Jets coach Rex Ryan spent four seasons stirring the pot to the point it bubbled over with criticism and chaos as his team’s fortunes went south the past two seasons. That continued throughout the training-camp quarterback controversy this summer between injured incumbent Mark Sanchez and rookie replacement Geno Smith.
But the Jets’ surprising 2-1 start combined with the Giants going into crisis mode after their 0-3 start has shifted the media dynamic in the New York metropolitan area. That much was evident as Ryan surveyed a small group of reporters and only one TV camera at Friday afternoon’s briefing before the Jets travel to Tennessee (2-1).
“It’s so quiet now,” a smiling Ryan said to his tiny audience. “I mean, I’m obviously not the only one that noticed that.”
Told he should be careful not to jinx it, Ryan laughed. “I know, that’s right. Just enjoy it. What was I thinking?”
There was a point just before the start of the regular season when some wondered if Ryan had been lobotomized since the takeover by new general manager John Idzik. Suddenly, the coach was less forthcoming about injury information, unwilling to tip his hand related to the quarterback competition and clearly mindful of displaying a more buttoned-down demeanor under the new regime.
But the old Ryan sense of humor is starting to bubble to the surface again after the positive opening. He’s not making any outrageous comments after three games decided by seven points or less, but it seems as though it’s okay for Ryan to have fun again.
Asked on Friday about the push to improve on the Jets’ 20-penalty performance in the win over Buffalo, Ryan said, “I believe we’re going to see a huge improvement. Now, 20 is not hard to improve from. What were we? Two away from the record? We should have gone for it.”
When someone later asked about wide receiver Stephen Hill’s improved performance following a 100-yard game against the Bills, Ryan played it deadpan. “I’m not saying anything positive on Stephen,” Ryan said. “I told you guys that in training camp. Because when I do, something would happen. So, no positive comments on Stephen until the season is over.”
Okay, a reporter wondered, see any negatives in Hill’s performance? “Not a whole lot,” Ryan said with a laugh.
It just goes to show that winning with a strong defense he recognizes as typical of his high standards really does cure everything. And hey, Ryan will be playing the media room in Florham Park all season. Maybe the crowd will return for the right reasons.