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Jets' Ryan has winning style, too

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan throws a

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan throws a pass during football practice. (Jan. 14, 2010) Credit: AP Photo

Admit it, Jets fans. Winning isn't everything.

OK, so it's almost everything. The runs to the AFC Championship Games in 1983 and '99 surely were enjoyable for anyone who bleeds green.

But - no offense to Walt Michaels or Bill Parcells - this is better.

Rex Ryan has mastered the sweet spot between sports and show business, making winning even more fun than usual.

That is no small feat for the leader of a franchise with one title in a half-century, which forever has been second in its market and now has thousands of tickets to sell in a new stadium.

How has Ryan done it? By being himself, and by treating and trusting players like grown men. That includes in media relations, an important fact of life for any metropolitan-area coach.

Parcells was famously hands-on in that area, limiting media opportunities with players and coaches. But he was a laugh riot compared with Eric Mangini, whose departure in favor of Ryan ranks as the greatest trade in the history of New York sports journalism.

Why should you care? Again, winning matters most, but if following a team is an escape from real life, why not enjoy the ride with a real guy at the helm?

Among other welcome touches, Ryan has allowed an SNY camera into his postgame locker room, and he has delivered the goods late this season.

"Hey, we already talked about it," he shouted to his celebrating players Sunday night. "We already know what's going to be written, right? Three home teams advance . . . and the - - Jets!"

The guy then apologized to fans for "going soft" when he stopped blitzing on the Chargers' touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. NFL coaches just don't do that.

Even Ryan's boo-boos are entertaining and endearing.

Nine years ago, the Giants reached the Super Bowl after their coach had guaranteed a playoff berth. Now the Jets are one win from a Super Bowl after their coach had guaranteed they would miss the playoffs!

Here's the best part, for television networks, journalists and fans alike: If rebels like Rex win - and win big - other coaches (and the owners who hire them) will see that fun and won aren't mutually exclusive.

Let's hope so.

CBS has eye on Jets

CBS' coverage of Sunday's game mostly was stellar, led by Phil Simms, who was feisty and insightful throughout.

Among his observations were that officials should have overlooked Vincent Jackson's kicking the Jets' challenge flag, and that the Chargers' onside kick attempt was a mistake.

But his finest moment was one that initially seemed off base. Late in the first quarter, he said: "Do you think the Jets are upset that their offense hasn't gotten a first down yet? . . . They don't care. It's the pace of play. They're patient. And when you play their style, you learn to do it.

"They're happy with the way this game has started, no doubt."

On the next play, Philip Rivers hit Jackson for 26 yards. But it turned out Simms' early sense was on target. The Jets really did have the Chargers where they wanted them.

Simms will analyze the Jets for the duration, as CBS has the AFC title game and Super Bowl XLIV. In 1999, he worked the Jets-Broncos AFC title game, his first at CBS.

SNY goes green

One flaw in CBS' presentation was that, as usual, its wandering eye turned to "60 Minutes" as soon as possible, resulting in a truncated postgame. For Jets fans outside New York, that was that. But SNY offered its usual thorough coverage, including Ryan's must-see news conference.

Analyst Ray Lucas set the understated tone early, shouting: "Can I say one thing? Wooooo, baby! Are you kidding me, or what? The same old Jets? Well, you better put it all to bed."

The 67-minute show attracted 1.2 percent of New York homes, more than any of the area's five winter sports teams is averaging for its games this season.

New York Sports