"But one thing I always did was I respected him. I recognized him being an outstanding football coach and his teams played hard. You could tell he was passionate about the game. That was why it was easy for me when we had a job open, that's the first guy I went to."
As Dolphins fans well know, Sparano, who replaced Brian Schottenheimer as Jets offensive coordinator, is a no-nonsense, conservative guy.
Ryan, on the other hand, might be equally serious about his job but his personality is a lot more fun-loving and he's not afraid to speak his mind, unlike the very guarded Sparano.
That said, Sparano isn't likely to make a big deal out of facing the Dolphins for the first time after they fired him late last season, but it clearly should be a big game for him.
Ryan even was asked whether he had spoken about Sparano about his return to South Florida.
"No, and I had a similar thing," Ryan said. "Anytime you go against a group or a team you used to coach — even with me, you know I spent 10 years in Baltimore — I know how special it is, because you've got a lot of people … those players, you know, he cares about them a great deal. Without question. Without question. And he's got great memories from coaching there, and people in the organization, and all that. There's probably some people in the organization he doesn't care for. I could tell you this: I know how special it is, going back and competing. The players mainly, the people who really care about, the guys who have bled for you and all that. Because that's what it's all about."
As a follow-up, Ryan was asked jokingly whether he had given any though to sending out Sparano for the pregame coin toss.
No, I don't think I'll do that this time," Ryan said, laughing. "But we'll see. That's great. That would be a first."