INDIANAPOLIS – Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young said he was surprised when his phone rang last month and it was Jets head coach Rex Ryan calling.
Ryan reached out to Young for clarification on something the ESPN analyst said on the air about Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez struggling to reach his potential under Ryan.
Young said Ryan called and asked him, "What the heck are you talking about?"
"I think it was a great conversation, really open," Young said Saturday. "I hung up and was like, 'I really respect that guy that he would call, that he would listen.' I'm sure he was like, 'maybe Steve Young's crazy,' but at least have the conversation. Him saying to me, 'I'm trying to figure out what's going on in my spot and I heard you.' I thought it was great."
Young, who is part of the four-hour "Sunday NFL Countdown" show on ESPN to preview the Super Bowl on Sunday, said he spoke to Ryan about how offenses struggle under defensive-minded head coaches. Young played for one in George Seifert with the 49ers.
"My fundamental premise is I have watched and experienced defensive-minded head coaches and their effect on offense," Young said. "I watched his dad [former Eagles and Cardinals coach Buddy Ryan], and I talked to him about this, and he admitted he is the same way, 'I'm a defensive coach. I coach great defense. That's what I know.' What happens is the premise is great offense needs light and sunshine. Great defense doesn't. It just doesn't. He brings great sunshine and light to his defense because that's what he knows and that's how he coaches, that's how he practices, that's how he talks. Then what happens is the offense that needs sunshine and light doesn't get it."
Young explained to him that he needs to pay more attention to his offense and his quarterback, in particular. That doesn't mean just sitting in meeting rooms either.
"I think we came to an understanding," Young said. "He said 'I don't feel like I know offense and I don't have the right to go in there.' I said it's not really about that because George Seifert tried to do that. He said you guys were a phenomenal offense with George and I gave him some insight."
The two then talked about some different teams and coaches around the league who have gone through similar transitions.
"We got to talking about [Patriots coach] Bill Belichick," Young said. "Something happened between Cleveland and the first couple of years in Boston. He had the same struggles in Cleveland. Something happened there that allowed him to make that transition."
They also discussed the Ravens, where Ryan was the defensive coordinator for four seasons before coming to the Jets.
"We got talking about Baltimore," Young said. "I think they've suffered and still suffer from strong personalities on their defense who don't mean trouble but they'll say to the offense, 'don't screw it up. If you don't screw this up, we win.' Then you call plays to not screw it up. Then you run plays not to screw it up. Then you play not to screw it up. I think the Jets are in that mold right now where the defense is like, 'don't screw it up.' I think it affects the way people play, the way they practice, the way they call plays. Our conversation was all about that."
Young said this was the first time a head coach has reached out to him about something he has said on the air.
"I thought it was great," Young said. "I was grateful for the chance to talk it out. In TV, I don't even get to say it right. … I was very impressed with his openness to philosophically what I was trying to say."
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