Rex Ryan had plenty to say after his Buffalo Bills won 22-17 at the New York Jets Thursday night to pull into a second-place tie with his former team at 5-4 in the AFC East.
Ryan likened the Jets to a “hot girl” who’d dumped him after their six seasons together. She may even wish she had him back after seeing him with his new team, but it’s too damn bad. Ryan has moved on. It was entertaining and funny – who wins the press conference more often than this guy? – but it was superfluous, too. Ryan had already kind of said it all on the sideline following safety Bacarri Rambo’s interception of New York’s Ryan Fitzpatrick to seal the deal with 17 seconds to go.
He said it all in two words – “Fuck yeah!” – shouted five, maybe six times in what had to be Ryan’s wildest sideline moment as an NFL coach, all captured on NFL Network camera. With the first profane exclamation, he heaved his headset and Bills cap to the turf. With the second one, he chucked an as-yet-unidentified flying object. The rest were bellowed in between flailing hugs and random changes of direction.
This was revenge and showmanship, anger and bluster, wound into a fiery ball of “Fuck you!” Ryan came completely unhinged on the sideline, something not even Jets fans had seen before. Maybe it was a tiny bit contrived (this is Ryan we’re talking about), but it was most definitely real. And in the void of personality that is the NFL, it was also pretty awesome.
Yet I couldn’t help but think: Shouldn’t Rex Ryan save this for the New England Patriots?
Look, Ryan had every right to lose his shit over a triumphant return to New York against the team that fired him. He believes the Jets sold him out by not acquiring the personnel he needed, as he made clear in a summertime interview with HBO’s Real Sports. Ryan told HBO’s Andrea Kremer that the Jets’ 4-12 record in 2014 – which left his tally at 46 wins and 50 losses with the team – was unavoidable, as was the reality that his days were numbered.
“I knew we weren’t going to have a good team when we never did anything in free agency. I knew that,” he said. “One hundred percent, I knew I was done. One hundred percent.”
But at least in those years he was chasing the white whale – the Patriots. Ryan led the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship games in his first two seasons with the organization. After that, the wheels, along with Ryan’s reputation, began to fall off. The team went 8-8, 6-10, 8-8 and 4-12 over the next four year. No playoffs. A long-running clown act at the quarterback position. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and company probably enjoyed a lot of laughs about the very idea, but still – Ryan’s Jets never stopped gunning for New England.
So now what? Are Ryan’s Bills maybe a little too wrapped up in exacting revenge for a coach whose ex-team isn’t in the same galaxy as the 8-0 leaders of the division?
The Bills are a million miles from New England, too. Defensively, they haven’t been nearly as strong under Ryan as they were a season ago. The Jets, on the other hand, have shown major improvement on the defensive side of the ball. What do these things mean in light of Ryan’s background as a defensive coordinator?
Also, lost in the irrelevance of the Bills-Jets rivalry is the fact Buffalo has now beaten New York four times in a row. The combined score of the previous three matchups was an almost unimaginable 118-40. Bills fans ought to think about who was on the sideline coaching those Jets before they get too excited about a game in which their team nearly blew a 22-3 second-half lead.
Typically, Ryan was full of promises about his new team in the aforementioned interview with HBO.
“My record’s not as good as I want it to be. There’s no question about that,” he said. “But I know damn well that record’s getting ready to improve –drastically.”
If five wins against four losses is drastic…well, it’s not. And guess who’s up next for Buffalo? The Patriots, in Foxboro. Hope you saved some F-Bombs, Rex – you might need ’em.
But who knows? Perhaps when the Bills meet the Jets again in Buffalo in Week 17, a postseason berth will be on the line. If it comes to that, it’ll be a mighty big deal – the Bills’ 15-year playoff drought is the longest in the NFL. But there’s a whole lot of green left in Ryan’s putt just to lead his team that far.
Making the cut is one thing. Contending for a championship is quite another. If Ryan is truly being real, he’ll drop this Jets business into the shallow hole where it belongs and move on to swinging for New England.