PHOENIX — The way Seth Ryan explains it, his dad didn’t call him to gloat about the Bills sweeping the Jets and preventing them from earning a wild-card playoff berth. Maybe that’s because Rex Ryan’s Bills finished 8-8 and failed to fulfill his pledge to reach the playoffs in his first year as Buffalo’s coach after his firing by the Jets.
Besides, one member of the Ryan family is playing for Clemson in the College Football Playoff title game on Monday night against Alabama, and that transcends everything else.
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“I didn’t really talk to him about it because I have a big game coming up,” Seth said of the conversation with his dad after last Sunday’s win over the Jets. “So we mostly focused on that. A win’s a win in the NFL, but I guess it probably had a little bit of extra juice since it was his former team.
“We wouldn’t really say it was a successful season because we didn’t get to the playoffs. I mean, that’s the goal in the NFL is to get in the playoffs and put yourself in position to get a Super Bowl. Yeah, the last two games we won, but I don’t think he’s very happy about it. He wanted the season to not end so soon.”
If Rex is gloating about anything these days, it’s the small role his son has played in helping No. 1 Clemson go 14-0 and reach the championship game. Rex wore a Clemson helmet to a news conference in Buffalo to talk about the Tigers, and he regularly travels to his son’s games when the schedule allows.
Seth Ryan was a wide receiver in high school in Summit, New Jersey, when his dad was coaching the Jets, and when Clemson coach Dabo Swinney offered a spot on the team as an invited walk-on, young Ryan grabbed it and carved out a niche on the team as the holder for kicker Greg Huegel.
“Dabo Swinney is probably the biggest reason I chose Clemson because he’s very family-oriented, which I am, and I wanted to be part of a program that was going to help me benefit in the future if I wanted to coach,” Seth Ryan said. “That’s what I kind of want to do. I think being here has put me in the best position to do that. I’ve also watched my dad for so many years, so I’ve picked up a little bit from him, too.”
No one appreciates Swinney’s outgoing personality and positive approach more than Seth Ryan. “I kind of wanted to go somewhere with a coach that’s like my dad,’’ he said. “I visited a lot of other schools, and some of the coaches are more business-oriented. I wanted someone [personable] because you know who I am and know my father and know everything about me. That’s why I looked at coach Swinney.”
While in high school, Seth Ryan was the holder for kicker Michael Badgley, who went to Miami and set a Hurricanes record with 25 field goals as a sophomore this season.
“When I came here, I thought [holding] might be my chance to play,” Ryan said. “So I said definitely I’ll do it. My kicker Greg Huegel has had a lot of success, and I benefit from his success.”
The younger Ryan could find himself in pressure situations if the national title game is as close as many expect, but he said: “I never feel any pressure. Greg is supposed to have all the pressure. I’m supposed to catch the ball and put it down for him. There’s really not much pressure when you’ve done it so many times through the years. I trust [long-snapper Jim Brown] and I trust Greg to perform at the highest level. We’ve always had fun together, and that kind of builds the trust.”
Unlike his dad, Ryan didn’t offer any predictions about the outcome of Monday night’s game, but he said the Tigers certainly welcome the opportunity to face Alabama (13-1), which is a seven-point favorite over the undefeated, top-ranked Tigers.
“If we want to be considered an elite team, we’ve got to beat Alabama,” Ryan said. “If we had beaten another team that didn’t have as a big a rep as Alabama, people would still say, ‘If they had played Alabama, they would get beat.’ So if we beat them, we can be considered the greatest ever.”