FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- There are lessons to be learned at every stage in life. Even when you're the coach of New York's most talked-about football team.
But even though Rex Ryan's podium persona has dulled in the eyes of the media, his very being remains firmly planted in his beliefs. His overwhelming conviction in his acumen as a coach, and the talent of his players, seem foolish to some, especially considering the Jets' 4-6 record. But while Ryan has learned to hold his tongue at times in front of the cameras, his essence remains intact.
A win tomorrow night against New England, on three days' rest, is a daunting challenge. But no one believes more than Ryan that the Jets can pull off the upset. And he won't stop until every one of his players can visualize the victory, too.
"I love positive energy," Ryan said Tuesday. "I like that around me. It's easy to be negative when you're 3-6 or right now, where we're at, but that's not going to help you. You have to be sure of yourself, which I am, and positive that you can get better, and I think we have a whole building like that.
"With that being said, we're not even close to where we want to be or need to be. And I've said it all along; I think we have the people, that we can get out of a bad situation just by the work ethic and our belief and the person next to me and the belief in yourself."
The magnitude of this game isn't lost on Ryan or his players. Even as the losses piled up in recent weeks, they never wavered publicly from their stated goal. And after beating the Rams in St. Louis last week, knocking off the division leaders is the next step.
"It's going to be real special," safety Yeremiah Bell said of playing their rivals on national television. "Everybody watching, you're playing one of the so-called best teams in the AFC. It's a chance for us to go out there and show what we've got when everybody's counting us out."
Ryan -- a master of indoctrinating the "us against the world" mentality -- always has been proud of being different from other coaches. Bill Belichick, in many ways, is the antithesis: a man who keeps his thoughts as guarded as his schematic intel. Belichick may be one of the best coaches ever, but right now Ryan just wants to be the better man on one day: Thanksgiving.
Being different, Ryan said, isn't difficult.
"That's not challenging if you truly believe in what you do and who you are," he added. "There's that fine line, well, you have to change something or how do you expect there to be change? Yet your core beliefs are what they are and that's what's driven me my whole career. But are there things that you do through experience that you learn from that add to those core beliefs? I think there are."
After almost four years at the Jets' helm, Ryan still is learning how to be better. And it's a process, like anything else.
"Every assistant coach thinks they're ready to be a head coach," Ryan said. "But I made mistakes, and people will say 'You're making a ton of mistakes right now.' Well, that's probably true. But I made more when I was just coming into this thing in 2009.
"But I think right now, I'm more comfortable in this role as a head coach and I've learned. And I still learn."