In Deadspin this week, former NFL player Nate Jackson wrote a smart, detailed defense of how Rex Ryan prepared his Jets to take on the Patriots last week. For all the discussion of whether or not Ryan is a blowhard buffoon or a media-manipulating genius, Jackson nailed down what Ryan succeeded at outside of X's and O's.
Here's the best bit:
The best, most effective shit-talk all week, I'd wager, was whatever Ryan told his own guys in the locker room. The Cromartie-Brady dust-up was a made-for-television event. It was all pretend. If they saw each other in a bar, they'd be all smiles and hugs. (The players who really hate each other don't talk about it in front of cameras, because they know how truly personal it is.) But Bart Scott's anger was very real, even if the disrespecting critics existed only in his head, courtesy of Rex Ryan. That is how you motivate jaded professionals. You lie. And it's a lie you can live with, because you know that in the world of professional sports, you have to find ways to keep your players riding that edge. That edge is what the Jets had and the Patriots didn't. The lesson of last week's war of words isn't that the Jets successfully screwed with New England's mind. It's that Rex Ryan successfully screwed with everyone's mind.
Whatever it was, it obviously worked. So what's Ryan got up his sleeve this week? Well, he seems to be focusing more on blitz packages than psychological warfare. Heck, he almost sounds as if he likes the Steelers. Here's what he said about Ben Roethlisberger earlier this week:
"He'll just stand there and then make plays down the field. I've never seen a guy take the hits he can take and also make people miss the way he does and be as accurate on the run ... I would've made him a defensive end when he came out, but obviously, he has the heart. He's tough, everything you look for, a competitor. He's anybody's kind of quarterback."
Oooh, burn. Ryan even joked with reporters about desperately trying to find Steelers to "call out." (He went with Hines Ward and Casey Hampton, those dickwads.) It's clear that what worked last week won't work this week, so Ryan isn't even going to try. This season, the Jets have played their best games when facing adversity and doubt (Steelers, Patriots), but you can play that fiddle only so many times. The Jets are going to have to motivate themselves to win this game. (And of course, a lot more.)
It is the AFC Championship Game. One suspects it won't be too difficult.