FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - It was around this time last year that a quietly defiant Rex Ryan showed his team an NFL power rankings poll that had his Jets ranked dead last, a motivational tool the coach used in a team meeting the night before the Jets' Week 1 upset of the Buccaneers.
That defiance is back heading into Sunday's opener against the Raiders, and more disrespect at the polls has him fired up once again. Only now Ryan isn't waiting until Saturday night to express his disdain for outside opinion. He's saying it for public consumption.
"We have the chip on our shoulder because nobody thinks we're going to be good," Ryan told me Wednesday at the Jets' practice facility. "They still don't respect this football team. Outside of this building, how much respect is there?"
Ryan pointed to recent writer polls that ranked quarterback Geno Smith 32nd and last among all quarterbacks and had Ryan in the bottom half of all coaches.
"You've got all this stuff, everybody ranked where they're ranked. Our quarterback is ranked 32nd. The coach is ranked 20th," he said. "Nobody has us doing anything, so we'll see. I can tell you one thing: We think we're a lot better than what those rankings say we are."
Ah, welcome back, Rex.
After a year of staying mostly out of the headlines with the outspoken -- and sometimes outlandish -- pronouncements of his previous four years with the Jets, Ryan has been more outwardly confident and brash this season. He was feisty in training camp when talking about how good he felt about his team, and brash Rex was most certainly on display during our post-practice chat outside the team's cafeteria.
"I believe that we're going to be a good football team, and I'm not afraid to say it," Ryan said. "We're going to face it head on, so bring it on. We're not here to tiptoe around that issue. We believe we're going to be good."
Which begs the obvious follow-up question: What do you classify as good? (Looking for a Super Bowl guarantee, of course, but Rex stopped making them a couple years ago. He wasn't about to make one now).
"I don't know," he said. "The way I look at it might be different than the way others look at it. I'm not going to say a number out there or anything else. I've learned through the years not to say that, but I will say that I'm going to be extremely confident in this team."
So why the change in attitude as far as expressing outward confidence this year and not last year, when Ryan was curiously -- almost painfully -- less willing to show us his characteristic bravado from previous seasons? Was there a decision he made in the offseason to just let it fly, damn the consequences? Did he have to get the OK from buttoned-down general manager John Idzik to be more demonstrative?
"No, I just think I know this team better than I knew the team last year," Ryan said. "We had seven new starters on offense and seven on defense [last year], so I didn't know what we had. I felt confident that we'd give great effort, which we did. But now, it's like, hey look, these guys have been with me, we know what this team looks like."
Ryan believes this team looks like a contender, even if he's unwilling to enunciate it with the two words that begin with an S and a B. He'll leave it at this:
"We're going to have more success," he said. "That's my opinion. And if I say it, I'm not worried about the perception. Hey, I'm confident about this team. I'm telling you what I believe to be the truth. We get to prove it. If I'm wrong, so be it. But I don't believe I'm going to be wrong. I believe this team is going to merit what I've said we're going to do."
No apologies. No explanations. Just the old Rex.
Minus the guarantee.