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To prepare for Pats, Ryan diverts attention from Sanchez

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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One day the New York Jets' Rex Ryan is calling out Tom Brady. The next day it's Bill Belichick. Then it's Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. That's not exactly smart when the New England Patriots are next on your schedule, but Rex Ryan is no idiot. So what in the world is he doing?

I'll tell you what: Taking the heat off his young quarterback and putting it on himself.

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When you think about it, it's pretty ingenious. He knows what he's up against Sunday, and it's the best quarterback, the best head coach and the best organization in the business. Nobody gives him or his team a chance, primarily because nobody gives his quarterback a chance. Nor should they. Not only hasn't Mark Sanchez won in two starts at Gillette Stadium; he's been downright dreadful, completing 46 percent of his passes, with one touchdown pass, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 30.4.

All of which puts Sanchez in the line of fire this week, and that's where Rex Ryan comes in. He knows the pressure his quarterback is under, and he also knows the Jets have no shot if Sanchez pulls another el foldo. So he figures he must do what he can to help the guy, and what he can do is open his mouth, take pot shots at the Patriots and make himself -- not Sanchez -- this week's news.

So far he's been successful. The back page of Tuesday's New York Daily News had photos of Ryan and Brady, with the headline "Drama Queen" splashed below a sub-head that ran "Rex Rips Broadway Brady for Tired Act." Perfect. If you want something to talk about before this game that's a good place to start.

And I can't imagine it's going to end. Ryan gladly will suffer the abuse because he'd prefer critics shred him than his players -- or player, and, yes, I'm talking about Mark Sanchez. I know he's a big boy who should be able to take care of himself and who won three of four road playoff games. But he's proven nothing in New England other than he stinks there.

Ryan may have learned his diversion tactics from his old man. (Getty Images)  
Ryan may have learned his diversion tactics from his old man. (Getty Images)  
Last month, Ryan inexplicably put the last New England game on Sanchez's shoulders, and suffered for it -- with the Jets having the mother of all meltdowns, losing 45-3 in a blowout where an overwhelmed Sanchez threw three interceptions.

That can't happen again. And it won't. Or, at least, Ryan will make sure it won't. So he launches a pre-emptive strike to interject himself in the conversation, calling the contest "personal" and saying it's all about him vs. Bill Belichick. Well, of course, it's not. But that doesn't matter because Rex Ryan is on a mission this week, and the mission is not just to beating the Patriots; it's to make sure he goes into the game with a confident quarterback who concentrates on what he can accomplish Sunday instead of what he previously failed to accomplish.

In essence, it's a manipulation of the media, and it's a clever strategy. But it's nothing new. In fact, it reminds me of what former Chicago quarterback Jim McMahon did prior to Super Bowl XX, when he mooned a helicopter, poked fun at the NFL commissioner by scrawling his name on a headband and was wrongfully accused of demeaning the women and men of New Orleans. McMahon became the week's story, which is exactly what he wanted. The way he saw it, there would be so much attention on him there would be little left for the rest of the team.

Nobody said McMahon was stupid then because he wasn't. He did what he thought was right and necessary and all that because he knew he could handle whatever came down. And it worked. Ryan's father was the Bears' defensive coordinator, and I can't help but think that what his son witnessed then he's putting to use now.

Basically, it's the shell game. You create enough of a diversion with one hand that your audience doesn't notice what the other is doing. So Ryan creates a diversion with his mouth so people don't focus on what Sanchez has been doing with his arm -- which has been zilch in New England.

The difference between what happened in Super Bowl XX and what could happen now is that the 1985 Chicago Bears were vastly better than New England where the 2010 New York Jets are not. Rex Ryan will need more than sound bites to win this game. He will need a return of "Ground and Pound," the defense that throttled Peyton Manning and a lot of luck.

But he will need a quarterback who doesn't make critical mistakes, too, and maybe that happens if Mark Sanchez doesn't feel the Jets' chances of winning this week ride on him -- which, of course, they don't.

I know because Rex Ryan just told me.

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