You can't help but hear Buddy when Jets coach Rex Ryan speaks

Rex Ryan's public bombast rallies his players and deflects pressure off them, like his dad's did.
Rex Ryan's public bombast rallies his players and deflects pressure off them, like his dad's did.
Posted: January 21, 2011

EVERY TIME Jets coach Rex Ryan opens his mouth, it is hard not to listen for the sounds of the old man - and anybody who lived through those times with the Eagles probably does the same thing.

They are different, Rex and Buddy are. Rex is very much a 21st-century Ryan and significantly more polished than his father. Rex never hits his boss with his buckshot, a skill that his father never cared to master. Rex, when talking about people in the football business, also manages to toe a line of decorum, you should excuse the expression, while Buddy would never acknowledge that a line even existed. Then again, Rex was never an 18-year-old master sergeant leading a platoon in the Korean War, an experience that tended to make his father a tad uncaring about the niceties of public relations.

But the formula is the same. The ability to rally players with public bombast is the same. The skill of taking the attention away from the players during a stressful situation and putting it on the head coach worked then and it works now. The encouragement of swagger, in word and deed, is identical.

You just watch the Jets and listen to them talk and the comparison to the Eagles, back when, is direct. You hear Bart Scott, I hear Seth Joyner. You hear Rex take it all on himself - that it was personal between him and Peyton Manning, that Jets-Patriots was really Rex Ryan-Bill Belichick - and I hear a throwaway line from down in Suwanee, Ga.

The Eagles were training there, at the Atlanta Falcons' facility, leading up to a wild-card playoff game against the Rams. (It was 1989, so long ago that they were the Los Angeles Rams.) Anyway, Buddy was doing a press conference before some kind of little podium and a reporter asked him about the Rams' running back, Greg Bell. Ryan answered with a bunch of coachly platitudes. It was a bunch of nothing.

Then, when he was done, Buddy walked away from the podium and - in a stage whisper directed at a group of Philadelphia reporters in the front row - said, "Greg Bell, my ass."

Of course, Bell ended up running for 124 yards and a touchdown in a 21-7 Rams victory. It was always that way for the Eagles at the end. The year before, Ryan had the team buses do a couple of laps around Soldier Field with horns blaring just to make sure that the Chicago Bears knew the Eagles were in town - but then the Fog Bowl happened.

It is different with Rex, who is going to back-to-back conference championship games. He doesn't have his father's nasty edge, but he continues to dominate the spotlight and deflect attention from his players and also to convince them that he has their back. Rex is also proving to be a better coach than his father - and at least part of the reason is because he has a young, dynamic offensive coordinator in Brian Schottenheimer. The Eagles never had that under Buddy.

I kind of wrote the same column last year after visiting the Jets in the days leading up to that AFC Championship Game - but I can't help doing it again. Everything that happens with Rex seems to stir some memory - even the business with his wife's feet.

For some reason, it recalled the time when Buddy choked on a pork chop as the coaches were eating dinner at the Vet. Ryan was saved when offensive coordinator Ted Plumb performed the Heimlich maneuver on him. But the line of the night went to another assistant coach, Ronnie Jones, who walked in on the scene and said, "I figured Buddy made one too many cracks about the running game and Ted just jumped him."

Anyway, Buddy spent the night in the hospital and dutifully informed reporters the next day, "It wasn't bad - they had good-looking nurses and the Playboy channel on the TV."

Nothing about feet, though. Then again, we didn't ask.

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