Patriots-Jets is Thursday night and while the enduring image of that rivalry may be last Thanksgiving's buttfumble, the matchup is usually much more competitive than that holiday shellacking was. In fact, Rex Ryan's teams usually square off against New England pretty well. And on NFL Network recently, former Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson gave us some insight into one of Rex's motivational tactics.
Rex, per LT, once fired up the team by saying he would "set the tempo" by walking up to Bill Belichick and "punch[ing] him in the face."
"We were playing the Patriots one time," Tomlinson recalled. "As I mentioned, Rex is a master motivator, and it was going to be a big game, a heated rivalry game. Rex got in front [of] us and he said, 'I'm going to set the tempo today, I'm going to set the tempo when I meet Bill Belichick in the center of the field. I'm going to start it off and punch him in the face.'
"We loved that, I loved that from Rex."
Rex was joking. We think. Tomlinson was laughing about the story and obviously Rex was just looking to fire his crew up. But it's certainly a story that calls for a double take and confirmation.
"Yeah, he was motivating his guys and wanted to jump it off," Tomlinson said laughing. "We won [the game]."
In Tomlinson's discussion of Rex on NFLN he routinely mentions that Ryan is a "master motivator," but there's an interesting line that Ryan toes. Does his braggadocio cross into excessive chatter? Or do his players appreciate him covering up their flaws and concerns in public by routinely spouting off?
And is there some concern about having to back up the claims? The answer to the last question, according to Tomlinson, is often "yes."
"That was part of Rex growing up as a first-year coach, as a first-time head coach," Tomlinson said of Rex's infamous guarantees. "He didn't know obviously all of the things that need to happen as a head coach, and some things you can say and some things you cannot say. I credit that to him being a young coach, but absolutely there were times where we had to back up what Rex Ryan said. A couple of years he came out and said we were going to win a championship.
"We didn't really like that but as players we had to back it up."
The great part about Rex Ryan as a coach is he's got his players backs. Look no further than Mark Sanchez to get an idea of how far Rex will go to cover someone's hide. But the bad part about Rex is that he's spent considerable time with his mouth writing checks that his butt can't cash.
Rex has toned down his act a significant amount since his early days. Maybe that's because of concerns over his job or maybe he started learning lessons about what happens when you guarantee something and it doesn't happen.
The guess here is that he isn't long for New York -- though starting 1-0 isn't a bad way to shake off the critics -- but that he'll eventually end up getting a shot to run another team. Two AFC Championship Game appearances will do that for you. And it'll be fascinating to see how Rex approaches his players and the media in his eventual second go-round based off of what he learned at his current spot.
In the meantime Belichick should probably be careful at midfield on Thursday.