Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - This wasn't the Rex Ryan we used to know, the guy who back in 2010 famously donned a Browns cap, a wig and a padded belly to poke fun at his brother Rob before a game against the Browns.
But thankfully even the mellower, more mature Rex still has a sense of humor about himself and his sibling.
The Jets coach showed up for his Wednesday news conference with two pictures attached to the back of his injury report sheet, which he not-so-subtly aimed at cameras and reporters as he spoke.
On one side was Rob after the Saints' late loss to the Patriots Oct. 13, with the caption, "SORRY ABOUT THAT JETS." On the other was a smiling, svelte Rex with the caption, "I WISH I COULD LOOK AS GOOD AS MY TWIN."
"Oh, please, it's pretty obvious," Rex said about which brother looks better. "The lap-band [surgery] has worked for me." (Rex had the procedure in 2010, Rob in 2012.)
Rex finished with one, last good-natured barb: "I did hear that one of the top-selling costumes for Halloween is the Rob Ryan out there . That's what their reporters told me. No surprise there."
But seriously, folks, after getting in his shots Rex (and his players) made it clear Saints defensive coordinator Rob has both their attention and their respect, and that they expect all tricks and no treats from him Sunday.
"For my money him and Bob Sutton would be the assistant coaches of the year," Rex said. "I don't think it's close."
Rex said he had no doubt Rob would improve the Saints when he arrived after stints coordinating the defenses of the Browns and Cowboys -- going 0-2 against Rex's Jets. That was not saying much, given the Saints allowed an NFL-record-high 7,042 yards last season.
"Certainly a Ryan is not afraid of a challenge," Rex said in a conference call Wednesday with New Orleans-area reporters.
But even Rex has been impressed by the magnitude of the transformation. The Saints rank fourth in the league in points allowed and 12th in yards allowed.
"It's a unit that's playing with a lot of pride, I think," Rex said.
It is too easy to caricature the brothers Ryan given their brash personalities and, at least in Rob's case, his unkempt public presentation. But as Rex noted, they have plenty of respect around the league, and within each other's locker rooms.
The trouble for the Jets is that Rex's aggressive, unpredictable defense will be facing one of the league's savviest, most accomplished quarterbacks in Drew Brees.
Rob will be unleashing his on an error-prone rookie in Geno Smith.
"He's going to throw the kitchen sink at him and mix up his coverages a lot and blitz him a lot and force him into making mistakes," wide receiver Santonio Holmes said. "You have to respect who coach [Rob] Ryan is. He's Rex's brother."
Smith is well aware of that; Rex has told him as much.
"Basically he was just telling me that you can expect anything," Smith said. "He's 100 percent right. They'll dial up just about any blitz, no rhyme or reason to it. That's just the way he thinks."
For all the twins have in common in style to untrained eyes, their differences are evident to players and coaches.
"Obviously Rex and Rob kind of have similar philosophies, but at the same time in certain situations they are the opposite," backup quarterback Matt Simms said.
Rex confirmed that, saying the brothers copy ideas from one another and talk frequently but that Rob is "his own man" and has drawn from other influences.
Sunday it all will play out on the field, when the playful jabs are put aside and the body blows are delivered.
"We're going to try," Rex said, "to beat each other's brains in."