Rex Ryan on Winning on 9/11: “We need to win this game. I don’t want to let this area down…”

September 7, 2011 – 6:30 am by Michael Bean

Okay, the countdown to kickoff is on. The 2011 NFL season officially begins tomorrow night in Green Bay, but 30 teams must wait until either Sunday or Monday to begin the new year. That includes Rex Ryan’s New York Jets. Fresh off another headline-grabbing offseason, Ryan once again feels like his Jets team is positioned nicely to break through and win it all. It’s hard to badmouth a coach who’s led his team to consecutive AFC Championship Games, but until Ryan’s Jets deliver on his promises of Super Bowl glory, he and the Jets organization will continue to draw the ire of fans across the country. New York will be tested in their season opener, a home affair on Sunday Night Football against the Dallas Cowboys. With Tony Romo back in the fold, Dallas’ offense should be more dangerous than it was in 2010. But will the Cowboys’ defense be able to carry its weight and force Mark Sanchez into mistakes in front of a partisan green-clad crowd at The Meadowlands? We’ll find out in a few short days.

Ryan joined The Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio New York to talk about his excitement level for the new NFL season, how much he felt the lockout impacted his ability to coach and prepare his team for the 2011 season, how the lockout is no excuse at all for whatever happens this season, the one area of his team that he might categorize as a concern, the possibility of opening the offense up more for Mark Sanchez, the honor of being selected by the league for the showcase Sunday Night Football game this Sunday, why he’s putting so much pressure on himself to deliver a satisfying win for the city of New York on 9/11, coaching against his brother Rob on Sunday and their father Buddy battling through medical issues to come watch his two sons, and how he’d compare this year’s Jets roster to the previous two that both advanced to the AFC Championship Game.

On how excited he is to start the new 2011 NFL season this coming Sunday night:

“Oh man, please. I mean it’s great, it’s finally here. The preseason is good and you get to evaluate guys and everything else, but it’s nothing like kicking it off for real.”

On how much he felt the lockout impacted his ability to coach and prepare his team for the new season:

“No excuses. I thought we had a good schedule, so it allowed us to do a lot of teaching in the classroom, probably more classroom time than on the field. But I thought we had a chance to evaluate our guys, and I feel good. I think the rookies, it was tough on the rookies and first-year players in particular because they had to learn the systems and all that, and I thought they did a pretty decent job. Obviously we’ve got a great group of coaches, assistant coaches, and that allowed them to be successful that way.”

Whether there is any one area of concern that he has about his football team heading into the new season:

“I mean obviously you’ve got to stay healthy, and I think when you look at it from a starting group, the receivers — we haven’t been out there a lot of time with each other than maybe you would have liked to have had. But again, there are no excuses. We brought in two veteran receivers in Derrick Mason and Plaxico Burress — I think both of those guys are going to be great. If there’s any concern whatsoever, it would be more the timing on routes and what Mark [Sanchez] can expect. But I think the guys will learn the system pretty well, and like I said, there’s no excuses. But if there’s any concern at all, that would be it.”

On potentially opening up the offense and passing attack for Sanchez this coming season:

“Well I still love the ground-and-pound, but I think we can make plays down the field on people.  If they want to stack it up there on us I think we’ll make ‘em pay. So if that’s it, we kind of dictate what we want to take. If they’re stacking the box or up close to the line of scrimmage to stop the run, then we can throw it over the head. And that’s great. That’s one way to light up the scoreboard. And if they want to stay back in coverage and we can stay with just running the football, I think we’ll be effective that way as well.”

Whether he’s proud of what he’s accomplished in his first two years as head coach of the Jets, or if he’s feeling more pressure than ever to deliver the Super Bowl he’s been talking about since arriving:

“Well I’m certainly proud of being a part of this organization and some of the things we’ve accomplished. You mentioned it — the league picked us to play in this game Sunday night, the biggest game you can play in. And we were chosen to be that team to represent the tri-state area. That’s huge for us, and certainly we noticed that. But we have five nationally televised games again this year. I think you only give the teams that earn that right, and that means you’re a good football team. We’ve shown some consistency that we are a good football team, and now we want to be a championship team though. I think that’s what’s really driving our football team.”

On why he’s put pressure on himself and his team to play well on 9/11 when the outcome of the game won’t have any affect on the tragedy that took so many innocent lives ten years ago:

“Well first of all Michael, I couldn’t agree more; that’s a true statement, no question about it. I just think that my job is to win football games, and I just think it’s such a huge night for this area. With the World Trade Center, 2,753 people perished, and obviously a game is not going to bring them back, it’s not even close. BUT, I just think it’s a responsibility of ours, hey, there’s two football teams in this tri-state area — the Giants and the Jets, we’re playing — and I feel we have a responsibility to play a great game. This is a huge day. The 10th anniversary of 9/11.  But I have to get this team ready, we need to win this game, and it’s against a great opponent. I’m not lying, that’s how I feel about this game. I don’t want to let this area down and their football team down on this occasion.”

If there’s even more pressure on the game considering that he’ll be coaching against his brother Rob Ryan, and because his ailing father has decided to put off receiving medical treatment in order to watch his two sons square off against each other:

“Yeah probably so, but as he likes to me, he’s not really here for our game, he’s going to be watching my son play. So I think that’s…truth be known he’s more worried about that Friday game than the other one. But you know what? It is, it’s a great deal of pride for all of us to sit there and there’s your dad (by the way wearing Jets stuff), and then there’s my twin brother across the field as a defensive coordinator of a great franchise. That’s something to be very proud of.”

Whether he thinks he or his brother is more like his father Buddy:

“Oh shoot, I hope I am. But you know what, we’re both our own guys, but we’re both proud to be Buddy Ryan’s sons that’s for sure.”

How he would compare this year’s squad to the previous two Jets’ squads that both advanced to the AFC Championship Game:

“Well, every team’s different and we’ll find out as we get going in the season. But I certainly feel confident. Mike Tannenbaum has done an outstanding job — and the whole organization — of putting the colelction of talent that we have together, and now it’s just a matter of going out there and executing our game plans. I feel a great deal of confidence in our coaches — we’ve been together now for three years — that this our time.  And I believe it is. Obviously each week is going to be a challenge. This week in particular you’re going against one of the best offenses in football, and one of the most talented defenses in football. So we’re going to have our work cut out for us, but I think we’re going to be up for the task.”

Listen here to Ryan with Michael Kay on ESPN Radio New York

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