Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick could not have more contrasting styles as football coaches, but they both have the same goal — to beat opponents into submission so bad they wish they never had taken the field.
Belichick is the Don Corleone of current NFL sideline generals. The godfather of X?s and O?s. Don?t ever take sides with anyone against the team. He has won five Super Bowl titles, three in New England and two as the defensive master of Bill Parcells? New York Giants.
Ryan is the Tony Montana. The hungry upstart. Say hello to my little Super Bowl contender. He has won one ring, as a defensive line coach with the 2000 Ravens, and he didn?t take the Jets job to kiss any of Belichick?s.
Ryan came to New York to make his own mark, and from the beginning of his tenure, he has been fearless in his approach, unconcerned about offending anyone. He views criticism as a badge of honor and follows the Frank Sinatra code by doing things his way.
Belichick lives by the same rule.
So did Howard Cosell, the legendary late broadcaster. The former Monday Night Football commentator knew you didn?t get to the top by playing it safe or pulling any punches. If he were still around today, he?d be looking forward to the Jets-Patriots game as much as the rest of the football universe.
In honor of Cosell, here?s how he might have broken down the Ryan-Belichick tale of the tape.
Hello again, everyone. I am Howard Cosell. Glad to have you aboard.
The last time I was in Foxboro for a Patriots-Jets Monday night contest was Oct. 18, 1976, and the Patriots eviscerated the Jets 41-7. Not a happy time at all for Lou Holtz, Joe Namath and anyone wearing green and white. However, it was a big party for Chuck Fairbanks, Steve Grogan, Sam Cunningham, Andy Johnson and everyone in New England.
A lot has changed since that day. Mark Sanchez, the kid out of USC, looks like he could be the next Tom Brady. And Tom Brady looks like he could be the next MVP. But what?s with all this talk about his hair? Does it matter if it?s real or not? Is Brady going to lose his superpowers if he loses his hair? I wore a rug, and I was stronger than Samson. Ask Muhammad Ali. He was the greatest, and he still couldn?t beat me, no matter what he thought.
Belichick and Ryan possess the same confidence. They believe they are the best coach with the failproof system and championship team. Each of them has programmed and conditioned his club to believe it is the best. Each of them is a master motivator, and each of them has prepared his players to perform at their best when their best is needed. The two coaches are two peas from the same pod. They just express their confidence differently in public.
That?s what makes this Ryan-Belichick showdown so intriguing. They are so different, yet so similar.
From a personality standpoint, they are P.T. Barnum and Archimedes. From a strategic perspective, they are Captain Kirk and General MacArthur. From a leadership point of view, they are FDR and Count Basie.
Vince Lombardi would be proud of either one.
Trouble with Rex Ryan is, he confuses most of the general population, who often mistake him as a pompous blowhard. Nothing could be further from the truth. He?s not just a fine coach but a great comedian. Just call him W.C. Fields or Groucho Marx or Richard Pryor. What’s right isn’t always popular. What’s popular isn’t always right.
Whether Ryan talks too much or not, it?s a moot question. Ryan has said some things that make people shake their heads. His innocent comments are fueled by the media and fanned by those with weak constitutions. Nevertheless, he remains one of the prize coaches in the NFL.
Funny thing about this Patriots squad, even though they are 9-2, tied for the best record in the NFL with the Jets and Falcons, some experts are not sold on New England. They say the Patriots’ passing defense is suspect, they give up too many points (24.2 per game) and their pass rush could prove to be their Achilles? heel.
Achilles? heel? Are you kidding me?
The Patriots are tied for second in the NFL in turnover differential with the Steelers and Falcons at plus-11 (behind only the Eagles, plus-15). The Jets are tied for sixth with the Packers and Chiefs at plus-7.
You think that?s an accident?
To repudiate the Patriots is to repudiate the coaching job Bill Belichick has done this season. It may be his best yet. He has coached up a young defense and turned them into a hard-hitting, bend-don?t-break unit that makes big plays when it?s money time. That?s not a sign of luck. That?s a sign of talent.
We?ll see what the defense is made of this December and beyond, but as long as it keeps rising to the occasion, it?s tough to bet against the Patriots, especially with Tom Brady leading a well-oiled offense that is better without Randy Moss. Most teams don?t get better after losing a Hall of Famer. Most teams aren?t coached by Belichick.
The same could be said for Ryan and the Jets, who just keep finding ways to win.
Will that trend continue?
Time to uncover the truth. Two great teams. Two great coaches. One big game.
It?s Garry Kasparov versus Anatoly Karpov.
Only one master will go home happy. The other could have a very sleepness night.
Cosell is no longer available to tell it like it is. But at least Jon Gruden is.