ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Rex Ryan did his best on Wednesday to remain calm and say nothing inflammatory in advance of the Bills’ season finale against the Jets.
Never mind that losing Sunday would allow Ryan’s former team to clinch a playoff berth in its first year without him.
Forget that running back Boobie Dixon called this game Buffalo’s “Super Bowl.” And forget Ryan’s sideline celebration after the Bills beat the Jets in November.
Ryan’s words on the podium Wednesday with Buffalo media were slow and measured. He praised Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and said coach Todd Bowles, his replacement, should be “right up there” for coach of the year honors, along with Carolina’s Ron Rivera.
Informed that Jets linebacker Calvin Pace said Sunday would be a “bloodbath,” Ryan acted confused.
“I don’t know why he’d say that,” Ryan said. “I’m subdued.”
“I’m just ready to go,” he said. “I think I’m excited more than you know. I’m excited to see some of these guys step in and see how we prepare.”
Ryan’s demeanor even prompted a question asking if he was turning into Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who’s known for his dry news conferences.
“It’s onto the Jets,” Ryan said with a smirk, echoing Belichick’s line. “I don’t know what to tell you.”
Ryan did concede that, just maybe, some of his declarations have caused more harm than good.
Ryan now regrets “some stupid thing that I said” about the Bills going to the playoffs, which he promised in his introductory news conference.
“But that’s just me sometimes,” he said. “I wish I didn’t. You see the impact it has. My heart was in the right place. … When I’m like, hey, we’re going to be in the playoffs, I just honestly, 100 percent believed that. I absolutely did, without question. … I feel bad that I didn’t deliver.
“The part about making the boasts and all that, as bad as I truly believe it, maybe I’ve learned that maybe it’s not the smartest thing to do,” he concluded.
Later, on a conference call with Jets reporters, Ryan said he’ll probably change the way he talks about his team going forward because the Bills “failed miserably” this year. He then let a bit of the old Rex show through, inviting writers to “pile on while you can” because “the wheels are far from coming off” in Buffalo.
Later, team owner Terry Pegula released a statement giving Ryan and general manager Doug Whaley a vote of confidence, assuring neither will be replaced this offseason.
Bills linebacker IK Enemkpali took a cue from his coach and kept a low profile as well, saying he hasn’t been told if he’ll be a team captain this week — as he was during this season’s earlier meeting between the two squads — and rejecting the notion that the Jets are in a playoff position due to the play of Fitzpatrick instead of Geno Smith. Enemkpali broke Smith’s jaw during a training camp altercation with the Jets, leading to his release from Gang Green and his subsequent acquisition by the Bills.
But regardless of what Ryan says or how he acts, Enemkpali knows what this game means to him.
“You know he was coaching for the Jets for six years, so I mean, yeah, he really wants to beat that team,” Enemkpali said. “Just like he said [after the first Jets game], it’s like a ex-girlfriend who dumped you. So it’s a little special to him, but every game’s important.”