As Rex Ryan began his introductory news conference Wednesday by essentially proclaiming that the Jets will win the Super Bowl sometime in the near future, former Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa turned to watch the reaction of the handful of Jets seated at the back of the auditorium. Siragusa, who lives near the Jets' training facility, didn't want to miss this one.
"With all the cameras and all that, I was looking for our new president back there," Ryan said with a grin. After a pause, he added, "You know, I think we'll get to meet him in the next couple years anyway."
"I wanted to see the players' reaction to him, and I saw them smiling," said Siragusa, now a Fox analyst on NFL broadcasts. "That's what's going to happen with them. All of a sudden, you start believing, and things can happen. If you don't believe, you'll never do it. If you're going to have a goal, you might as well have the biggest goal ever. You don't want to say, 'Well, we're going to try and win our first game.' You want to win the Super Bowl."
When Ryan got to the Ravens in 1999 as their defensive line coach, Siragusa instantly was smitten by his attitude.
"He said, 'We're going to be the best defensive line,' " Siragusa said. "He said, 'They're gonna be talking about us in 100 years.' That's great. All of a sudden, you start believing it, and you start becoming it."
The Ravens won the Super Bowl the following season, thanks to a punishing defense that was one of the most dominant in NFL history.
"When you play in this defense, you have to be able to sacrifice, because you're not always going to make the play," Siragusa said. "Your job is you're going to make the team better. I took on two players so Ray [Lewis] could make the tackle. My thinking was, if I could take on these two, that's gonna be a massacre. Rex has done it over and over again wherever he's been, and he's been successful."
Ryan already has his share of believers in the locker room.
"I like what he had to say," said Jerricho Cotchery, who was visibly upset the day Eric Mangini was fired after a late-season meltdown. "The guy is confident, and I think that will rub off on the players."
Siragusa has no doubts about that. "Rex wants to win, and it doesn't matter if you're playing checkers, cards or football," he said. "That's the way he was brought up. He's competitive, and that's the attitude you have to have. Rex understands that New York is different, but he understands what it took for him to get to this point. I told him, 'You've got to be who you are.' People are gonna write this and that, but just let it roll off your shoulders."
Even on the grand stage of metropolitan New York, Siragusa thinks Ryan will handle it.
"He'll be fine," Siragusa said. "He doesn't read the papers."