Florham Park, NJ – When Rex Ryan rolled into town four seasons ago, he was gruff and unapologetic. He had Super Bowl aspirations, a highly touted rookie quarterback and a top-notch defense.
But as the bombast grew stale and the playoff returns diminished so did Ryan (literally and figuratively).
The old Rex, presumed dead, is now a person of the past, whittled away by unfulfilled guarantees, questionable coaching calls and an upper management muzzle. The man who stood at the podium on his first day, proclaiming he wasn’t going to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings, neutered, offering up only misdirections and disguised coverages.
So, it’s only fitting that on the day Ryan announced the starting of his second rookie quarterback in five seasons, he got back to his roots — if only for a second.
“A lot has been said about this football team,” he said before returning to his now patented coach speak. “There are a lot of non-believers out there.”
In that moment, he sounded confident, and although he wouldn’t say much else, you couldn’t help but sense a “you’ll see, you’ll all see” attitude pushing its way to the surface.
“We’re not hiding,” he said. “We’ll see what kind of team we have.”
Whether or not Ryan has the talent to prove the critics wrong is another story, however.
On Wednesday, the Jets announced that Geno Smith will indeed be the starter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, despite underperforming in his only extended preseason action. Mark Sanchez is still injured after being left in during the fourth quarter of preseason game. He walked into the locker room on Wednesday, only to turn around and not be seen again.
The entire Jets brain trust also made an appearance with both Woody Johnson and general manager John Idzik stressing the mantra of “competition.”
“The [quarterback] competition is not finished … The competition is ongoing,” said Johnson, making the cloud of confusion surrounding the team’s most important position all the more murky.
Idzik clarified by saying that the competition at every position is ongoing, which sounds more like an escape plan should things go wrong with Geno than a team-wide motivational tactic.
Still, the team seems to have a chip on it’s shoulder. Even Santonio Holmes, who hasn’t been optimistic about his return to the line-up, broke through his rehearsed routine when asked if the team is being underestimated.
“Right now in the power rankings, we’re ranking No. 32 in the NFL,” he said, referring to ESPN’s weekly rankings. “I think we probably couldn’t be happier than being off the radar of everybody.”
“We have a focus that’s on the team not on what everybody else thinks this team should be. We have a focus and a goal in mind to have the best 53 guys on this roster and go on and win with these guys that we have.”
As Holmes does, Ryan knows now more than ever what the non-believers are saying about his commitment to the team and his coaching ability. And no matter how hard Idzik, or Ryan himself has tried to suppress it, the old Rex showed up on Wednesday.
As a glimmer of man not ready to go down without a fight.