“When you are going against the very best, yeah there’s always that special meaning,” said Ryan of Sunday’s game against New England. “It’s a game, it’s just another game, but it is against the Patriots so it is special.”
Ryan and Bill Belichick have had their battles both on and off the field but there is a heavy mutual respect between them.
“You’re talking about a guy that will be a first ballot Hall of Fame coach when he gets in there,” said Ryan of Belichick. “So, that’s the biggest guy and you like to go up against the very best and that’s who he is.”
When asked what he thinks of Ryan as a head coach, Belichick offered what for him, amounts to a glowing endorsement.
“I have a lot of respect for Rex as a coach,” said Belichick. “I think he’s a great competitor and his teams have always given us very competitive efforts. We’ve won some, they’ve won some, but they’re always a hard team to play against. They play us well. They’re a good football team.”
One can question Belichick’s last statement about whether or not at 3-11 the Jets are a good team. But whenever the Jets and Patriots play each other it is always a competitive affair and Belichick knows that the Patriots can’t take the Jets for granted.
“They’re tough, they run the ball, they stop the run [and] they’re very good in the kicking game,” said Belichick. “This will be a big, big challenge for us this week. Their players, their coaching staff, we’re going to have to do a good job in order to be competitive.”
Belichick knows first-hand how competitive the Jets can be. The Jets should have beaten the Patriots in their last meeting on October 16. They controlled the clock, outgained the Patriots by 100 yards, rushed for over 200 yards and committed zero turnovers.
Moreover, perhaps the greatest win of Ryan’s head coaching career came against Belichick and the Patriots on January 17, 2011 when the Jets upset the heavily favored Pats to move on to their second consecutive AFC Championship Game.
But since that day, the Jets have struggled against the Patriots going 1-6 but Ryan said a lot of those wins can be attributed to how well Belichick prepares and coaches his team.
“The last three times we’ve played them at home, I probably had a chance to win all three of those games, but lost (two) of them, said Ryan. “And that’s what great teams do, they find ways to win and he’s done that. And he prepares his team as well as anyone in the league, if not better than any coach in the league.”
With his future as Jets coach in doubt, this can very well be the last chapter of what has been a very fun and entertaining rivalry over the past six years, but neither coach is thinking about that.
“I am not even thinking about it. I just look forward to the opportunity that we have,” said Ryan. “They totally dominated our division. They won our division all six years I have been here. They have been clearly the best team in our division hands down. Like I said, I am looking forward to this one.”
“Right now I’m just really focused on this game, not anything in the past and not really anything in the future. I’m just trying to get ready for the Jets on Sunday,” added Belichick.
If this were Ryan’s last home game, his players would want nothing more, to not only send Ryan out a winner in his home finale, but a victory over the Patriots and Belichick would be special.
“I think any time you’re fortunate enough to find a way to beat them, that’s always special,” Ryan said.