Chemistry lesson is No. 1 assignment on Rex's agenda

Jets head coach Rex Ryan speaks to the

Jets head coach Rex Ryan speaks to the media prior to practice at the Atlantic Health Training Facility. (June 12, 2012) (Credit: Joe Epstein)

Neil Best

Newsday columnist Neil Best Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- So, to review the recent doings of our local NFL head coaches . . .

Last Friday, Tom Coughlin visited the White House, making the trip Rex Ryan imagined for the Jets when he was introduced as their coach 3 1/2 years ago.

This Friday, Ryan will make his screen acting debut with the wide release of "That's My Boy," an R-rated Adam Sandler comedy.

The film is crudely amusing, but Jets fans might not be in a laughing mood after the way last season ended -- and after watching Coughlin kibitz with his second president.

Ryan seems to have sensed the same thing this offseason. Not that he is planning a personality transplant. And not that any of us should want that, especially those of us who transcribe quotes for a living.

But as he prepares for a summer and autumn in the Sanchez / Tebow Vortex, the big guy is working to make good on his promise to tweak his approach in an effort to get a better feel for the on- and off-field state of the team.

Tuesday brought another example of the former. On the first day of the team's mandatory minicamp, he took to the podium in the interview room at 10:30 a.m., before practice had begun.

Ryan said he considered it a dry run for the season to come. The idea is to get the media out of the way early so after practice he can do what he knows best: coach football -- defensive football in particular.

"I think it will work better for me," he said. "Instead of trying to catch up with all the practice tape on my own, it will give me a chance to be with the coaches and watch the tape together."

The more delicate, and important, focus is getting a better feel for the players themselves in an effort to head off the chemistry problems that helped sink the 2011 Jets.

Ryan first spoke about that the day after the season ended, admitting he didn't have the "pulse of the team the way I've done in the past."

He since has been asked about it often and suggested Tuesday that he might have overdone it.

"I think a lot of our chemistry issues were actually over the top," he said. "I think the fact I admitted some things actually helped drive it. This offseason, unfortunately, that's all I ever talked about."

Perhaps Ryan would have been better off not talking about it so much, but the problems were real then and with most of the same key players back, there is no reason to think they are gone for good. But so far, so good.

"I think everybody is approaching it as a new year and we're just trying to be positive around here," cornerback Darrelle Revis said.

Perhaps so, but easy to say in late spring. The real work lies ahead. The Jets' quarterback situation could well be a circus in the making. If so, Ryan needs to be the ringmaster, not the clown.

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