan got away from them. That's on the Jets coaches, too. Asking Sanchez to throw 59 times was not the Jets' plan. Nor was the Jets' abandonment of their running game, which enjoyed some early success.

"We wanted to have a balanced attack," Jets wideout Plaxico Burress said. "I don't know what happened."

"Yeah, I was surprised," Tomlinson said. "As players all we can do is execute the plays that are called. As players, we're not in a position to complain."

Ryan thought the Jets would win.

"Clearly I was wrong," he said.

So let him take the blame. It's his turn to experience life as New York's No. 2 team -- not to mention the second-best NFL coach in town.

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